February 28, 2013, Thursday — Benedict and Sodano

“The Church is in the world, but not of the world…” —Pope Benedict XVI this morning to the College of Cardinals in the final public meeting of his papacy

Today is the final day of Pope Benedict’s pontificate. In less than five hours, he will cease to be Pope.

For me personally, it is an emotional day.

First, because I know Pope Benedict personally, and sense his tiredness as he takes this decision. I myself became tired simply trying to follow his words and actions from afar, just listening and watching; he had to move about, greet thousands of people, compose and read long texts. I knew that in recent months he was having trouble sleeping; sometimes he would lie awake almost all night, concerned about the situation of the Church, and the Curia. I hope and trust he will now find that measure of rest which all of us long for, and he so richly desrves.

Second, because these next weeks will be intense, and filled with a chaos of news and interpretations. The streets of Rome are already filled with journalists from around the world. There is an enormous scaffolding just outside St. Peter’s Square. The lenses of tv cameras are focused on the dome of St. Peter’s and will be so during the conclave, during the time of the black smoke, and then when smoke turns white, and then in the first days of the new papacy. Each step in this process will be subject to interpretation, and spin. It is an exciting time, but also a dangerous time, and it is so difficult to separate rumor from truth, and spin from honest analysis. So it will be a time of much work, and little sleep…

Third, because today is an important day in my own life. On this day, 20 years ago, here in the city of Rome, my son Luke was born. In seeing him as an infact, and in watching him grow, I was given a glimpse into what really matters. The innocence of children, their openness toward what is good, true and beautiful, is a testimony to our underlying nature, a nature “in the image and likesness of God.” It is God whom our nature seeks, to return to Him, to be like Him. To seek to protect and defend children, to seek to fill them with good things, with courage and commitment to the highest ideals, with a love of justice, with the knowledge of that inexpressible joy which seeks expression in music, in song, in gift-giving, and which reflects the ultimate reality beyond all appearances and beyond all space and time, is “what it is all about.” (In his last remarks to the cardinals, printed below, the Pope asks the cardinals to become like an orchestra, playing in a marvelous harmony.) To do everything “for the children” is the solid basis for a civilization and a culture of love, not of death. It is something all human beings can agree upon. It is something that is at the heart of the teaching of Pope Benedict, and of the teaching of Christ himself. Luke has been my teacher in coming to understand this. Happy 20th birthday, Luke. —Dad

Pope: Farewell discourse to College of Cardinals (full text)

(From Vatican Radio) “The Church is in the world but not of the world and it is a living body,” therefore it is not an institution designed and conceived according to pre-set plans, but of God. Wednesday’s audience is proof of this, it has shown the “awakening of the Church in souls”.

Below please find a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s words to the College of Cardinals Thursday morning:

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.

Below please find a Vatican Radio translation of the farewell discourse by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals to Pope Benedict XVI.


With great trepidation the cardinals present in Rome gather around you today, once again to show their deep affection and express their heartfelt gratitude for your selfless witness of apostolic service, for the good of the Church of Christ and of all humanity.

Last Saturday, at the end of the Spiritual Exercises in the Vatican, you thanked your collaborators from the Roman Curia, with these moving words: My friends, I would like to thank all of you not only for this week but for the past eight years, during which you have carried with me, with great skill, affection, love and loyalty, the weight of the Petrine ministry.

Beloved and revered Successor of Peter, it is we who must thank you for the example you have given us in the past eight years of Pontificate.

On 19 April 2005 you joined the long line of successors of the Apostle Peter, and today, 28 February 2013, you are about to leave us, as we wait for the helm of the Barque of Peter to pass into other hands.

Thus the apostolic succession continues, which the Lord promised His Holy Church, until the voice of the Angel of the Apocalypse is heard proclaim on earth : “Tempus non erit amplius … consummabitur mysterium Dei” (Ap 10, 6-7) “there is no longer time: the mystery of God is finished.”

So ends the history of the Church, together with the history of the world, with the advent of a new heaven and a new earth.

Holy Father, with deep love we have tried to accompany you on your journey, reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus who, after walking with Jesus for a good stretch of road, said to one another: “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way?” (Luke 24:32).

Yes, Holy Father, know that our hearts burned too as we walked with you in the past eight years. Today we want to once again express our gratitude.

Together we repeat a typical expression of your dear native land “Vergelt’s Gott” — God reward you!

(to be continued…)

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