The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday intrigued just about anyone interested in history or society. For young students in Knoxville who look to the Pope as their religious leader, Thursday truly captivated their minds and spirits.
The eyes of hundreds of students at Knoxville's Sacred Heart Cathedral School were glued to television screens for a glimpse of living history. Coverage of the Pope's final day filled the classrooms throughout Sacred Heart.
"The teachers are more energetic today. It's different. It's unique," said eighth-grader Noah Monarrez.
Monarrez recalls when Benedict became Pope, but the experience is much different this time around.
"I was in kindergarten the last time and we were little, so we didn't understand much. I barely remember it. But now what is different is we are studying all about it. We're talking about what the Pope is going to do with the rest of his life, how they're going to elect the new Pope," said Monarrez.
"The Pope becomes an absolute monarch of the country of Vatican City. It's the only election of an absolute monarch in the world," said middle school teacher Davis Bodie.
Bodie's cup of classroom lessons runneth over with the transition of Benedict to "Pope emeritus." That's because Bodie teaches social studies as well as religion. But on Thursday, Bodie was just as much a student of history as a teacher.
"I've been to Vatican City several times, so it is really cool to see the places I've been and the history that takes place there now as opposed to what you read about," said Bodie. "This is something that we have not seen in several hundred years and everyone has sort of had to refresh themselves on how to handle certain protocols with the resignation as opposed to the death of a Pope."
Whatever your religious beliefs may or may not be, Bodie said the Pope's resignation and the upcoming election impacts the entire globe.
"While Catholicism is not a huge population in East Tennessee, you have over one billion Catholics worldwide and we are talking about one man who is going to lead a billion people in their spiritual life. So any time you get into those kind of numbers, it's going to mean a lot to everyone."
The entire school met at 2:00 p.m. when the title of "Pope emeritus" officially took effect. The students sent up several prayers requesting graceful guidance for the church as it chooses its next Pope. It is a choice Monarrez eagerly awaits.
"I want to know who the new Pope is going to be. I want to know if it's someone I knew, or met, or have known something about. That's what I would like to know," said Monarrez.
One man who will play a part in deciding the next global leader of the Catholic Church now calls Knoxville home. Cardinal Justin Rigali traveled from Knoxville to Rome and will cast one of the votes to elect the next Pope.