2013 Favs: Pope Benedict’s Last General Audience: The Pope Belongs to Everyone

“’Always’ is also ‘forever’–there is no return to private life. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but am remaining beside the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church, but I remain in the service of prayer, within St. Peter’s paddock, so to speak.

Pope Benedict XVI gave his last general audience in St Peter’s Square before tens of thousands of people who came to say goodbye.

He told them, and all of us …

I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day.”

“I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children to God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us up … a 

“I would like everyone to feel beloved of that God who gave His Son for us.

“I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian.

“In a beautiful prayer, which can be recited every morning, say: ‘I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…”

“The Pope belongs to everyone … I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their hearts and make me feel their affection, which is born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one would write, for example, to a prince or a dignitary that they don’t know. They write to me as brothers and sisters or as sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. In this you can touch what the Church is—not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ who unites us all.”

The entire text of the Holy Father’s remarks, taken from the Vatican website, is below:

BENEDICT XVI’S FINAL GENERAL AUDIENCE: “I ASKED GOD TO ENLIGHTEN ME TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION, NOT FOR MY OWN GOOD, BUT FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH.”

“Like the Apostle Paul in the Biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart that I have to especially thank God who guides and builds up the Church, who plants His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His People. At this moment my heart expands and embraces the whole Church throughout the world and I thank God for the ‘news’ that, in these years of my Petrine ministry, I have received about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for the love that truly circulates in the Body of the Church, making it to live in the love and the hope that opens us to and guides us towards the fullness of life, towards our heavenly homeland.”

“I feel that I am carrying everyone with me in prayer in this God-given moment when I am collecting every meeting, every trip, every pastoral visit. I am gathering everyone and everything in prayer to entrust it to the Lord: so that we may be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding in order to live in a manner worthy of the Lord and His love, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).”

“At this moment I have great confidence because I know, we all know, that the Gospel’s Word of truth is the strength of the Church; it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews, bearing fruit, wherever the community of believers hears it and welcomes God’s grace in truth and in love. This is my confidence, this is my joy.”

“When, on 19 April almost eight years ago I accepted to take on the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty for the life of the Church from the Word of God. At that moment, as I have already expressed many times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, what do You ask of me? It is a great weight that You are placing on my shoulders but, if You ask it of me, I will cast my nets at your command, confident that You will guide me, even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day. It has been a stretch of the Church’s path that has had moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments. I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the See of Galilee. The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and light breezes, days when the fishing was plentiful, but also times when the water was rough and the winds against us, just as throughout the whole history of the Church, when the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I always knew that the Lord is in that boat and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but is His. And the Lord will not let it sink. He is the one who steers her, of course also through those He has chosen because that is how He wanted it. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. And that is why my heart today is filled with gratitude to God, because He never left—the whole Church or me—without His consolation, His light, or His love.”

“We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired precisely in order to strengthen our faith in God in a context that seems to relegate it more and more to the background. I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children to God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us up and are what allow us to walk forward each day, even when it is a struggle. I would like everyone to feel beloved of that God who gave His Son for us and who has shown us His boundless love. I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer, which can be recited every morning, say: ‘I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…’ Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith. It is the most precious thing, which no one can take from us! Let us thank the Lord for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but awaits us to also love Him!”

“It is not only God who I wish to thank at this time. A pope is not alone in guiding Peter’s barque, even if it is his primary responsibility. I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed at my side so 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 advice, and your friendship have been precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my secretary of state who has accompanied me faithfully over the years; the Secretariat of State and the whole of the Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in their various areas, serve the Holy See. There are many faces that are never seen, remaining in obscurity, but precisely in their silence, in their daily dedication in a spirit of faith and humility, they were a sure and reliable support to me. A special thought goes to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I cannot forget my Brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood, consecrated persons, and the entire People of God. In my pastoral visits, meetings, audiences, and trips I always felt great care and deep affection, but I have also loved each and every one of you, without exception, with that pastoral love that is the heart of every pastor, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I held each of you in prayer, with a father’s heart.”

“I wish to send my greetings and my thanks to all: a pope’s heart extends to the whole world. And I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes the great family of Nations present here. Here I am also thinking of all those who work for good communication and I thank them for their important service.”

“At this point I would also like to wholeheartedly thank all of the many people around the world who, in recent weeks, have sent me touching tokens of concern, friendship, and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone. I feel this again now in such a great way that it touches my heart. The Pope belongs to everyone and many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s notables—from heads of states, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, etc. But I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their hearts and make me feel their affection, which is born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one would write, for example, to a prince or a dignitary that they don’t know. They write to me as brothers and sisters or as sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. In this you can touch what the Church is—not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ who unites us all. Experiencing the Church in this way and being able to almost touch with our hands the strength of His truth and His love is a reason for joy at a time when many are speaking of its decline. See how the Church is alive today!”

“In these last months I have felt that my strength had diminished and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its seriousness and also its newness, but with a profound peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, agonized choices, always keeping in mind the good of the Church, not of oneself.”

“Allow me here to return once again to 19 April, 2005. The gravity of the decision lay precisely in the fact that, from that moment on, I was always and for always engaged by the Lord. Always—whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and entirely to everyone, to the whole Church. His life, so to speak, is totally deprived of its private dimension. I experienced, and I am experiencing it precisely now, that one receives life precisely when they give it. Before I said that many people who love the Lord also love St. Peter’s Successor and are fond of him; that the Pope truly has 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 belong to him.”

“’Always’ is also ‘forever’–there is no return to private life. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but am remaining beside the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church, but I remain in the service of prayer, within St. Peter’s paddock, so to speak. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example to me in this. He has shown us the way for a life that, active or passive, belongs wholly to God’s work.”

“I also thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have received this important decision. I will continue to accompany the Church’s journey through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and His Bride that I have tried to live every day up to now and that I want to always live. I ask you to remember me to God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals who are called to such an important task, and for the new Successor of the Apostle Peter. Many the Lord accompany him with the light and strength of His Spirit.”

“We call upon the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the entire ecclesial community. We entrust ourselves to her with deep confidence.”

“Dear friends! God guides His Church, always sustaining her even and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the path of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each one of you, may there always be the joyous certainty that the Lord is beside us, that He does not abandon us, that He is near and embraces us with His love. Thank you.”

Interesting Times: Pope Benedict and the Church He is Handing Forward

Young Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI

“May you live in interesting times.”

That saying is reputed by some sources to be an ancient Chinese curse. Other sources claim it is an ancient Hebrew curse. It appears no one knows for sure exactly where it came from. On the other hand, no one seems to deny the underlying truth of it; that historic, or “interesting” times are often tumultuous and unpleasant for the people who must live through them.

Just as no one wants to have a really good medical malpractice suit, no one wants to live their precious life in the dislocation, misery and often dangerous times historians tend to find “interesting.”

We are fortunate because we are living through a truly historic event and no one will suffer or die because of it. Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect today, and we are temporarily without a spiritual father to guide and govern our great Church. But, interesting as it is, this transit through a historic time is a moment of rejoicing and hope, rather than grief and tumult as we anticipate an orderly transition from one pope to his successor.

We trust that the Church will continue its consistent fealty to the Gospels in the face of whatever attacks opposing forces throw against it. We know that the sacrament of confession is there for us if we sin, the sacrament of the Eucharist will be available to give us strength for our daily journey on all the altars of all the Catholic churches of the world, and that we will have someone to marry us, bury us and, if need be, listen to and console us as we make our pilgrimage through this life to the next.

Pope Benedict XVI made the decision to resign his office and “climb the mountain” of living out the rest of his days as the Pope Emeritus. He has told us he will not go back to a private life of clubbiness and being one of the guys. He will, instead, continue his papal ministry without the administrative burdens of being a head of state and the administrator of this worldwide Church.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he will be upholding us all in his prayers. What a prayer warrior he will be for us and for the Church. I am glad to think that he will be able to rest without the strain and worry of managing this Church, which is a worldwide institution of over a billion people. Pole to pole, dateline to dateline; wherever you go on this Earth, I am convinced that you will find three things: MacDonald’s hamburgers, diet Coke, and the Catholic Church.

If that sounds like less than exalted company, consider that both diet Coke and MacDonald’s deal with the universal human need of food, and the Church provides for that other universal human need of eternal salvation. MacDonald’s feeds the body (albeit not too well) and the Church feeds the soul, and it does that very well, indeed.

President Obama, who is often referred to as the most powerful man on earth, governs a nation of roughly 300 million people. The pope, on the other hand, governs a Church of 1.2 billion.

The pope speaks with the only unified Christian voice in the world today. The Catholic Church is increasingly being forced to stand alone in its support for holy matrimony between one man and one woman, sexual chastity, the sanctity of human life, and the hope of eternal life for all people, everywhere.

The moral and prophetic voice of the Catholic Church is the single best hope this world has of surviving its own dissolution.

Pope Benedict XVI decided that his age had brought him to the pass where he needed to hand the responsibility for this great Church forward to his successor. Christians everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for the suffering servitude he gave to us and to Our Lord these past 8 years. He is handing forward a Church that has not flinched from the responsibility to be the light, shining in the darkness.

Now that he goes to his new charge of praying and working for the Church and all of us until the end of his earthly days, the best thing we can do is join our prayers to his. We may not be the seasoned prayer warrior that he is, but we are God’s own children.

Let us join Pope Benedict in his prayers for the Church and the world.

At the very least,  we can pray as he taught us in his last audience;

“I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…”

Pope Plans Low-Key Departure

According to news reports, Pope Benedict will slip out of the Vatican quietly when he leaves for his retirement. There will be no public ceremony, only a few private good-byes and a short helicopter ride to his temporary residence.

An Indian Express article describing the pope’s departure plans says in part:

Pope Benedict XVI slips quietly from the world stage on Thursday after a private last goodbye to his cardinals and a short flight to a country palace to enter the final phase of his life “hidden from the world”.
In keeping with his shy and modest ways, there will be no public ceremony to mark the first papal resignation in six centuries and no solemn declaration ending his nearly eight-year reign at the head of the world’s largest church.
His last public appearance will be a short greeting to residents and well-wishers at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, in the late afternoon after his 15-minute helicopter hop from the Vatican.
When the resignation becomes official at 8 pm Rome time (1900 GMT), Benedict will be relaxing inside the 17th century palace. Swiss Guards on duty at the main gate to indicate the Pope’s presence within will simply quit their posts and return to Rome to await their next pontiff. (Read the rest here.)

What Happens During a Papal Conclave?


We will have a new pope.

Pope Benedict’s resignation becomes effective February 28, at 8 pm. The See of Peter will not be vacant long. In a short time, the College of Cardinals will convene for the Papal Conclave to elect a new pope.

Catholics and other Christians the world over are praying for the Holy Spirit to guide this conclave as they select the man who will lead the Church through the times ahead. This Lent is like no other because of the Holy Father’s resignation and the transition to a new pope.

History is making while we are watching. I pray that this will lead to a new springtime in the Church, a renewal of faith and faithfulness from everyone who bends their knee to Our Lord Jesus.

The following CNA article gives a brief description of the general procedures that the cardinals follow when they are electing a pope. It says in part:

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2013 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI’s successor will soon be elected during a conclave, a secret vote of cardinals that will occur in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel next month.

The number of cardinal-electors, who will travel to Rome from across the globe, is limited to 120, and only those cardinals who are not yet 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave.

Conclaves are events of “the strictest secrecy,” to preserve the impartiality of proceedings.

… The cardinals are not allowed to communicate with those outside the area of the election. Only a limited number of masters of ceremonies and priests are allowed to be present, as are two medical doctors. The cardinal-electors stay at “Saint Martha’s House,” a guest house adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica.

While the papacy is vacant, all the heads of the Roman Curia lose their office, except the Camerlengo – who administers Church finances and property – and the Major Penitentiary, who deals with issues of absolution and indulgences.

The conclave begins with the votive Mass for the election of the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinals then invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and enter the Sistine Chapel.

A well-trusted priest presents the cardinals with a meditation on the problems facing the Church and the need for discernment, “concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church, having only God before their eyes.”

The priest who offered the meditation then leaves the Sistine Chapel, and the voting process begins.

John Paul II allowed for a simple majority for a valid election, but Pope Benedict’s “Constitutione apostolica” returned to the long-standing tradition of a two-thirds majority.

Each cardinal writes his choice for Pope on a piece of paper which is folded in two. The ballots are then counted, double-checked, and burned. The voting process continues until one candidate has received two-thirds of the ballots.

When the ballots of an inconclusive vote are burned, the smoke is made black. If the vote elected a Pope, it is white.

… The man elected is immediately the Bishop of Rome upon his acceptance, assuming he has already been consecrated a bishop. One of the cardinals announce to the public that the election has taken place, and the new Pontiff gives a blessing from the balcony of the Vatican Basilica.

Pope Benedict will resign at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, and at that time there will be 117 cardinal-electors. (Read the rest here.)

We May Have a New Pope Sooner Than We Thought

As usual, Deacon Greg Kandra has the story.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in one of his last acts as Supreme Pontiff, has modified the rules to allow for an earlier conclave. Since most of the cardinals will be in Rome this week for his last day as Pope, many people hope that the conclave will begin then.

This change does not require an earlier conclave. It simply opens the way if the cardinals decide they want to have one. The decision itself is in the hands of the College of Cardinals.

Whatever they decide, the next few days will be historic for the Church. Our pope has resigned and we will say good-bye to our years under his care. He will retire to what he has described as a life of prayer for the Church.

And we will await a new pope.

I intend to pray this week. I am going to pray a lot. I will pray for good Pope Benedict as he, in his own words, “climbs the mountain” to what his future will bring. I will pray that the Holy Spirit moves the College of Cardinals to give us a strong, faithful and holy pope who can lead the Church through the challenges ahead of us.

I ask you to join me in these prayers in hope for our future and in gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for his faithful service to Our Lord, and to us.

The CNS story describing the pope’s rule change says in part:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In his last week as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI issued new rules for conclaves, including a clause that allows the College of Cardinals to move up the date for the beginning of the conclave to elect his successor.

However, the cardinals cannot set the date until after the pope leaves office Feb. 28.

Pope Benedict also defined the exact penalty — automatic excommunication — that would be incurred by any noncardinal assisting the College of Cardinals who failed to maintain absolute secrecy about the conclave proceedings.

The pope laid out the new rules in an apostolic letter issued “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The Vatican released the document Feb. 25.

The changes affect the rules established in Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic constitution governing the election of popes, “Universi Dominici Gregis.”

Under the current rules, which remain in effect, upon the vacancy of the papacy, cardinals in Rome “must wait 15 full days for those who are absent” before they can enter into a conclave and begin the process of electing a new pope.

However, Pope Benedict inserted an additional provision that grants the College of Cardinals “the faculty to move up the start of the conclave if all the cardinal-electors are present,” as well as giving them the ability “to delay, if there are serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few more days.” (Read the rest here.)

Pope Benedict’s New Title? Just Call Him Bishop Emeritus.

Immediately after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, reports circulated that he would be bumped back to a cardinal, which I passed along to you. This made sense at the time, because there can be only one pope.

It turns out that the Holy Father will have a new title designed to express his unique position in the Church as a living, but not sitting, Pope. His title will be: “His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome.”

That sounds a lot better — and more accurate — than calling him “Cardinal Ratzinger” once again. That idea made me sad and I am glad it’s not going to happen.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, has details. Check it out here.

Should There be a Retirement Age for Popes?

Pope Benedict’s resignation, effective February 28, is not precedent setting. It has been done before.

However, the question remains: What does it mean for the Church as an institution?

Now that a pope has resigned, the possibility of a papal resignation is much more present than it was before. By doing it, the Holy Father has made it possible for all of us to consider that his heirs on the throne of Peter might do it also.

It is no longer unthinkable that a pope would resign his office.

I am from a political background, so I tend to look at things like this at least partly in terms of a transference of power. In my experience, power, wherever you find it, always attracts careerists who will shove, bully and manipulate to gain that power. The thought that came to my mind almost immediately after I heard of the pope’s resignation was, Will this lead to people hectoring and manipulating in an attempt to force popes to resign in the future?

Modern medicine gives more people the opportunity to live into a frail old age than ever before. This applies to popes as well as you and me. For any man to be elected pope, he must have lived long enough to have the experience and holiness the position requires. It takes years of walking with the Lord to become holy in the sense that a leader of His Church must be holy. Peter himself was a brash young man who had a lot of learn at the beginning.

Pope John Paul II was a surprising selection for pope for many reasons, his relative youth among them.

Yet, in time, everyone ages. So electing younger popes would only delay the questions I’m raising. It would not avoid them.

One possible way to avoid future popes being pressured to resign would be to do away with the possibility of resignation. Pope Benedict’s resignation was conducted by Canon Law, not dogmatic Church teaching. So, the ability of a pope to resign can be eliminated altogether, making the Papacy a lifelong sinecure with no off ramps.

Another way to do this would be to establish a retirement age for popes. I think it would have to be rather elderly, given that our previous popes have done some of their most marvelous work when they were well past 75.

These thoughts are just me, mentally noodling with the situation. They are thinking thinking, not suggestions, or even formed opinions. Still, I think it’s worthwhile to talk about it. Our pope has resigned. What does that mean to the Church in these perilous times?

There will be a new pope and he will lead us without departing from the Gospels of Christ. I do not doubt that.

But all human beings are frail and fallen. It is inevitable that this new pope — and all those who follow him — will be subject to the increasing viciousness of a world that is moving from moral nihilism to moral self-destruction. The pope, as the leader of the Catholic Church, must stand against the gates of hell.

I am praying for this unknown man as he goes about his days, almost certainly unaware of what awaits him in March. I am also grateful to the core for the steady and unyielding leadership Pope Benedict XVI has given us.

May his tribe increase.