Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thousands go to St. Peter's Square to say farewell and thank you to the Pope

In an emotional address at the last weekly public audience of his pontificate, Benedict XVI promised the faithful that he would continue to serve the Church through prayer after his resignation.

The Pope remarked that “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.” After resignation, he said, “I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the Cross.” He said that he would remain entirely devoted to the Church, in the service of prayer.” Pope Benedict said that throughout his pontificate he had felt the strong support of the Holy Spirit and of the faithful. “Thank you; I am truly moved,” the Pope said to the tens of thousands of people who crowded into St. Peter’s Square for the Wednesday audience, and interrupted him repeatedly with loud applause. The Pope added the light-hearted comment that “we also have to thank the Creator for the beautiful weather that He is giving us now, even in winter.”

Pope Benedict devoted his prepared remarks to a retrospective look at his pontificate, thanking his collaborators. He again explained his decision to resign:
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.
As he prepares to step down, the Pope told the crowd, “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.” He offered thanks to God, and spent several minutes thanking his collaborators: the cardinals, the members of the Roman Curia, the Rome diocese, the Vatican diplomatic corps, and “the many people around the world who, in recent weeks, have sent me touching tokens of concern, friendship, and prayer.”

In an overview of his term as Roman Pontiff, the Pope observed:
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.
Pope Benedict concluded:
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.

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