Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to resign Thursday. At 1 p.m. Chicago time, he became emeritus pope. He will spend his retirement at Castel Gandolfo, the Vatican's vacation retreat.
Studying in Rome, Claire Halbur said she felt Benedict's blessings in St. Petersburg Square Wednesday.
"The sense of gratitude that we have had eight years from this wonderful leader, I think that is really important-- that we don't miss that gratitude," Halbur said.
At St. Charles Borromeo Church at least three bishops gathered under the leadership of the Joliet Diocese's top clergyman to give thanks for Pope Benedict XVI.
Bishop Daniel Conlon, who was installed at St. Charles just a year and half ago, invited parishioners to reflect on the humility of Benedict's decision to step down- even if it made them sad.
"I think he is a beautiful person. He has a very deep heart and a couple of times I have had a chance to meet him I truly felt he had a personal connection," Bishop Colon said.
"I think he is setting a marvelous example for the church in putting aside power and prestige," Jim Strnal, St. Peter's Basilica parishioner, said.
"Our pope has given up a tremendous amount of power, and he does it joyfully, and because he's concerned about the total church," Jim Nolan said.
Across the Chicago area, Roman Catholics prayed for Benedict, who left the Vatican by helicopter for the last time as pontiff. Masses were held in his honor, and the faithful gathered to watch the TV coverage of Benedict's farewell.
"He served the church for as many years as he was able. And now I think he's making a very humble step in saying there's somebody else. God has another leader to bring us towards happiness, and to bring the church where it's meant to be," Therese Maher, parishioner, said.
"It's a bittersweet day," Chris Albrecht, parishioner, said. "Sad to see Pope Benedict leave, but also hopeful, excited about the new pope and new administration."
The question now on their minds- who will be next? And what changes will the new pope bring to their churches?
"This may be an attempt by the pope to affect change by absence," Richard Conti, parishioner, said. "In the back of mind, I'm thinking that maybe this is a message being sent that the internal workings need to be reformed."
Some of the parishioners said they'd like to see more leadership roles for women in the Catholic church.
"I think this is a time for us to be aware of each other and to recognize the beauty of other faiths and to be compassionate and loving towards others," Bishop Colon said.