Local Catholics Say Final Goodbye To The Pope

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Catholics all over the world watched Pope Benedict XVI's last public speech to tens of thousands of people at Saint Peter's Square.

Ryan Pianalto, a pre-kindergarten catechist at St. Joseph’s church in Tontitown, said he’s grateful for the pope’s years of service.

"He's been in service for over 60 years, not just as pope, but as a cardinal, and a priest. Before that, a bishop," Pianalto said.

Mike Della Rosa, who trains altar servers, said he admires the pope’s decision to resign.

"He has the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but his health is (worsening),” Della Rosa said. “I think it's great that he's stepping down and they can find someone to take his place."

Pope Benedict XVI will dedicate the rest of his life to prayer, and parishioner Denise Laney said she’s looking forward to what's ahead.

"An interesting experience, a new change is always great,” Laney said.  “I welcome any change that's going to happen in the church.”

It's the first time in more than 600 years a pope has resigned.

"Considering he was the oldest pope elected in the last 300 years, it’s a big deal, and I think it took a lot guts and a lot of prayer in his part to step down," Pianalto said.

Catholics locally and all over the world will keep an eye on the Vatican for the anticipated announcement.

"We'll all be waiting for the new pope, seeing who is going to be in the pot and seeing who the conclave comes up with," Pianalto said.

The pope, who heads approximately 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide, officially retires Thursday (Feb 28). His papacy was eight years long, and he is 85 years old.