BOISE -- Catholics around the world watched as the first pope in nearly 600 years stepped down today.

Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican today.

From a window, he gave a final public blessing to thousands, and said goodbye to his staff.

Then, he boarded a helicopter to travel to his temporary residence near Rome.

Parishioners gathered at St. John's Cathedral in Boise on this historic day. Many of them we talked to feel a close connection to the pope. They tell us while today is emotional, it signals a new era for their church.

With bibles open and rosaries in hand it was the usual daily mass at St. John's Cathedral, on an unusual day for the Catholic Church.

He's been a wonderful pope, so it's kind of like losing a member of your family, said Stephanie Bennett, who attends St. John's.

Those we spoke to say Benedict's resignation was felt throughout the church in Boise and around the world.

He's our papa, so he unites our Catholic world, so we know we can feel the same as Catholics in Africa, Catholics around the world, said Bennett.

I think it's a monumental precedent setting event, and I think he's done it well, said Father Tom Faucher of St. Mary's.

Father Tom Faucher met the now former pope.

An interesting, scholarly man, very quiet, I think he is going to enjoy retirement, said Faucher.

He also knows several of the 115 cardinals that will soon begin the conclave, choosing the next leader. For many Catholics in Boise, it's a decision they're already praying for.

God know what's best for the church and it's happening, so I trust in God and I'm not worried at all, said Monica Beumeler, who attends St. John's.

Father Faucher tells us it will be interesting to watch what unfolds in the next few days and weeks since he says there is no clear favorite for the next pope.

He says that means the conclave could take as many as five days as Catholics wait to see who their next leader will be.

More than 200 cardinals will begin meetings on Monday to discuss possible pope candidates.

Then, only those under the age of 80 will begin the conclave and the voting process, which ends when a candidate gets two thirds of the vote.

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