GOLDEN, VALLEY, Minn. - Pope Benedict XVI made his final public appearance Wednesday morning before an estimated 150,000 people in St. Peter's Square.
Thursday, he will officially retire becoming the first pope to do so since 1415.
During his farewell address he spoke in several languages including 47 seconds of English.
"The decision I have made after much prayer is the root of the serene trust in God's will and the deep love of Christ's church," said Pope Benedict. "I will continue to accompany the church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope."
While Pope Benedict will eventually live out his final years on Vatican grounds, he won't do so right away.
Instead he'll be flown by helicopter to his summer retreat in Northern Italy until a new pope is selected.
St. Thomas professor Dr. Charles Reid specializes in canon law and says the Pope's temporary removal from the Vatican is by design.
"To relieve that awkwardness and to make sure the College of Cardinals feels independent. They want their independence. They want a separate voice in the matter," says Dr. Reid.
Remember smoke watch from 8 years ago? That's what we'll be looking for this time.
Black smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel means no new pope has been selected while white smoke means a decision has been made.
"I think we'll see a new pope elected within three or four days of the beginning of the conclave," says Dr. Reid.
Cardinals from around the world are now flying to the Vatican to take part in the conclave.
There are 208 cardinals worldwide but only 117 will be eligible to vote because they must be under the age of 80.
The cardinals will vote by paper ballot and a two-thirds majority is needed.
Religious News Service has made a "sweet sistine" bracket of the top contenders. You can view that papal version of March Madness by clicking here.