VATICAN CITY - Benedict XVI has left the Vatican for the last time as pope, flying by helicopter to the Vatican's vacation retreat hours before becoming the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
As his closest aide wept by his side, Benedict bade farewell to Vatican officials gathered in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, a corps of Swiss Guards standing by at attention.
He said he would pray for the cardinals in coming days and weeks as they choose his successor.
Benedict traveled by car to the helipad on the top of the hill of the Vatican gardens and boarded a helicopter along with his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, for the 15-minute trip to Castel Gandolfo. Bells tolled as the helicopter took off.
Before leaving, Benedict pledged his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor.
At 11 a.m. sharp, Benedict becomes the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The doors of the palazzo will shut and the Swiss Guards will go off duty.
Father Joe Carroll, founder of Father Joe's Village, spoke with 10News about the reason for Benedict's resignation. While some have argued that he is resigning due to scandal, others said it was simply because he's too ill.
"The real reason is that he's ill of health. When he was elected 10, 12 years ago, I was in Rome, we all said, this guy's probably going to retire," said Carroll. "He never liked John Paul staying on as long as he did and so he's having trouble walking, trouble speaking, he says it's time to go, you can't do the job."
Nearly a third of the people in San Diego and Imperial counties are Catholic and Carroll said the coming changes will bring revitalization to the church.
"I think San Diego is going to go into an exciting period, number one we're going to have a new pope, by the end of the year we're going to have a new bishop, so there'll be new ideas, new enthusiasm, and I think it's an exciting time for the church," said Carroll.