Updated 02/28/13 – 1:55 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Pope Benedict XVI ended his eight-year pontificate of the Catholic Church on Thursday, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, after meeting with cardinals Thursday morning, Benedict was flown by helicopter to the town of Castel Gandolfo, just south of Rome, where he will officially resigned as the head of the Catholic Church.
In his final meeting with cardinals, Benedict promised obedience to his successor. He also prayed that the cardinals are shown the right way in picking a new pope.
Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George got only about 15 seconds to speak to the pope one-on-one at the meeting, but said he felt he had enough time to bid Benedict farewell.
“This is not a time to have a long conversation, is it? So I know he was always being thanked for his great magisterium, for his witness. I thanked him for his friendship,” he said. “This is a time to say farewell – and he knows that we’re grateful – and to move along.”
Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, with the Pontifical North American College in Rome, said cardinals are in “a completely new situation,” in that for the first time in centuries, a pope is stepping down and soon will be answering to a new pontiff.
“He will have a superior, the new Holy Father, and he’s saying ‘I will be available for advice, but I will always be under your authority in any decisions you make,’” Figueiredo said. “I think it was a wonderful, humble, gracious gesture.”
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports Benedict’s resignation was in the thoughts and prayers of many Catholics in Chicago on Thursday.
At the morning mass at Holy Name Cathedral, parishioners offered prayers for Benedict’s health and intentions as he steps down, and for guidance for the cardinals who will vote for his successor.
Nothing looked out of the ordinary for parishioners attending the 7 a.m. mass, but it felt different.
Parishioner Chris Albrecht called it a “bittersweet day; sad to see Pope Benedict leave, but also hopeful and excited about the new pope and the new administration.”
Felix Chau said he believes Benedict always had the church’s best interests in mind.
“I think in his heart, he’s always been a servant of the church. He was asked to be pope during a really tough time, and I think he’s tried to do his best,” he said. “In his discernment, he discovered he just doesn’t have the energy and the health to continue his job.”
Parishioners said it took courage for Benedict to step down.
“He’s a long time thinking about it, so I trust him. … We all pray for him,” Teresa Rhee said. “I think he is very humble, because he knew what his limit is.”
Chau said, “I went to a mass yesterday, and a priest said, ‘You know, in our world, we’re addicted to power.’ And it’s so rare to see someone just give up power.”
Parishioners said Benedict’s successor will have a big task ahead of him.
“I think he will have to deal with the sex scandal. I think that’s one issue he’ll have to deal with; one of many,” Albrecht said.
Many of them added it’s reassuring to know Benedict isn’t just leaving the church, but he will stay at the Vatican and dedicate his life to prayer.
After Benedict officially steps down, he will move to Castel Gandolfo, which has long served as the papal summer residence, until he can take up permanent residence at Master Ecclesiae, a convent for cloistered nuns at the Vatican that is under renovation.
Cardinals are expected to begin meeting Monday to set a date for the papal conclave to elect the next pope.