(02/27/13) - As the pope makes his exit, Catholic leaders in Michigan are reflecting on his service.
Wednesday, Pope Benedict the 16th entered St. Peter's Square for his final public appearance.
This is the first time since the middle ages that a pope is choosing to walk away from the Vatican for good.
It is a sad occasion for Catholics around the world and here in Michigan.
"His life is truly going to be a life of prayerful support from us, and that's no small thing," said Bishop Joseph Cistone, of the Diocese of Saginaw.
Bishop Cistone recalls his first encounter with the pope several years ago.
"A year ago February, I was there for a visit, all the bishops from around the world every five years or so return to Rome to meet with the pope, so I was with all the Bishops from our region and we had a private audience with him," he said.
Bishop Cistone says when he returned to the Vatican just a year ago, he could sense the Pope's health was beginning to decline.
"We were talking about the roles and values of the church, very mentally and spiritually strong, but unfortunately his body was failing him in so many ways," he said.
Two Detroit area Cardinals are also reacting to the pope's departure.
Cardinal Adam Maida released a statement saying, "A certain sadness touches our hearts as we ponder the news of his resignation, but we cannot deny the reality of old age as it affects all of us."
In a statement, Cardinal Edmund Szoka, also from the Archdiocese of Detroit, reflected on where the church goes from here. "The main obligation for the faithful right now is to pray, to pray for Pope Benedict XVI that the Lord will give him more years of quiet life, and that the cardinals will select a worthy successor to him," the statement said.
Thursday, Pope Benedict will leave the Vatican on a helicopter for a retreat outside of Rome. He will remove himself completely from the public eye, dedicating himself to prayer and meditation.
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