Cardinal Justin Rigali, who lives in Knoxville, will be one of 117 Cardinals that will help decide who will become the next Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI announced earlier this month that he is stepping down for health reasons. The 85-year-old Pope's last official day is Thursday.
Approximately 115 cardinals will go into conclave early in March to select the next Pope. Cardinal Rigali will be one of seven American cardinals to decide the leadership of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
The Diocese of Knoxville and local Catholics gathered Tuesday morning to send Cardinal Rigali off with well-wishes and support. He was the homilist at a prayer service Tuesday morning at All Saints Catholic Church. The service was a thanksgiving to Pope Benedict XVI for his pontificate and included prayers for the invocation of the Holy Spirit for the cardinal electors.
After the service, local Catholics headed to McGhee Tyson Airport for a sendoff of Cardinal Rigali, as he travels to Rome to join the other members of the College of Cardinals for the selection of Pope Benedict's successor.
When asked about the next pope's qualifications, Cardinal Rigali said, "Nobody's perfect, nobody is going to have eveything, but we are looking for someone who is a worthy successor to Pope Benedict. Someone who is a great pastor of the universal church, a great leader, a great father, a great teacher, a great preacher of the word of God."