Pope Benedict XVI’s Renunciation of the Petrine Office

Feb 11th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Today the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, announced his renunciation of the Petrine office effective at the end of February, 2013. You may listen to Benedict read his announcement in Latin at the bottom of the link above. You may also find here the English translation of Cardinal Sodano’s response as seen in the video.

This rare move of a pope renouncing the Petrine office last occurred in the fifteenth century and before that in the thirteenth century.1 Gregory XII renounced the office of pope in 1417 to facilitate an end to the confusing years of the anti-popes known as the Great Western Schism. In 1294 Pope St. Celestine V, after only a few months in office, wished to return to his former life of hermitage and renounced the bishopric of Rome. Pope Benedict has ruled the Church for a longer period of nearly eight years, having been elected in April 2005. His renunciation comes not to end a controversy but to retire due to ill health.

Canon law makes brief mention of this process. The current Code of Canon Law (1983) states

Can. 332 § 2. Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.

Can. 332 §2. If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns [renuntiet] his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.

The reason why no one accepts the renunciation of the pope is that the pope is the Church’s supreme pastor and the president of the college of bishops. He is entrusted with the supreme care of souls. While he is brother to all the other bishops, he is also the successor of St. Peter, the one charged with confirming the faith of the brethren (Luke 22:32). There is no authority within the Church on earth higher than the pope. The decision must be free and deliberate. This is why Pope Benedict stressed in his announcement that he had made this decision for the good of the Church and only after a prolonged period of discernment of seeking the Lord’s will. Thus he said,

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

It is no secret that the Holy Father’s health has been deteriorating of late. Aware of this possibility, Pope Benedict has made cryptic mentions in the past of the possibility of renunciation. For example, in a 2010 book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, the Holy Father said,

If a Pope realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of the office, then has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.2


Pope Benedict XVI

The Holy Father has been a constant inspiration for us as a man who has loved the Church so deeply and thoughtfully. He has spent himself in service to his flock, in his visits to various countries, his presence at World Youth Days, his constant teaching, and his care for the order of the Church. He has been at the helm of the Barque of Peter during some precarious times and has incurred the hatred of many who see in him and the Church all that is inhumane. Yet Pope Benedict made it clear that he would not resign because of difficulties: “One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it.”3 In this, he is blessed to share in the revulsion the world felt at the Lord Jesus, in despising his love and his teaching (see Acts 5:41). May Benedict depart this life in much joy, the joy of his Lord!

For many of us at Called to Communion who were still Protestant at the time, the election of Pope Benedict XVI and his subsequent reign held out the question, “Will that be my leader someday?” Perhaps we sensed something of the Holy Father’s solicitude for visible reunion of Christians, a concern which has led to, among other things, a warming of ties with the Orthodox Churches and the creation of the Anglican Ordinariate, through which Anglicans can return to full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining some distinctive liturgical elements of their tradition. Benedict himself announced this concern the day after his election when he said:

The current Successor [to St. Peter] assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers.

May the next Successor of St. Peter likewise continue the work of prayer and love and dialogue in the truth for the reunion of all Christians!

We of course are saddened that one of the greatest theological minds to hold the Petrine office is now leaving. He has given the Church so much, not least in his encyclicals and informal works on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, his work against relativistic conceptions of culture and politics, his freeing of the 1962 extraordinary form of the Mass, the Year of Faith currently underway in the Catholic Church, and much more.

We are sad that we will no longer have Benedict as our pope. Yet God guides the Church, and so we pray for Benedict’s successor and put our hope in the chief Shepherd, from whom all popes and bishops receive their authority and example.4 May He come and take His flock to himself after making her ready and after the full measure of the nations have found their salvation in the Barque of St. Peter.

O God, eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care, grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and to us show watchful care. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Election of a Pope or a Bishop from the Roman Missal)

  1. It first occurred 1,778 years ago, when Pope St. Pontian resigned on 28 September 235. []
  2. Light of the World (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2010), 30 []
  3. Light of the World, 29 []
  4. See 1 Peter 5:4 and John 21:15-19 []

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  1. Dr. Scott Hahn just shared via Facebook this insight:

    Back on April 29, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI did something rather striking, but which went largely unnoticed.

    He stopped off in Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of an obscure medieval Pope named St. Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine’s tomb!

    Fifteen months later, on July 4, 2010, Benedict went out of his way again, this time to visit and pray in the cathedral of Sulmona, near Rome, before the relics of this same saint, Celestine V.

    Few people, however, noticed at the time.

    Only now, we may be gaining a better understanding of what it meant. These actions were probably more than pious acts. More likely, they were profound and symbolic gestures of a very personal nature, which conveyed a message that a Pope can hardly deliver any other way.

    In the year 1294, this man (Fr. Pietro Angelerio), known by all as a devout and holy priest, was elected Pope, somewhat against his will, shortly before his 80th birthday (Ratzinger was 78 when he was elected Pope in 2005). Just five months later, after issuing a formal decree allowing popes to resign (or abdicate, like other rulers), Pope Celestine V exercised that right. And now Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to follow in the footsteps of this venerable model.

  2. This is truly both a saddening and encouraging time. As one who is currently in the last stages of RCIA and a two and a half year journey into the Church, I very much looked forward to entering the Church under Pope Benedict’s pastorship. I remember watching Bl. Pope JP II’s funeral on TV and then Pope Benedict’s announcement of election. I love reading his books and watching him speak. I was able to attend one of his general audiences this past Fall in Rome and recieved his blessing. What an amazing Father and Pastor he has been to all Christians, Catholic or not. I pray God gives him many many more years of health so that he can rest, pray and continue to write great books and play wonderful music. God bless our Pope and may the protection of our Immaculate Mother be always with him and his successor.

    Steven

  3. […] cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it.”3 In this, he is blessed to share in the revulsion the world felt at the Lord Jesus, in despising […]

  4. Cardinal Arinze, on Pope Benedict’s announcement:

  5. From Cardinal Arinze above:

    “The Holy Spirit does not go on Holidays!”

    Makes me so glad to be Catholic. This is the opposite of ecclesial deism. Christ, and the Spirit of Christ — the Holy Spirit, never leaves His Church. Amen! Praise be Jesus Christ!

  6. Thanks for posting that video, Bryan! Cardinal Arinze’s words are so clearly and wonderfully Christ-centered here, and if every Protestant and Catholic in the world could hear and pay close attention to that five minutes and ten seconds, I can only think that (among other good things) ecumenical dialogue would be truly helped.

    Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit is constantly at work for the unity of Christians around the world, for all of us, whether we are with or without the ability to access the internet! it is such a gift to ecumenical dialogue though, as this site bears daily witness!

  7. Pope Benedict’s words at today’s General Audience:

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    As you know, I have decided – thank you for your kindness – to renounce the ministry which the Lord entrusted to me on 19 April 2005. I have done this in full freedom for the good of the Church, after much prayer and having examined my conscience before God, knowing full well the seriousness of this act, but also realizing that I am no longer able to carry out the Petrine ministry with the strength which it demands. I am strengthened and reassured by the certainty that the Church is Christ’s, who will never leave her without his guidance and care. I thank all of you for the love and for the prayers with which you have accompanied me. Thank you; in these days which have not been easy for me, I have felt almost physically the power of prayer – your prayers – which the love of the Church has given me. Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future Pope. The Lord will guide us.

    Below is Vatican Radio’s translation [I corrected a couple translation errors] of Pope Benedict’s Catechesis for the General Audience today:

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter; it is a time of particular commitment in our spiritual journey. The number forty occurs several times in the Bible. In particular, it recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty were also the days of the Prophet Elijah’s journey to reach the Mount of God, Horeb; as well as the time that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this Catechesis I would like to dwell on this moment of the earthly life of the Son of God, which we will read of in the Gospel this Sunday.

    First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed towards the essentials in life and for this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there is tempted to leave the path indicated by God the Father to follow other easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). So he takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion.

    In reflecting on the temptations Jesus is subjected to in the desert we are invited, each one of us, to respond to one fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil offers to change a stone into bread to sate Jesus’ hunger. Jesus replies that man also lives by bread but not by bread alone: ​​without a response to the hunger for truth, hunger for God, man can not be saved (cf. vv. 3-4). In the second, the devil offers Jesus the path of power: he leads him up on high and gives him dominion over the world, but this is not the path of God: Jesus clearly understands that it is not earthly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, humility, love (cf. vv. 5-8). In the third, the devil suggests Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and be saved by God through his angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God, but the answer is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12). What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making Him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?

    Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner, and converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo. “Conversion,” an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means following Jesus so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God to transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by “losing” our life in Him can we truly have it. This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.

    The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.

    The major conversions like that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or St. Augustine, are an example and stimulus, but also in our time when the sense of the sacred is eclipsed, God’s grace is at work and works wonders in the life of many people. The Lord never gets tired of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem engulfed by secularization, as was the case for the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After a completely agnostic education, to the point that he felt an outright hostility towards religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky came to exclaim: “No, you can not live without God,” and to change his life completely, so much so that he became a monk.

    I also think of the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch woman of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she found Him looking deep inside herself and wrote: “There is a well very deep inside of me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I can reach Him, more often He is covered by stone and sand: then God is buried. We must dig Him up again “(Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she finds God in the middle of the great tragedy of the twentieth century, the Shoah. This young fragile and dissatisfied woman, transfigured by faith, becomes a woman full of love and inner peace, able to say: “I live in constant intimacy with God.”

    The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time to choose the search for truth and open herself up to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly to having given in to the temptation that everything could be solved with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: “I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!”. The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless, as she points out: “It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer … “. God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a lifetime spent dedicated to the underprivileged.

    In our time there are no few conversions understood as the return of those who, after a Christian education, perhaps a superficial one, moved away from the faith for years and then rediscovered Christ and his Gospel. In the Book of Revelation we read: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me”(3, 20). Our inner person must prepare to be visited by God, and for this reason we should allow ourselves not to be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things.

    In this time of Lent, in the Year of the faith, we renew our commitment to the process of conversion, to overcoming the tendency to close in on ourselves and instead, to making room for God, looking at our daily reality with His eyes. The alternative between being wrapped up in our egoism and being open to the love of God and others, we could say corresponds to the alternatives to the temptations of Jesus: the alternative, that is, between human power and the love of the Cross, between a redemption seen only in material well-being and redemption as the work of God, to whom we give primacy in our lives. Conversion means not closing in on ourselves in the pursuit of success, prestige, position, but making sure that each and every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become most important.

  8. Pope Benedict’s homily at today’s Ash Wednesday Mass, Pope Benedict’s last public Mass:

    Venerable Brothers,

    Dear Brothers and Sisters!

    Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends for forty days and leads us to the joy of Easter, the victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stationes, we have gathered for the celebration of the Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio should take place in the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. The circumstances have suggested that we gather in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tonight we are great in number around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, also to request his intercession for the Church’s journey at this particular time, renewing our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude my Petrine ministry, and ask for a special remembrance in prayer.

    The readings that have been proclaimed provide us with ideas that, with the grace of God, we are called to make concrete attitudes and behaviors during this Lent. The Church proposes to us, first, the strong appeal that the prophet Joel addressed to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2:12). Please note the phrase “with all my heart,” which means from the center of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God. It is the power of his mercy. The prophet says, further: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, ready to repent of evil” (v. 13). The return to the Lord is possible as a ‘grace’, because it is the work of God and the fruit of that faith that we place in His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates to our inmost being and shakes it, giving us the power to “rend our hearts.” The same prophet causes these words from God to resonate: “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (v. 13). In fact, even today, many are ready to “rend their garments” before scandals and injustices – of course, made by others – but few seem willing to act on their own “heart”, on their own conscience and their own intentions, letting the Lord transform, renew and convert.

    That “return to me with all your heart,” then, is a reminder that involves not only the individual, but the community. We have heard, also in the first reading: “Play the horn in Zion, proclaim a solemn fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, convoke a solemn assembly, call the old, gather the children and the infants at the breast; let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her bridal chamber”(vv.15-16). The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (cfr. Jn 11:52). The “we” of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf. Jn 12:32): faith is necessarily ecclesial. And this is important to remember and to live in this time of Lent: each person is aware that he or she does not face the penitential journey alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.

    Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of the priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: “Do not expose your heritage to the reproach and derision of the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ “(v.17). This prayer makes us reflect on the importance of the testimony of faith and Christian life of each of us and our community to show the face of the Church and how that face is sometimes disfigured. I am thinking in particular about sins against the unity of the Church, the divisions in the ecclesial body. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry, is a humble and precious sign for those who are far from the faith or indifferent.

    “Behold, now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth resonate for us, too, with an urgency that does not allow omission or inaction. The word “now” repeated several times says that we cannot let this time pass us by, it is offered to us as a unique opportunity. And the Apostle’s gaze focuses on the sharing that Christ chose to characterize his life, taking on everything human to the point of bearing the very burden of men’s sins. The phrase St. Paul uses is very strong: “God made him sin for our sake.” Jesus, the innocent one, the Holy One, “He who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), bears the burden of sin, sharing with humanity its outcome of death, and death on the cross. The reconciliation offered to us has cost a high price, that of the cross raised on Golgotha, on which was hung the Son of God made man. In this immersion of God in human suffering and in the abyss of evil lies the root of our justification. The “return to God with all your heart” in our Lenten journey passes through the cross, following Christ on the road to Calvary, the total gift of self. It is a way on which to learn every day to come out more and more from our selfishness and our closures, to make room for God who opens and transforms the heart. And St. Paul recalls how the announcement of the Cross resounds to us through the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador; it is a call for us to make this Lenten journey characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.

    In the Gospel of Matthew, to which belongs the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting; they are also traditional indications in the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to “return to God with all your heart.” But Jesus emphasizes that it is both the quality and the truth of the relationship with God that determines the authenticity of each religious gesture. For this reason He denounces religious hypocrisy, the behavior that wants to be seen, attitudes seeking applause and approval. The true disciple does not serve himself or the “public”, but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity: “And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Mt 6:4.6.18). Our witness, then, will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory, and we will know that the reward of the righteous is God himself, being united to Him, here below, on the journey of faith, and, at the end of life, in the peace and light of coming face to face with Him forever (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).

    Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey, trusting and joyful. May the invitation to conversion resonate strongly in us, to “return to God with all your heart”, accepting His grace that makes us new men, with the surprising novelty that is sharing in the very life of Jesus. Let none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, that is addressed to us also in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will perform shortly. May the Virgin Mary accompany us in this time, the Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord. Amen!

    [Original text: Italian]

    [Translation by Peter Waymel]

    At the conclusion of the Mass:

    Followed by:

  9. I will miss his humble, quiet and pious witness. His solid, intellectual and assuring leadership is something the Church truly needed, especially in these times of persecution. Pray God his successor may carry on in his footsteps.

  10. On Thursday, February 14, Pope Benedict met with parish priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome, to give an informal talk titled “The Second Vatican Council, as I saw it.” The video of the talk is below, followed by the English translation from Vatican Radio:

    “It is a special and providential gift of – began the Pope – that, before leaving the Petrine ministry, I can once again meet my clergy, the clergy of Rome. It’ s always a great joy to see how the Church lives, and how in Rome, the Church is alive: there are pastors who in the spirit of the supreme Shepherd, guide the flock of Christ”. “It is a truly Catholic and universal clergy, – he added – and is part of the essence of the Church of Rome itself, to reflect the universality, the catholicity of all nations, of all races, of all cultures”.

    “At the same time I am very grateful to the Cardinal Vicar who is helping to reawaken, to rediscover the vocations in Rome itself, because if on the one hand Rome is the city of universality, it must be also a city with its own strong, robust faith, from which vocations are also born. And I am convinced that with the help of the Lord we can find the vocations He Himself gifts us, guide them, help them to develop and thus help the work in the vineyard of the Lord. ”

    “Today – continued the Pope – you have confessed the Creed before the Tomb of St. Peter: in the Year of the Faith, I see this as a very appropriate, perhaps even necessary, act, that the clergy of Rome meet at the Tomb of the Apostle of which the Lord said, ‘to you I entrust my Church. Upon you I build my Church’. Before the Lord, together with Peter, you have confessed: ‘you are Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Thus the Church grows: together with Peter, confessing Christ, following Christ. And we do this always. I am very grateful for your prayers that I have felt – as I said Wednesday – almost physically. Though I am now retiring to a life of prayer, I will always be close to all you and I am sure all of you will be close to me, even though I remain hidden to the world. ”

    “For today, given the conditions of my age – he said – I could not prepare a great, real address, as one might expect, but rather I thought of chatting about the Second Vatican Council, as I saw it”.

    The Pope began with an anecdote: “In 1959 I was appointed professor at the University of Bonn, which is attended by students, seminarians of the diocese of Cologne and other surrounding dioceses. So, I came into contact with the Cardinal of Cologne, Cardinal Frings. Cardinal Siri of Genoa, – I think it was in 1961 – had organized a series of conferences with several cardinals in Europe, and the Council had invited the archbishop of Cologne to hold a conference, entitled: “The Council and the world of modern thought.” The Cardinal invited me – the youngest of the professors – to write a project; he liked the project and proposed this text, as I had written it to the public, in Genoa”.

    “Shortly after – he continued – Pope John invited him to come [to Rome –ed] and he was afraid he had perhaps said maybe something incorrect, false and that he had been asked to come for a reprimand, perhaps even to deprive him of his red hat … (priests laughing) Yes … when his secretary dressed him for the audience, he said: ‘Perhaps now I will be wearing this stuff for the last time… (the priests laugh). Then he went in. Pope John came towards him and hugged him, saying, ‘Thank you, Your Eminence, you said things I have wanted to say, but I had not found the words to say’ … (the priests laugh, applaud) Thus, the Cardinal knew he was on the right track, and I was invited to accompany him to the Council, first as his personal advisor, then – in the first period, perhaps in November ’62 – I was also appointed as an official perito [expert-ed] for the Council”.

    Benedict XVI continued: “So, we went to the Council not only with joy, but with enthusiasm. The expectation was incredible. We hoped that everything would be renewed, that a new Pentecost really would come, a new era of the Church, because the Church was not robust enough at that time: the Sunday practice was still good, even vocations to the priesthood and religious life were already somewhat fewer, but still sufficient. But nevertheless, there was the feeling that the Church was going on, but getting smaller, that somehow it seemed like a reality of the past and not the bearer of the future. And now, we hoped that this relationship would be renewed, changed, that the Church would once again source of strength for today and tomorrow. ”

    The Pope then recalled how they saw “that the relationship between the Church and the modern period was one of some ‘contrasts’ from the outset, starting with the error in the Galileo case, “and the idea was to correct this wrong start “and to find a new relationship between the Church and the best forces in the world, “to open up the future of humanity, to open up to real progress.”

    The Pope recalled: “We were full of hope, enthusiasm and also of good will.” “I remember – he said – the Roman Synod was considered as a negative model” – where – it is said – they read prepared texts, and the members of the Synod simply approved them, and that was how the Synod was held. The bishops agreed not to do so because they themselves were the subject of the Council. So – he continued – even Cardinal Frings, who was famous for his absolute, almost meticulous, fidelity to the Holy Father said that the Pope has summoned the bishops in an ecumenical council as a subject to renew the Church.

    Benedict XVI recalled that “the first time this attitude became clear, was immediately on the first day.” On the first day, the Commissions were to be elected and the lists and nominations were impartially prepared. And these lists were to be voted on. But soon the Fathers said, “No, are not simply going to vote on already made lists. We are the subject. “They had to move the elections – he added – because the Fathers themselves wanted to get to know each other a little ‘, they wanted to make their own lists. So it was done. “It was a revolutionary act – he said – but an act of conscience, of responsibility on the part of the Council Fathers.”

    So – the Pope said – a strong activity of mutual understanding began. And this – he said – was customary for the entire period of the Council: “small transversal meetings.” In this way he became familiar with the great figures like Father de Lubac, Danielou, Congar, and so on. And this – he said “was an experience of the universality of the Church and of the reality of the Church, that does not merely receive imperatives from above, but grows and advances together, under the leadership – of course – of the Successor of Peter” .

    He then reiterated that everyone “arrived with great expectations” because “there had never been a Council of this size,” but not everyone knew how to make it work. The French, German, Belgian, Dutch episcopates, the so-called ” Rhineland Alliance”, had the most clearly defined intentions.” And in the first part of the Council – he said – it was they who suggested the road ahead, then it’s activities rapidly expanded and soon all participated in the “creativity of the Council.”

    The French and the Germans – he observed – had many interests in common, even with quite different nuances. Their initial intention – seemingly simple – “was the reform of the liturgy, which had begun with Pius XII,” which had already reformed Holy Week; their second intention was ecclesiology; their third the Word of God, Revelation, and then also ecumenism. The French, much more than the Germans – he noted – still had the problem of dealing with the situation of the relationship between the Church and the world.

    Referring to the reform of the liturgy, the Pope recalled that “after the First World War, a liturgical movement had grown in Western Central Europe,” as “the rediscovery of the richness and depth of the liturgy,” which hitherto was almost locked within the priest’s Roman Missal, while the people prayed with their prayer books “that were made according to the heart of the people”, so that “the task was to translate the high content, the language of the classical liturgy, into more moving words, that were closer to the heart of the people. But they were almost two parallel liturgies: the priest with the altar servers, who celebrated the Mass according to the Missal and the lay people who prayed the Mass with their prayer books”. ” Now – he continued – “The beauty, the depth, the Missal’s wealth of human and spiritual history ” was rediscovered as well as the need more than one representative of the people, a small altar boy, to respond “Et cum spiritu your” etc. , to allow for “a real dialogue between priest and people,” so that the liturgy of the altar and the liturgy of the people really were “one single liturgy, one active participation”: “and so it was that the liturgy was rediscovered, renewed.”

    The Pope said he saw the fact that the Council started with the liturgy as a very positive sign, because in this way “the primacy of God” was self evident”. Some – he noted – criticized the Council because it spoke about many things, but not about God: instead, it spoke of God and its first act was to speak of God and open to the entire holy people the possibility of worshiping God, in the common celebration of the liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ. In this sense – he observed – beyond the practical factors that advised against immediately starting with controversial issues, it was actually “an act of Providence” that the Council began with the liturgy, God, Adoration.

    The Holy Father then recalled the essential ideas of the Council: especially the paschal mystery as a centre of Christian existence, and therefore of Christian life, as expressed in Easter and Sunday, which is always the day of the Resurrection, “over and over again we begin our time with the Resurrection, with an encounter with the Risen One. ” In this sense – he observed – it is unfortunate that today, Sunday has been transformed into the end of the week, while it is the first day, it is the beginning: “inwardly we must bear in mind this is the beginning, the beginning of Creation, the beginning of the re-creation of the Church, our encounter with the Creator and with the Risen Christ. ” The Pope stressed the importance of this dual content of Sunday: it is the first day, that is the feast of the Creation, as we believe in God the Creator, and encounter with the Risen One who renews Creation: “its real purpose is to create a world which is a response to God’s love. ”

    The Council also pondered the principals of the intelligibility of the Liturgy – instead of being locked up in an unknown language, which was no longer spoken – and active participation. “Unfortunately – he said – these principles were also poorly understood.” In fact, intelligibility does not mean “banalizing” because the great texts of the liturgy – even in the spoken languages ​​ – are not easily intelligible, “they require an ongoing formation of the Christian, so that he may grow and enter deeper into the depths of the mystery, and thus comprehend”. And also concerning the Word of God – he asked – who can honestly say they understand the texts of Scripture, simply because they are in their own language? “Only a permanent formation of the heart and mind can actually create intelligibility and participation which is more than one external activity, which is an entering of the person, of his or her being into communion with the Church and thus in fellowship with Christ.”

    The Pope then addressed the second issue: the Church. He recalled that the First Vatican Council was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and so had emphasized only the doctrine on primacy, which was described as “thanks to God at that historical moment”, and “it was very much needed for the Church in the time that followed”. But – he said – “it was just one element in a broader ecclesiology”, already in preparation. So a a fragment remained from the Council. So from the beginning – he said – the intention was to realise a more complete ecclesiology at a later. Here, too, – he said – the conditions seemed very good, because after the First World War, the sense of Church was reborn in a new way. A sense of the Church began to reawaken in people’s souls and the Protestant bishop spoke of the “century of the Church.” What was especially rediscovered from Vatican I, was the concept of the mystical body of Christ, the aim was to speak about and understand the Church not as an organization, something structural, legal, institutional, which it also is, but as an organism, a vital reality that enters my soul, so that I myself, with my own soul as a believer, am a constructive element of the Church as such. In this sense, Pius XII wrote the encyclical Mistici Corporis Christi, as a step towards a completion of the ecclesiology of Vatican I.

    I would say the theological discussion of the 30s-40s, even 20s, was completely under the sign of the word ” Mitici Corporis.” It was a discovery that created so much joy in this time and in this context the formula arose “We are the Church, the Church is not a structure, something … we Christians, together, we are all the living body of the Church” . And of course this is true in the sense that we, the true ‘we’ of believers, along with the ‘I’ of Christ, the Church. Eachone of us, not we, a group that claims to be the Church. No: this “we are Church” requires my inclusion in the great “we” of believers of all times and places.

    So, the first idea: complete the ecclesiology in theological way, but progressing in a structural manner, that is alongside the succession of Peter, his unique function, to even better define the function of the bishops of the Episcopal body. To do this, the word “collegiality” was found, which provoked great, intense and even – I would say – exaggerated discussions. But it was the word, it might have been another one, but this was needed to express that the bishops, together, are the continuation of the twelve, the body of the Apostles. We said: only one bishop, that of Rome, is the successor of one particular apostle Peter. All others become successors of the apostles entering the body that continues the body of the apostles. And just so the body of bishops, the college, is the continuation of the body of the twelve, so it is necessary, it has its function, its rights and duties.

    “It appeared to many – the Pope said – as a struggle for power, and maybe someone did think about power, but basically it was not about power, but the complementarity of the factors and the completeness of the body of the Church with the bishops, the successors the apostles as bearers, and each of them is a pillar of the Church together with this great body”.

    These – he continued – were the two fundamental elements in the search for a comprehensive theological vision of ecclesiology, meanwhile, after the ’40s, in the ’50s, a little ‘criticism of the concept of the Body of Christ had already been born: mystic – someone said – is too exclusive and risk overshadowing the concept of the people of God. And the Council – he observed – rightly, accepted this fact, which in the Fathers is considered an expression of the continuity between the Old and New Testaments. We pagans, we are not in and of ourselves the people of God, but we become the children of Abraham and therefore the people of God, by entering into communion with Christ who is the only seed of Abraham. And entering into communion with Him, being one with Him, we too are people of God. That is, the concept of “people of God” implies continuity of the Testaments, continuity of God’s history in the world, with men, but also implies a Christological element. Only through Christology do we become the people of God, and the two concepts are combined. And the Council – said the Pope – decided to create a Trinitarian construction of ecclesiology: the people of God-the-Father-Body of Christ- Temple of the Holy Spirit.

    But only after the Council – he continued – was an element that had been somewhat hidden, brought to light, even as early as the Council itself, that is, the link between the people of God, the Body of Christ, and their communion with Christ, in the Eucharistic union. “Here we become the body of Christ, that is, the relationship between the people of God and the Body of Christ creates a new reality, that is, the communion.” And the Council – he continued – led to the concept of communion as a central concept. I would say philologically that it had not yet fully matured in the Council, but it is the result of the Council that the concept of communion becomes more and more an expression of the sense of the Church, communion in different dimensions, communion with the Triune God, who Himself is communion between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, sacramental communion, concrete communion in the Episcopate and in the life of the Church.

    The problem of Revelation provoked even greater discussion: at issue was the relationship between Scripture and tradition, and above all this interested exegetes of a greater freedom, who felt somewhat – shall we say – in a situation of negativity before Protestants, who were making great discoveries, while Catholics felt a little ‘”handicapped” by the need to submit themselves to Magisterium. There was therefore a very concrete issue at stake: how free are exegetes? How does one read Scriptures well? What is meant by tradition? It was a pluri-dimensional battle that I can not outline now, but certainly what is important thing is that Scripture is the Word of God and the Church is subject to the Scriptures, obeys the Word of God and is not above Scripture. Yet, Scripture is Scripture only because there is the living Church, its living subject, without the living subject of the Church Scripture is only a book, open to different interpretations but which does not give any final clarity.

    Here, the battle – as I said – was difficult and the intervention of Pope Paul VI was decisive. This intervention shows all the delicacy of the Father, his responsibility for the outcome of the Council, but also his great respect for the Council. The idea had emerged that Scripture is complete, everything can be found therein, so there was no need for tradition, and that Magisterium has nothing to say to us. Then the Pope sent the Council, I believe, 14 formulas of a sentence to be included in the text on Revelation and gave us, gave the Fathers the freedom to choose one of 14 (formulas), but said: “One has to be chosen to complete the text”. I remember, more or less, [Latin] that the formula spoke of the Churches’ certainty of the faith is not based solely on a book, but needs the illuminated subject of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. Only in this way can Scripture speak and bring to bear all of its authority. We chose this phrase in the Doctrinal Commission, one of the 14 formulas, it is crucial, I think, to show the indispensability, the necessity of the Church, and to understand what tradition means, the living body in which the Word lives from the beginning and from which it receives its light, in which it was born. Because the simple fact of the Canon is an ecclesial fact: these writings are Scripture is the result of the illumination of the Church that found this canon of Scripture within herself, she found, she did not make, but found. Only and ever in this communion of the living Church can one really understand, read the Scriptures as the Word of God, as the Word that guides us in life and in death.

    As I said, this was a difficult discussion, but thanks to the Pope and thanks – let’s say – to the light of the Holy Spirit who was present at the Council, a document that is one of the most beautiful and also innovative whole Council was created, which demands further study, because even today the exegesis tends to read Scripture outside of the Church, outside of faith, only in the so-called spirit of the historical-critical method, an important method but never able to give solutions as a final certainty only if we believe that these are not human words: they are the words of God, and only if the living subject to which God has spoken, to which God speaks is alive, can we correctly interpret Sacred Scripture. And there is still much to be done, as I said in the preface of my book on Jesus, to arrive at a reading of Scripture that is really in the spirit of the Council. Here the application of the Council is not yet complete, it has yet to be accomplished.

    Finally, ecumenism. I do not want to enter into these problems, but it was obvious – especially after the passions of Christians in the time of national socialism – that Christians could find unity, at least seek unity, but also that only God can give unity. We are still on this journey.

    Now, with these issues, the Rhine alliance – so to speak – had done its work: the second part of the Council is much broader. Now the themes of “the world today”, “the modern era” and the Church emerged with greater urgency, and with them, the themes of responsibility for building of this world, society’s responsibility for the future of this world and eschatological hope, the ethical responsibility of Christians, where they find their guides and then religious freedom, progress and all that, and relations with other religions.

    Now all the players in the Council really entered into discussions, not only the Americas-United States with a strong interest in religious freedom. In the third period they told the Pope: “We can not go home without bringing with us a declaration on religious freedom passed by the Council.” The Pope, however, had firmness and decision, the patience to delay the text until the fourth period to reach a maturation and a fairly complete consensus among the Fathers of the Council. I say, not only the Americans had now entered with great force into the Council arena but also Latin America, knowing full well the misery of their people, a Catholic continent and their responsibility for the situation of the faith of these people. And Africa, Asia, also saw the need for interreligious dialogue: increased problems that we Germans – I must say – at the beginning had not seen. I cannot go into greater depth on this now. The great document “Gaudium et Spes” describes very well the problem analyzed between Christian eschatology and worldly progress, between our responsibility for the society of tomorrow and the responsibility of the Christian before eternity, and so it also renewed Christian ethics, the foundations. But unexpectedly, a document that responded in a more synthetic and concrete manner to the great challenges of the time, took shape outside of this great document, namely “Nostra Aetate”. From the beginning there were our Jewish friends, who said to us Germans especially, but not only to us, that after the sad events of this century, this decade of Nazism, the Catholic Church has to say a word on the Old Testament , the Jewish people. They also said “it was clear that the Church is not responsible for the Shoah. those who have committed these crimes were Christians, for the most part, we must deepen and renew the Christian conscience, even if we know that the true believers always resisted these things”. And so, it was clear that we had to reflect on our relationship with the world of the ancient people of God. We also understood that the Arab countries – the bishops of the Arab countries – were not happy with this. They feared a glorification of the State of Israel, which they did not want to, of course. They said, “Well, a truly theological indication on the Jewish people is good, it is necessary, but if you are to speak about this, you must also speak of Islam. Only in this way can we be balanced. Islam is also a great challenge and the Church should clarify its relationship with Islam”. This is something that we didn’t really understand at the time, a little, but not much. Today we know how necessary it was.

    And when we started to work also on Islam, they said: “But there are also other religions of the world: all of Asia! Think about Buddhism, Hinduism … “. And so, instead of an initial declaration originally meant only for the ancient people of God, a text on interreligious dialogue was created anticipating by thirty years what would later reveal itself in all of its intensity and importance. I can not enter into it now, but if you read the text, you see that it is very dense and prepared by people who really knew the truth and it briefly indicates, in a few words, what is essential. Thus also the foundations of a dialogue in diversity, in faith to the uniqueness of Christ, who is One. It is not possible for a believer to think that religions are all variations on a theme of “no”. There is a reality of the living God who has spoken, and is a God, a God incarnate, therefore the Word of God is really the Word of God. But there is religious experience, with a certain human light of creation and therefore it is necessary and possible to enter into dialogue and thus open up to each other and open all peoples up to the peace of God, of all his children, and his entire family.

    Thus, these two documents, religious freedom and “Nostra Aetate” associated with “Gaudium et Spes” are a very important trilogy, the importance of which has only been revealed over the decades, and we are still working to understand this uniqueness of the revelation of God, uniqueness of God incarnate in Christ and the multiplicity of religions with which we seek peace and also an open heart to the light of the Holy Spirit who enlightens and guides to Christ.

    I would now like to add yet a third point: there was the Council of the Fathers – the true Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council in and of itself, and the world perceived the Council through them, through the media. So the immediately efficiently Council that got thorough to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers. And while the Council of the Fathers evolved within the faith, it was a Council of the faith that sought the intellectus, that sought to understand and try to understand the signs of God at that moment, that tried to meet the challenge of God in this time to find the words for today and tomorrow. So while the whole council – as I said – moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of journalists did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today, that is outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics. It was a hermeneutic of politics. The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world. There were those who sought a decentralization of the Church, power for the bishops and then, through the Word for the “people of God”, the power of the people, the laity. There was this triple issue: the power of the Pope, then transferred to the power of the bishops and then the power of all … popular sovereignty. Naturally they saw this as the part to be approved, to promulgate, to help. This was the case for the liturgy: there was no interest in the liturgy as an act of faith, but as a something to be made understandable, similar to a community activity, something profane. And we know that there was a trend, which was also historically based, that said: “Sacredness is a pagan thing, possibly even from the Old Testament. In the New Testament the only important thing is that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, that is, in the secular world”. Sacredness ended up as profanity even in worship: worship is not worship but an act that brings people together, communal participation and thus participation as activity. And these translations, trivializing the idea of ​​the Council, were virulent in the practice of implementing the liturgical reform, born in a vision of the Council outside of its own key vision of faith. And it was so, also in the matter of Scripture: Scripture is a book, historical, to treat historically and nothing else, and so on.

    And we know that this Council of the media was accessible to all. So, dominant, more efficient, this Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed liturgy trivialized … and the true Council has struggled to materialize, to be realized: the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real strength of the Council was present and slowly it has emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church. It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength. And it is our task, in this Year of Faith, starting from this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and Church is really renewed. We hope that the Lord will help us. I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious. Thank you.”

  11. Below, from Vatican Radio, is the full text of Pope Benedict’s last General Audience (February 27).

    Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood!
    Distinguished Authorities!
    Dear brothers and sisters!

    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).

    At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.

    When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

    We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!

    At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father’s heart.

    I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.

    At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s greatest figures – from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.

    In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

    Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.

    The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

    I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

    Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.

    Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

  12. Pope Benedict gave his final blessing today at his last General Audience. In the video below he chants the Lord’s Prayer in Latin with all the congregation, and then gives the blessing in Latin. I’ve included the Latin (and English translation) below.

    Pope Benedict XVI: Sit nomen Domini benedictum. [Blessed be the name of the Lord.]
    Response: Ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum. [Both now and forever.]
    Pope Benedict XVI: Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini. [Our help is in the name of the Lord.]
    Response: Qui fecit caelum et terram. [Who made heaven and earth.]
    Pope Benedict XVI: Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, + Pater, + et Filius, + et Spiritus Sanctus. [May almighty God bless you, + the Father, + and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit.]
    Response: Amen

  13. Today, on the last day of his pontificate, Pope Benedict addressed the College of Cardinals in a farewell discourse, and promised his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to the next pope. The English translation below is from Vatican Radio.

    Dear beloved brothers

    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 .

    Guardini says: “The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ. ”

    This was our experience yesterday, I think, in the square. We could see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit, and truly lives by the power of God, She is in the world but not of the world. She is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, as we saw yesterday. This is why another eloquent expression of Guardini’s is also true: “The Church is awakening in souls.” The Church lives, grows and awakens in those souls which like the Virgin Mary accept and conceive the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their flesh and in their own poverty and humility become capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk through all times in all places. Let us remain united, dear brothers, to this mystery, in prayer, especially in daily Eucharist, and thus serve the Church and all humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

    Prior to bidding farewell to each of you personally, I want to tell you that I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you may all be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope. May the Lord show you what is willed by Him. And among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom, here to today, I already promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For all this, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart upon you my Apostolic Blessing.

  14. I saw a news photo of the helicopter that carried Pope Benedict XVI to his new home, and it made me cry. The juxtaposition of a modern transport above an ancient locale made it surreal and final. I will miss him very much.
    I had only started really investigating Catholicism just about a year ago and the first book I read by a Catholic theologian was “Jesus of Nazareth”…….I was blown away. Yesterday, I grabbed “Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures” from my local library. I pray he gets lots of time to pray, study and write.

    Susan

  15. Pope Benedict’s final public words as pope, from the balcony of Castel Gandolfo:

    Thank you!

    Thank you all!

    Dear friends, I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your affection that does me much good. Thank you for your friendship, your love, [applause] …

    You know that this day for me is different from previous ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church: until eight in the evening I will be still, and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim who begins the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.

    But I wish still [applause – thank you!] … but I wish still with my heart, my love, my prayer, my reflection, with all my inner strength, to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. And I feel very much supported by your affection.

    Let’s go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world.

    Thank you, I give you now [applause] … with all my heart, my blessing.

    [Blessing]

    Thank you, good night! Thank you all!

    (source)

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