At the Side of Pope Benedict

Here is a moving account from Msgr Alfred Xuereb–secretary to Pope Benedict–in which he gives a first hand account of accompanying Pope Benedict through his resignation and departure.

The news was communicated to us personally. I was called by him officially. I sat down in front of his desk. Although it wasn’t the first time [I’d gotten such a call], I perceived I would receive a very important communication. Obviously, no one expected it. He was calm, as one who already went through a struggle and surmounted the moment of indecision. He was serene as one who knows that he is in the will of the Lord.

As soon as I heard the news, my first reaction was: “No, Holy Father! Why don’t you think about it a bit more?” Then I stopped myself and said to myself: “Who knows how long he has been examining this decision.” Coming back to my mind like lightning were the long moments and recollections in prayer before the Mass and I listened to his words attentively. Everything was already decided. He repeated twice to me: “You will go with the new Pope.” Perhaps he had an intuition; I don’t know. The day I left Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo I wept and I thanked him for his great paternity.

Anybody who thinks Benedict XVI was some kind of hard nosed Nazi should read the personal accounts of those who knew him and worked with him. I especially like the personal detail of the thousands of letters of thanks and good wishes Pope Benedict received after his departure. Many of them were from children. Mgr. Xuereb says,

 I remember very well. After February 28, 2013, thousands of letters began to arrive at Castel Gandolfo. It was impressive. At first, not so many arrived. All were unrestrained in writing to the Pope. However, what was lovely was to see that all those who wrote often enclosed something in the letter: an object made by hand, a musical score, a calendar, a drawing. As if the people wished to say: “Thank you for everything you have done; we appreciate the sacrifice you have made for us. We wish not only to express these sentiments, but to give you something of ours.”

Among these letters, many arrived from children. I filled all the shelves with the letters that arrived. Obviously the Pope didn’t have the time to look at all of them, because there were thousands. One evening, passing by him, I said: “Look, Holy Father, these are the letters that arrived today, among which many are from children.” He turned to me and said: “Those are very beautiful letters.” I was very struck by his tenderness with children.

Read the whole article here on ZENIT