The Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI has now, 8pm Rome time (2pm EST) come to an end with the Sede Vacante (“Vacant See”; the empty chair), the reign of the 265th Pope, the 264th successor of Saint Peter, lasted 7 years, 10 months, and 9 days.
I welcome you all with great joy and cordially greet each one of you. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who as always, has been able to convey the sentiments of the College, Cor ad cor loquitur. Thank you, Your Eminence, from my heart.
And referring to the disciples of Emmaus, I would like to say to you all that it has also been a joy for me to walk with you over the years in light of the presence of the Risen Lord. As I said yesterday, in front of thousands of people who filled St. Peter’s Square, your closeness, your advice, have been a great help to me in my ministry. In these 8 years we have experienced in faith beautiful moments of radiant light in the Churches’ journey along with times when clouds have darkened the sky. We have tried to serve Christ and his Church with deep and total love which is the soul of our ministry. We have gifted hope that comes from Christ alone, and which alone can illuminate our path. Together we can thank the Lord who has helped us grow in communion, to pray to together, to help you to continue to grow in this deep unity so that the College of Cardinals is like an orchestra, where diversity, an expression of the universal Church, always contributes to a superior harmony of concord. I would like to leave you with a simple thought that is close to my heart, a thought on the Church, Her mystery, which is for all of us, we can say, the reason and the passion of our lives. I am helped by an expression of Romano Guardini‘s, written in the year in which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, his last with a personal dedication to me, so the words of this book are particularly dear to me .
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. Like Saint Paul, whose words we heard earlier, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his Church and her growth in faith and love, and I embrace all of you with joy and gratitude. During this Year of Faith, we have been called to renew our joyful trust in the Lord’s presence in our lives and in the life of the Church. I am personally grateful for his unfailing love and guidance in the eight years since I accepted his call to serve as the Successor of Peter. I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world. The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope. In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history. I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!
Pope Benedict’s penultimate day as the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff we hear from him one last time in an official capacity with evermore courage, insight, humility and love. It is an astonishing piece.
Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.
Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.
I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).
The Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, wrote a letter on occasion of the abdication of Pope Benedict. It is a warm letter and testimony to his co-worker in the vineyard. In an era of lots of change in the leadership of many changes, it is interesting to what is said,
It is with regret that we have learned of the decision by His Holiness Pope Benedict to retire from his Throne, because with his wisdom and experience he could have provided much more to the Church and the world.
Pope Benedict leaves an indelible mark on the life and history of the Roman Catholic Church, sealed not only by his brief papacy, but also by his broad and longstanding contribution as a theologian and hierarch of his Church, as well as his universally acknowledged prestige.