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(NECN: Jackie Bruno, Boston) - The doors will literally close on Pope Benedict XVI's papacy at 8 p.m. Wednesday - 2 p.m. EST. But before that happens, he's had a very full day of greeting cardinals, and moving to where he'll spending a lot of time for the next few weeks.
Pope Benedict XVI marks the end of his papacy Wednesday. In his final hours as the reigning pope, he said goodbye to each of the cardinals - including Boston's own Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
In his final public appearance at the Vatican, the 85-year-old pontiff told the faithful that this decision was not easy, but it was necessary.
"Loving the church also means to have the courage to make difficult, and arduous choices, having always in front of us the good of the church and not ourselves," he said.
It's been about 600 years since the last pope resigned, which means Wednesday's proceedings would be something no living person has ever witnessed.
After greeting the cardinals, the pope would leave for the Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. He would greet the faithful there before finally retiring, entering into a much more quiet and solitary life.
"He will allow himself to pray and study," said Piettro Diletti, Priest of Gandolfo Church.
So when should the world expect a new pope? No timeline has been announced for the conclave, but it's likely talks are already underway.
"Since we're all in Rome, we're talking. You could see if you at the audience all the cardinals were up there weren't just talking about the weather," Cardinal Francis George said.
Experts say the new pope will likely be younger, both for longevity and to connect with younger generations.
NECN Reporter Jackie Bruno asked Katie Hayward - a Boston College student - what she hopes for in the new pope.
"Somebody younger, somebody in touch with what we're looking for, a priest that is willing to expand the catholic issues to global issues and expand it to human dignity not just the catholic philosophy," she said.
Whoever the conclave chooses, Pope Benedict XVI says he pledges loyalty to his successor. Wednesday night his title will change from pope to Pope Emeritus.
The Vatican would like to have a new pope in place before Easter. So that's just a month away.
Meanwhile, Catholics across the world are honoring Pope Benedict on this final day. In New Hampshire, the bishop asked Catholic churches to ring their bells eight times at 2 p.m. to honor the pope as he transitions into this new phase in his life.