Joy and tears, we are all filled with mixed emotions in this unprecedented event in the life of the Church. Today, the Holy Father met with his Auxiliary Bishops and Priests for the final time before the day of his abdication arrives. Following is an account with his words.
“(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI is meeting parish priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Led by Cardinal Vicar Agostino Vallini and auxiliary bishops, they greeted Benedict XVI with great affection and prolonged applause
“It is a special and providential gift [Pope Benedict has a real love for his fellow Bishops and Priests. This is evident in all of his meetings.] of – began the Pope – that, before leaving the Petrine ministry, I can once again meet my clergy, the clergy of Rome. It’ s always a great joy to see how the Church lives, and how in Rome, the Church is alive [always filled with hope. Not a focus on the failures and dwindling faith, but hope] : there are pastors who in the spirit of the supreme Shepherd, [It is the role of Bishops and Priest to work in union with Peter. As Bishop Sheen wrote “The Priest is not his own.”] guide the flock of Christ”. “It is a truly Catholic and universal clergy, – he added – and is part of the essence of the Church of Rome itself, to reflect the universality, the catholicity of all nations, of all races, of all cultures”.
“At the same time I am very grateful to the Cardinal Vicar who is helping to reawaken, to rediscover the vocations in Rome itself, because if on the one hand Rome is the city of universality, it must be also a city with its own strong, robust faith, from which vocations are also born. And I am convinced that with the help of the Lord we can find the vocations He Himself gifts us, guide them, help them to develop and thus help the work in the vineyard of the Lord. ” [There is a vocation shortage if we don’t seek out those men called by Christ. God is always call, we are the ones not listening and helping young men to hear this call.]
“Today – continued the Pope – you have confessed the Creed before the Tomb of St. Peter: in the Year of the Faith, I see this as a very appropriate, perhaps even necessary, act, that the clergy of Rome meet at the Tomb of the Apostle of which the Lord said, ‘to you I entrust my Church. Upon you I build my Church’. Before the Lord, together with Peter, you have confessed: ‘you are Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Thus the Church grows: together with Peter, confessing Christ, following Christ. And we do this always. I am very grateful for your prayers that I have felt – as I said Wednesday – almost physically. [The power of prayer! We must never forget, we have that power.] Though I am now retiring to a life of prayer, I will always be close to all you and I am sure all of you will be close to me, even though I remain hidden to the world. ” [The importance of the cloistered/ monastic life. People who remain hidden for our sake.]
“For today, given the conditions of my age – he said – I could not prepare a great, real address, as one might expect, but rather I thought of chatting about the Second Vatican Council, as I saw it”.
The Pope began with an anecdote: “In 1959 I was appointed professor at the University of Bonn, which is attended by students, seminarians of the diocese of Cologne and other surrounding dioceses. So, I came into contact with the Cardinal of Cologne, Cardinal Frings. Cardinal Siri of Genoa, – I think it was in 1961 – had organized a series of conferences with several cardinals in Europe, and the Council had invited the archbishop of Cologne to hold a conference, entitled: “The Council and the world of modern thought.” The Cardinal invited me – the youngest of the professors [Who would have know that he would become Peter!] – to write a project; he liked the project and proposed this text, as I had written it to the public, in Genoa”.
“Shortly after – he continued – Pope John invited him to come [to Rome –ed] and he was afraid [Does anyone have this fear today?] he had perhaps said maybe something incorrect, false and that he had been asked to come for a reprimand, perhaps even to deprive him of his red hat … (priests laughing) Yes … when his secretary dressed him for the audience, he said: ‘Perhaps now I will be wearing this stuff for the last time… (the priests laugh). Then he went in. Pope John came towards him and hugged him, saying, ‘Thank you, Your Eminence, you said things I have wanted to say, but I had not found the words to say’ … (the priests laugh, applaud) Thus, the Cardinal knew he was on the right track, and I was invited to accompany him to the Council, first as his personal advisor, then – in the first period, perhaps in November ’62 – I was also appointed as an official perito [expert-ed] for the Council”. [I love how Benedict speaks from the heart. Something many theologians don’t know how to do.]
Benedict XVI continued: “So, we went to the Council not only with joy, but with enthusiasm. The expectation was incredible. We hoped that everything would be renewed, that a new Pentecost really would come, a new era of the Church, because the Church was not robust enough [The Church can always grow. We sure need some enthusiasm today. Most Catholics in our pews look like the living dead.] at that time: the Sunday practice was still good, even vocations to the priesthood and religious life were already somewhat fewer, but still sufficient. But nevertheless, there was the feeling that the Church was going on, but getting smaller, [They saw the Church beginning to shrink] that somehow it seemed like a reality of the past and not the bearer of the future. And now, we hoped that this relationship would be renewed, changed, that the Church would once again source of strength for today and tomorrow. ”
The Pope then recalled how they saw “that the relationship between the Church and the modern period was one of some ‘contrasts’ from the beginning, starting with the error in the Galileo case, “and the idea was to correct this wrong start “and to find a new relationship between the Church and the best forces in the world, [“relationship” There needs to be a relationship with the world or we will not be able to talk to the world about the truth we hold.] “to open up the future of humanity, to open up to real progress.”
The Pope recalled: “We were full of hope, enthusiasm and also of good will.” “I remember – he said – the Roman Synod was considered as a negative model” – where – it is said – they read prepared texts, and the members of the Synod simply approved them, and that was how the Synod was held. The bishops agreed not to do so because they themselves were the subject of the Council. So – he continued – even Cardinal Frings, who was famous for his absolute, almost meticulous, fidelity to the Holy Father said that the Pope has summoned the bishops in an ecumenical council as a subject to renew the Church.
Benedict XVI recalled that “the first time this attitude became clear, was immediately on the first day.” On the first day, the Commissions were to be elected and the lists and nominations were impartially prepared. And these lists were to be voted on. But soon the Fathers said, “No, are not simply going to vote on already made lists. We are the subject. “They had to move the elections – he added – because the Fathers themselves wanted to get to know each other a little ‘, they wanted to make their own lists. So it was done. “It was a revolutionary act – he said – but an act of conscience, of responsibility on the part of the Council Fathers.” [A dialogue not only with the world, but with one another.]
So – the Pope said – a strong activity of mutual understanding began. And this – he said – was customary for the entire period of the Council: “small transversal meetings.” In this way he became familiar with the great figures like Father de Lubac, Danielou, Congar, and so on. And this – he said “was an experience of the universality of the Church and of the reality of the Church, that does not merely receive imperatives from above, but grows and advances together, under the leadership – of course – of the Successor of Peter” .”
I pray our next Pope will have the ability to speak from the heart, with clarity and depth like Benedict. Everyone said that no one could fill the shoes of Pope John Paul. No one can fill the shoes of any Pope. Different men, with different gifts for our times. Let us continue to pray for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor.