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NEW: Pope, in final message, says he's a simple pilgrim

Pope Resigning
Posted at 5:20 AM, Feb 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-28 07:17:30-05

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) — Benedict XVI has greeted the faithful for the last time as pope from balcony of papal retreat.

He told well-wishers gathered at the retreat that he is beginning the final stage of his life as a "simple pilgrim."

The speech came hours before he comes the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

Benedict arrived at Castel Gandolfo after an emotional sendoff from the Vatican. His closest aide wept by his side as he bade farewell to Vatican officials gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, Swiss Guards standing by at attention.

Bells tolled as Benedict left the Vatican by helicopter, which did a fly-by around St. Peter's Square. They tolled again as he arrived at the retreat.

At Castel Gandolfo, the central piazza was jammed with people eager to capture the historic moment