The Twilight of B16
To commemorate his predecessor's famous "moonlight" appearance on the night Vatican II opened, last 11 October saw B16 address a candlelight vigil marking the Council's 50th anniversary and the launch of the global church's Year of Faith.
Tonight, in what's been termed "the most significant event" to rock the Catholic world since Blessed John XXIII called the Council in January 1959, the church faces the twilight of a pontificate under unprecedented circumstances – a Pope's departure from Peter's Chair in life for the first time since, among other things, the "New" St Peter's Basilica was built.
Ergo, even if the following didn't get its due attention the first time around, well, let's try it again....
Good evening to all of you and thank you for coming! Many thanks as well to Catholic Action for having organized tonight's vigil.
Fifty years ago tonight, I, too, was in this square, with my eyes turned toward this window, as the Good Pope, Pope John, spoke to us those unforgettable words – full of poetry, of goodness, words from his heart. We were all happy that night and full of enthusiasm – the great ecumenical council had begun, and we were sure of a new springtime for the church, a new Pentecost with a new presence of the liberating grace of the Gospel.
We're happy today, too – we should carry joy in our hearts. I would say, however, that our joy is a more sober one, something more humble. Over these fifty years, we have learned and experienced that original sin exists, and that it translates itself into personal sins which can become structures of sin. We have seen that even in the Lord's field there is discord, that even in the net of Peter we find bad fish, that human weakness is present even in the church, that the ship of the church journeys in the face of an opposing wind, amid storms that threaten the ship. And sometimes we have thought that 'the Lord is asleep and has forgotten us.' But this is only one part of the experience of these fifty years. We've also been made to experience the presence of the Lord, the gifts of his goodness and strength.
The fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of Christ is never one that devours nor a destructive one. It's a quiet fire, a small flame of goodness, of goodness and truth, that transforms with its light and warmth.
We have seen that the Lord doesn't forget us – even today, his way is humble. The Lord is present, he gives warmth to our hearts, shows us life, creates charisms of goodness and charity that shine in our world, which are for us a guarantee of the goodness of God.
Yes, Christ lives with us today and we can be happy because, even now, his goodness remains and is strong. And finally, I dare to make my own the unforgettable words of Pope John: 'When you go home, give your children a kiss and tell them that it's from the Pope.'
With this sense from my whole heart, let me give you my blessing....
Goodnight to you all – thank you!Yet as an emotional last 24 hours of these incredible eight years now dawns upon us, even this can't be the last word.