BALTIMORE - The big speeches are done. It's almost time to go.
In just a few minutes, Pope Benedict XVI meets with his cardinals this morning on the day he heads into retirement. No major speech is expected during his morning farewell with his closest advisers, just a simple greeting to each one inside the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.
Shortly before 5 p.m. local time, Benedict will leave the palace for the last time as pope, head to the helipad on the top of the hill in the Vatican gardens and fly to the papal retreat south of Rome. And there, at 8 p.m. -- the exact moment Benedict's resignation goes into effect -- the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty, their service protecting the pope now finished.