Local mass held to honor retiring Pope

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV/AP) - More than a dozen people gathered for an historical mass that was the first of its kind in 600 years.

Devoted Catholics attended a service at St. Patrick Catholic Church to give thanks and pray for the church future.

"I'm one of the loyal followers of this Pope, and this particular Pope I think is really an intellectual genius," Ray Martin said.

He and his wife Andrea Martin were visiting Charleston from Connecticut. Many of the people at the service were also visiting.

The mass was held hours before the Pope made his official departure from the Vatican.

At the Drexel House on Wentworth Street, Father Jeff Kirby, Vicar Vocations of the Diocese of Charleston, said a prayer before the removal of the Pope's picture at the house at 2 p.m.

The gesture is to signify that{}that those who follow the Catholic faith{}are no longer with a Pope.

Father Kirby says this historic moment could forever change the church.

"I think people of goodwill who see the Pope as the voice of justice in our world there is some sorrow," he said. "He has resigned of course, but there is excitement about who the next Pope is going to be."

Benedict XVI left the Catholic Church in unprecedented limbo Thursday as he became the first pope in 600 years to resign, capping a tearful day of farewells that included an extraordinary pledge of obedience to his successor.

As bells tolled, two Swiss Guards standing at attention at the papal palace in Castel Gandolfo shut the thick wooden doors shortly after 8 p.m., symbolically closing out a papacy whose legacy will be most marked by the way it ended - a resignation instead of a death.

Benedict, who will spend his first two months of retirement inside the palace walls, leaves behind an eight-year term shaped by struggles to move the church beyond clerical sex abuse scandals and to reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world - efforts his successor will now have to take up.

For the time being, the governance of the Catholic Church shifts to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlengo, or chamberlain, who along with the College of Cardinals will guide the church and make plans for the conclave to elect the 266th leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

One of Bertone's first acts was to lock the papal apartment inside the Vatican. In another task steeped in symbolism, he will ensure that Benedict's fisherman's ring and seal are destroyed.

"I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth," Benedict told the cheering crowd in his final public words as pope.

It was a remarkable bookend to a papacy that began on April 19, 2005 with a similarly meek speech delivered from the loggia overlooking St. Peter's Square, where the newly elected Benedict said he was but a "simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

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