These were the words of Pope Benedict XVI this morning, as he spoke extemporaneously to the 150,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his final General Audience.
Pope Benedict seems a shy, private person, and being so constantly in the public eye must have been difficult for him. When he was elected in 2005, he said, his heart asked, “Lord, why do you ask me this? What do you ask of me?” Being pope means not having any privacy, the pope said, and belonging “always and totally to all, to the whole Church.”
But every day, Pope Benedict said, he perceived the presence of God. Throughout his pontificate, he said, “The Lord has guided me. I always knew the Lord was with us and that the Church was not mine, but his, and he would not let it sink.”
Following are his remarks to English-speaking pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
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!