Kissing pope's hand ruled out for safety at general audience

Police consider 'aerial escort' to Castel Gandolfo

Kissing pope's hand ruled out for safety at general audience

Rome, February 25 - Kissing the pope's hand is off the agenda after Benedict XVI's last general audience before stepping down from the papacy, Rome police said Monday after a security meeting. The traditional offering to kiss the pope's hand and his Fisherman's Ring after the general audience Wednesday was ruled out as a safety precaution. Heads of state and dignitaries from around the world are expected to attend, including newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry who is in Rome for summits on the conflict in Syria and Israeli-Palestinian relations. Following his resignation at 20:00 local time Thursday, the pope will be swept away in his white papal helicopter and flown to his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, where he will await the completion of ongoing renovations to a monastery that is to become his home behind the Vatican walls. Police said Wednesday they were considering escorting the pontiff "by air" all the way to Castel Gandolfo. It was not clear if that meant in separate aircraft or if security personnel would accompany him inside his helicopter.

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