Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI tweeted his final message on microblogging site Twitter, thanking his followers for their love and support, just before leaving the Vatican on Thursday.
Soon after, all the tweets were deleted and the profile was changed to read 'Sede Vacante', meaning 'vacant seat'.
The twitter account will remain silent until the next Pope decides to use it. The Pope is headed to Castel Gandolfo near Rome where he will stay for the next two months before returning to a monastery at the Vatican.
The twitter account will remain silent until the next Pope decides to use it.
The Pope pledged unconditional obedience to whoever succeeds him to guide the Roman Catholic Church at one of the most crisis-ridden periods in its 2,000-year history. The pledge, made ahead of the closed doors conclave where cardinals will elect his successor, was significant because for the first time in history, there will be reigning pope and a former pope living side-by-side in the Vatican.
Benedict appeared to be sending a strong message to the top echelons of the Church as well as the faithful to remain united behind his successor, whoever he is.
Some Church scholars worry that if the next pope undoes some of Benedict's policies while his predecessor is still alive, Benedict could act as a lightning rod for conservatives and polarise the 1.2 billion-member Church.
With the election of the next pope taking place in the wake sexual abuse scandals, leaks of his private papers by his butler, falling membership and demands for a greater role for women, many in the Church believe it would benefit from a fresh face from a non-European country.
A number of cardinals from the developing world, including Ghanaian Peter Turkson and Antonio Tagle of the Philippines are two names often mentioned as leading candidates from the developing world who listen more.
With Additional Inputs From Reuters