The Swiss Guards standing watch outside the papal palace in Castel Gandolfo have closed its doors and marched off, marking the end of Benedict XVI's time as Pope:
Today marked the final day of Benedict XVI as Pope.
Crowds cheered as he gave a final farewell from the balcony of the papal palace in the Italian town of Castel Gandolfo.
Later, he tweeted that he is "now a simple pilgrim, on his final pilgrimage".
Benedict XVI has now ceased his reign as Pope.
The Swiss Guards who stand watch at the pontiff's residence have marched off in a sign the papacy is now vacant.
Dear friends, I'm happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and your well-wishes which do me such good.
Thank you for your friendship, and your affection. You know this day is different for me than the preceding ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 o'clock this evening and then no more.I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth.
But I would still ... thank you ... I would still with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength, like to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity.
I feel very supported by your sympathy.
Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you, I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Good night! Thank you all!
As Pope Benedict XVI enters his final hours as pontiff, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana remains the bookie's favourite to succeed him.
However, the cardinal's odds have been edged out slightly by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan after he received "a flood of bets", Ladbrokes said.
The odds for the front runners are as follows:
- Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson - 11/4
- Cardinal Angelo Scola - 3/1
- Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone - 4/1
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet - 7/1
- Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco - 10/1
- Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi 10/1
- Cardinal Peter Erdo - 12/1
In their plumed helmets and striped uniforms, the Swiss Guards are one of the most recognisable symbols of The Vatican.
When they walk off duty from the pontiff's summer retreat, it will be one of the few visible signs that Benedict XVI is no longer Pope.
"We appreciate about this Pope that he was very humble," Swiss Guard Corporal Urs Breitenmoser told the Associated Press. "He talks to the people, he took his time to talk with everybody and he had always a great memory".
At 7pm tonight, the doors of the residence at Castel Gandolfo will close and the Swiss Guards will leave.
"We are coming back to The Vatican, and we continue to survey the entrances of Vatican City and the Pope's palace, even if he's not there and then we are waiting for the arrival of the Cardinals," Breitenmoser added.
Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by loud cheers and applause from the crowds below as he made his last appearance as the pontiff:
Pope Benedict XVI tells the cheering crowd at Castel Gandolfo, "I am simply a pilgrim who is ending his path on the Earth".
It marks his final appearance as pontiff.