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Outgoing Pope Benedict has met with his cardinals ahead of boarding a helicopter and flying to the papal retreat south of Rome Thursday, where he will officially end his reign, the Voice of America reports.In remarks Thursday to the cardinals, broadcast on Vatican television, the pope pledged to show “unconditional reverence and obedience” to the next pope. The vow could lay to rest fears that the presence of a living, retired pope in the Vatican would reduce the power of the next elected head of the Roman Catholic Church.Thursday was set to be a quiet day for the pontiff. After bidding farewell to the cardinals, his helicopter ride to Castel Gandolfo was to give him one last aerial view of the Vatican while he is still in charge of it.Pope Benedict’s resignation officially went into effect at 8 p.m. local time. At that hour, the doors of Castel Gandolfo were to close and the Swiss Guards charged with guarding the reigning pope were to go off duty.In the coming days, Roman Catholic cardinals under the age of 80 will gather in the Sistine Chapel for a conclave, the ceremonial selection of a new pope.According to CNN, Benedict XVI pledged “unconditional obedience” to the next pope in his final meeting with the cardinals.“I will continue to serve you in prayer, in particular in the coming days” as the cardinals work to select a new pontiff, he said.Benedict told the cardinals it was a “joy to walk with you” during his eight years as pope.Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Roscia said 144 cardinals had attended Benedict XVI’s farewell to them as pope. That includes both cardinal-electors, who are under the age of 80, and cardinals who are not eligible to vote for the next pope.Not all those eligible to vote were present, said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi. The final number of cardinal-electors has not been confirmed but is thought to be 115.The cardinals gave Benedict a standing ovation, and then one by one each met the pope to say a final few words.