Pope Benedict XVI has vowed "unconditional obedience" to the man who will succeed him as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
In a farewell meeting with cardinals, Benedict urged them to work "in unity" to elect his successor. In their presence, he was expected to destroy his “Fisherman’s Ring,” which will symbolize the end of his papacy.
Benedict is stepping down on February 28, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.
His pontificate will formally end at 8 p.m. local time. He has been flown by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence on the outskirts of Rome, before retiring to a monastery.
The 85-year-old pope, who said he is retiring because of his failing health, will take the title of pope emeritus.
After he steps down, the Catholic Church will enter a period known as "Sede Vacante" (Vacant Seat), during which a senior cardinal will assume interim power until a new pope is chosen.
Cardinals are expected to install his successor by the Easter holiday at the end of March.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa