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Kalamazoo holds special celebration to mark Pope's departure
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Catholic faithful in West Michigan and all over the world on Thursday watched the exodus of Pope Benedict XVI.
A crowd of more than 100,000 gave an emotional sendoff to the first Pope to retire in 600 years.
The 85-year-old Pope told the crowd he's beginning the final stage of his life.
Bells tolled as he left the Vatican by helicopter and flew to his retirement home, where he plans to spend his days mostly in seclusion.
Hundreds of Catholics from around the world watched and also held their own special ceremonies--including church faithful in West Michigan.
Dozens gathered in Kalamazoo to honor the departing Pope's service.
"It feels like a little bit of mourning, sadness, but also a sense of real hope and trust in the Lord," said Bishop Paul Bradley, of the Diocese of Kalamazoo.
Showing us the cross Pope Benedict gave him after being ordained, Bishop Bradley says he feels a personal connection with the pope.
"I have a very special bond with him," Bishop Bradley said. "I'm grateful to him for all his direction, for assigning me here to the diocese in Kalamazoo."
The crowd at today's mass in Kalamazoo expressed mixed feelings as the transition approaches.
Many are focused on the magnitude of the day, while others look forward to what and who will come next.
Cardinals are expected to begin meeting Monday to set a date for the conclave.
They hope to have a new Pontiff in place before Easter.