KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - 11 Americans will join the 120 cardinals forming the conclave to vote for the next pope, and one calls Knoxville home.
Cardinal Justin Rigali will head to Rome in a few weeks to help vote on the next pope just as he did for Pope Benedict XVI.
"He's going to be the bishop of Rome. He's going to be the pastor of the Universal Catholic Church and all that entails. So just imagining the qualities that are needed, they are enormous," said Rigali.
The pope's announcement to resign Monday is unprecedented in Rigali's career.
"I was shocked. When I read the pope's statement and saw his reasons for resigning, it makes great sense," said Rigali.
And Catholics all across Knoxville agree.
"Initial reaction is sadness because it'll be a great loss," said Kathryn Perry.
"I think he's to be commended for acknowledging or recognizing anyway that he needs to resign, that he doesn't have the strength to carry on. I admire him for it," said Joe Stackhouse, a deacon at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
"I think he must've felt led by the Holy Spirit," said Mary Francis Merwin.
Rigali was headed on a preplanned pilgrimage to Jerusalem Monday. He's unsure of when the College of Cardinals will meet since their is no death to mourn as in previous papel selections, but he says he'll head to the Vatican when called.
The next pope must be selected by a two-thirds plus one vote.