ALCOA (WATE) - East Tennesseans gathered at McGhee Tyson Airport for a holy sendoff.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, who is a member of the College of Cardinals, departed for Rome on Tuesday, where he will help select Pope Benedict XVI's successor.
Dozens of parishioners gathered at the airport with banners and cheers to wish Cardinal Rigali well on his trip.
"Words can't even really describe. My heart is so full of, again, just joy for the Church. There's a sadness but yet a joy at the same time. I just am so grateful for the Church, for the power of prayer, for the Holy Spirit, Mother Mary's Intercession," said well-wisher Lisa Morris.
"It's just awesome. It's powerful to see the road that he's taking, and the road that he's on, and that we get to be a part of it is just really exciting," explained Scott Davis.
One student was particularly excited to see Cardinal Rigali off at the airport.
"As a school, as Knoxville Catholic, we kind of wanted to welcome off from the diocese because it's our hometown, and it was fun to get all our friends together and wish him farewell," said Knoxville Catholic student Nathan Teter.
Even with the excitement, Catholics know the task Cardinal Rigali faces.
"As a Catholic, we believe that the Pope is a successor to Peter, to Christ. And we believe that it's important that he's going to be going in there to elect the new pope, and we just want to prayerfully support him in this new step, and let him know that we're thinking about him," Davis explained.
Prior to his departure, the cardinal served as homilist at a prayer service Tuesday morning at All Saints Catholic Church in West Knoxville.
There, worshippers gave thanks to Pope Benedict for his service and prayed for the cardinals taking part in the papal election.