Benedict XVI officially steps down as pope In meeting, urges cardinals to be united ← Related Article Visit The Boston Globe Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Comment on this Scroll to top of page Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images A helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI lifted off from Vatican City on Thursday as he departed for the last time as pope. GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images A helicopter passed by the dome of St Peter's basilica. Benedict boarded a helicopter this afternoon to fly to the papal summer residence. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini People reacted near a giant screen showing the departure of Pope Benedict XVI from Vatican City. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandin People in Saint Peter's Square watched the screen of the helicopter waiting to carry Pope Benedict XVI. Michael Sohn/Associated Press A helicopter with Pope Benedict XVI aboard left the Vatican. EPA/MICHAELA KAPPELER Benedict waved to crowds from the balcony of his summer residence. Luca Bruno/AP Crowds gathered to see Benedict at his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. EPA/ETTORE FERRARI A message on the side of a building at Castel Gandolfo thanked Pope Benedict XVI. EPA/ETTORE FERRARI The crowd waited for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI on Freedom's Square at Castel Gandolfo. EPA/OSSERVATORE ROMANO Pope Benedict XVI pledged obedience to his successor at a meeting of cardinals on his last day as pontiff.