North Texas Catholics Give Thanks for Benedict's Leadership

By Ellen Goldberg
|  Thursday, Feb 28, 2013  |  Updated 6:41 PM CDT
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Millions of Catholics in North Texas attended special masses to mark Benedict XVI's retirement from the Catholic Church.

Ellen Goldberg, NBC 5 News

Millions of Catholics in North Texas attended special masses to mark Benedict XVI's retirement from the Catholic Church.

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Hundreds of Catholics gathered at the cathedral in downtown Dallas to give thanks for Benedict XVI's leadership, intellect and teachings.

Benedict on Thursday became the first pope in 600 years to resign.

The Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe called Thursday's Mass in Dallas a thanksgiving Mass for Benedict.

"I just think he has done a lot of good things, and I am grateful for everything he has done," parishioner Michelle Hammond said.

"Pope Benedict has been such a huge part of my own faith journey and coming back to the faith," parishioner Jennifer Baugh said.

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Auxiliary Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel said a changing world -- for good or bad -- has changed the role of the modern pope. Today's pope is expected to jump on an airplane and travel around the globe, provide instant answers for worldwide questions and answer to 24-hour news cycles.

"Pope Benedict acknowledged this and believed after prayer that a physically stronger and younger person would best benefit the church," Deshotel said.

He urged local Catholics to give thanks for Benedict's service and pray for those now tasked with choosing his successor.

"Something great is happening in the world right now," parishioner Theresa Marter said. "We are just praying hard for Pope Benedict and whoever will be elected next week."

While there is much speculation, there is also much faith in the future of the Catholic Church among parishioners.

"I'm very optimistic," Marter said. "I think it is going to be a lot smaller but stronger and faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ."

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.

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On his last day, the mood was vastly different inside the Vatican than at Castel Gandolfo. At the seat of the popes, Benedict's staff tearfully bade the pontiff good-bye in scenes of dignified solemnity. A more lively atmosphere reigned in the countryside, with well-wishers jamming the hilltop town's main square shouting "Viva il Papa!" (Long live the pope!) and wildly waving the yellow and white flags of the Holy See.

"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."

Benedict set his resignation in motion Feb. 11, when he announced that he no longer had the "strength of mind and body" do to the job. It was the first time that a pope had resigned since Pope Gregory XII stepped down in 1415 to help end a church schism.

In the weeks since Benedict's announcement, speculation has mounted whether other factors were to blame. By the time his final day came around though, Benedict seemed perfectly serene with his decision.

In a final farewell to his cardinals as pope, Benedict tried to dispel concerns about the unprecedented future awaiting the Catholic Church, with one reigning and one retired pope living side-by-side. He pledged his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor.

Meetings to discuss choosing the next Pope will begin Friday.

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