Pope Benedict steps down and just hides away
In keeping with his shy and modest ways, there will be no public ceremony to mark the first papal resignation in six centuries and no solemn declaration ending his nearly eight-year reign at the head of the world's largest church.
His last public appearance will be a short greeting to residents and well-wishers at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, in the late afternoon after his 15-minute helicopter hop from the Vatican.
When the resignation becomes official at 8 p.m. Rome time (1900 GMT), Benedict will be relaxing inside the 17th century palace. Swiss Guards on duty at the main gate to indicate the pope's presence within will simply quit their posts and return to Rome to await their next pontiff.
Avoiding any special ceremony, Benedict used his weekly general audience on Wednesday to bid an emotional farewell to more than 150,000 people who packed St Peter's Square to cheer for him and wave signs of support.
With a slight smile, his often stern-looking face seemed content and relaxed as he acknowledged the loud applause from the crowd.
"Thank you, I am very moved," he said in Italian. His unusually personal remarks included an admission that "there were moments ... when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed
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