MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) -- Parishioners packed Saint Joseph Catholic Church in dowtown Macon Thursday afternoon to pray. Many said they felt a sense of peace during this historic change in the church.
Inside the church it was clear that Pope Benedict resignation wasn't a test of faith for the parishioners.
"I think it's wonderful that he realized he couldn't continue. He did the very best that he could, and he realized that he had to get down," said Gloria Caron.
In Macon, a traditional mass of thanksgiving was held to honor Benedict's leadership, and to pray for the next in line.
Across the globe the pontiff left the Vatican, and flew to Castel Gandolfo. When he arrived, he stood on the balcony and told the crowd this is the beginning of the final stage of his life as quote "simply a pilgrim."
Saint Joe parishioner Susan Fontenot watched as he stepped down.
"I had a feeling he was experiencing just the biggest sense of peace," said Fontenot.
Father Allen McDonald says Benedict will likely live out the rest of his life doing what he loves, teaching and being a priest.
"I think that being the pope has been a great challenge for him but on that he's carried out very well, in a loving way, and has really set a humble example, I think, for the next pope," said McDonald.
It's a feeling that many of Saint Joseph's parishioners expressed. Shirley Buafo says she knows Benedict is not turning his back on the church, but taking on a different role.
"I'll be there, I'll be praying, I'll be there in spirit. I am not giving up but I am just standing back," said Buafo.
Many are praying Benedict's successor brings the same humble and brave qualities to the papacy.
"As much courage and faith as Pope Benedict," said Carole Nichols.
"He has to be a person that can command the attention of the world based on his faith and his love for Christ and the church," said McDonald.
Father McDonald says during this time, that church will continue to be led not by man alone, but by the power of the holy spirit.