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[bitsontherun jwoPUjdd]STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – The Pope’s resignation will be official on Thursday but today he gave his final general address to thousands of believers in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be stepping down earlier this month, an action that had not been taken in 600 years. His failing health has been cited as a factor in his decision.

Father Lenin Vargas of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Starkville says the faithful should continue to pray during this time of transition.

“We do of course love and will miss the presence and the image, the advice and the guidance of Pope Benedict XVI. But we pray that God will continue leading and guiding with someone also in the direction that God wants us to go,” says Vargas.

The pope has served in the Vatican since 2005. After he steps down, he will reportedly leave Rome immediately to stay in the papal summer home.

Father Vargas says he is putting his faith in the conclave to choose the next pope.

“It would be hard to speculate with a particular candidate but there’s several members I believe, but one very strong at the moment, is a cardinal from Italy. But it will be hard to say a particular name because it’s not a contest or it’s not a run-off for a particular office,” says Vargas.

Life-long Catholic Robert Oddo says he’s proud of what Pope Benedict XVI accomplished during his tenure.

“I’ve been a Roman Catholic all my life and I was pretty shocked. But what he did as a pope was just completely amazing. He followed along the footsteps of John Paul II,” says Oddo.

Father Vargas says many of his parishioners have expressed concern about who will lead the Catholic church but some of them have decided to keep the faith.

“I don’t really have anybody particular in mind, but I think the Catholic Church is going to keep rising and rising because each pope is just going to keep getting better and better,” says Oddo.

Over 100 cardinals will attend the conclave next month to select the next leader of the Catholic church.

The new pope will serve over one billion Roman Catholics world wide.

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