(ROME) — The party for the world’s most prominent soon-to-be retiree began on Wednesday when Pope Benedict XVI hosted his final audience as pontiff in St. Peter’s Square.
More than 50,000 tickets were requested for the event, according to the Vatican, while the city of Rome planned for 250,000 people to flood the streets.
With his belongings packed up, Pope Benedict XVI will spend the night — his final one as pope — in the Apostolic Palace.
The pontiff, 85, who is an avid writer, will be able to take his personal notes with him. However, all official documents relating to his papacy will be sent to the Vatican archives.
On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI will take his last meeting as pontiff with various dignitaries and the cardinals, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office.
While not all of the cardinals are in Rome, it is possible that among the princes of the church saying farewell to the pope could be the man who will succeed him.
Pope Benedict XVI will depart the Vatican walls in the afternoon, taking a 15-minute helicopter ride to Castel Gandolfo, the papal retreat just outside of Rome, where he will live while his new Vatican quarters undergo a renovation.
Around sunset, the pontiff is expected to greet the public for the last time as pope from his window in the palace, which overlooks the small town square.
At 8 p.m. local time, the papal throne will be vacated. The man known as Pope Benedict XVI for the past eight years will take on a new title: Pope Emeritus.
Along with Benedict’s new title, he will still be allowed to wear white, a color traditionally reserved for the pope.
He’ll still be called Your Holiness. However, the Swiss Guards, who are tasked with protecting the pope, will symbolically leave his side at 8 p.m. Thursday.
His Ring of the Fisherman, kissed by thousands of the faithful over the years, will be crushed, according to tradition.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Madison Park and Steve Almasy, CNN
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