Monday afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI bid his official farewells to religious and civil authorities in the southern Italian town of Castelgandolfo as he makes his way back to Rome and to the Vatican.
The Pope has spent the majority of his summer operating out of the ancient papal summer residence south of Rome, although he has made frequent returns to the Vatican throughout the summer.
As he prepared to leave, the Holy Father thanked and said goodbye to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (the diocese in which Castelgandolfo is located), local religious communities, civil authorities, and the numerous security personnel who have protected him during his stay in the town.
"Before returning to the Vatican," Pope Benedict said, "I feel the need to express my gratitude to those who, over these summer months, have welcomed me and striven to make my stay a peaceful one."
He then addressed a special greeting to the Christian community in Castelgandolfo and to the diocese of Albano as a whole. In this, he included their respective religious communities, and expressed hope that "they always work together to spread the love and joy of Christ everywhere."
Likewise the pontiff thanked the town mayor, representatives of the local authorities "and the civic community which I have felt so close over this period." He also noted that "the traditional hospitality of the inhabitants of Castelgandolfo is well known."
Lastly, Pope Benedict thanked the medical personnel and staff of the Vatican Governorate, who had been operating at the residence, as well as members of the Italian police forces, the Vatican Gendarmerie and the Pontifical Swiss Guard, who, as he said, "have ensured me and my collaborators a peaceful and tranquil sojourn in this beautiful place."