Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Among Us Is the New Pope... To Whom I Pledge My Obedience"

Breaking from the plans released by the Vatican over recent days, B16 delivered a final word to the 140-some cardinals gathered to farewell the departing Pope this morning, six hours before he leaves the Apostolic Palace to begin his retirement.

Much as a final scripted message wasn't foreseen, the 265th Roman pontiff's rationale to give a last talk before becoming "Pope-emeritus" became clear at the message's end, as Benedict XVI told the group charged with electing his successor that, "even today," he pledged "my unconditional reverence and obedience" to the next holder of Peter's chair – the first to have a living predecessor since the 15th century.

Here in full, Vatican Radio's English translation of the text:
Dear beloved brothers,

I welcome you all with great joy and cordially greet each one of you. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano [dean of the college], who as always, has been able to convey the sentiments of the College, Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaking to heart]. 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.
As previously noted, Benedict will depart the Vatican by chopper just before 5pm Rome time, and is expected to greet those on hand at Castel Gandolfo from the villa's balcony shortly after his arrival.

Around three hours later, at 8pm, the Swiss Guard detail guarding Benedict there will leave, marking the sede vacante and the lack of a Pope.

At the same time, in keeping with centuries of tradition, the papal apartment will be sealed until the next pontiff takes possession of it.

Beyond the red hats, roughly a score of other key Vatican aides were on hand for this morning's last goodbye. 

Almost all the others having left the room after making their individual farewells to Benedict, only a handful of monsignori remained as – for one last time in his "home" of the last eight years – the Pope was given the cane he's used sporadically over the last year, and quietly shuffled away from sight.