This morning Benedict XVI delivered his final address as our Pope before 150,000 people in St. Peter's Square. As I was watching this beautiful outpouring of love of the Church for it's Pope and of a Pope for his Church, the first thing that struck me was how the Holy Father immediately left his prepared remarks and looked out over that vast sea of humanity and said, "I am deeply moved because I see a Church that is alive!" This is the Church that this faithful servant of the Lord is leaving to his successor. This is a Church that has weathered stormy seas and still realized that the Lord is there. Of course, when you read the secular headlines all they do is focus on the stormy seas, but they failed to grasp that this was Benedict's final catechesis to his flock. You can find his entire address here: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2013/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130227_en.html, but here are some of the highlights from the mind of a brilliant Pontiff:
When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, , 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
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
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.