South Dakota Catholics offered their own spiritual sendoff to Pope Benedict during Mass in Sioux Falls Thursday. They gathered at St. Joseph Cathedral just as Benedict wrapped up his final moments as pope. Mass was especially emotional for the head of the Sioux Falls Diocese.
Pope Benedict appointed Paul Swain bishop of the Sioux Falls Diocese in 2006. So Benedict's departure as pope Thursday touched Bishop Swain in a very personal way.
Swain briefly choked up at the start of a Mass of Thanksgiving. A picture of the pope in the sanctuary stirred him with emotion.
"I wasn't expecting the picture, so I saw the picture and it kind of just took me back a little. But fortunately, I was able to hang together for the most part," Swain said.
This was the final time South Dakota Catholics could offer up prayers for Benedict as their pope, a bittersweet moment for the parishioners.
"You're experiencing the loss of your spiritual leader as a Catholic and so there's that sadness that goes with that. But I think more than that is the hope that comes with a church that has been around for 2,000 years," Joe Rutten of Sioux Falls said.
Pope Benedict is even part of the architecture here at St. Joseph Cathedral. This is his coat-of-arms, part of his legacy in Sioux Falls.
"He was also especially influential in helping us recognize the importance of beauty reflected in sacred art and music, which influenced the restoration of this cathedral of St. Joseph," Swain said.
Catholics around the globe begin a period of transition awaiting the selection of a successor to Benedict. For now, the pope's chair is empty, but the faithful are filled with hope.
"May Our Lady watch over him. Viva our poppa, viva our poppa emeritus," Swain said.
Benedict flew to a papal retreat south of Rome Thursday to begin his retirement. He's the first pope in 600 years to resign.
Plans for choosing his successor will begin Monday when cardinals are expected to begin meeting to set a date for the conclave that elects a new pope.