I am sure an official translation will come out soon, if not already, but I wanted to savor the last official words of Pope Benedict XVI. I did my own, below. The last off-the-cuff remarks at the window at Castel Gandolfo are not really to be counted as official remarks.
This morning the Roman Pontiff Benedict XVI addressed the Cardinals gathered for a final audience in the Sala Clementina in the Apostolic Palace.
There are references in this speech – classic Ratzinger (*sigh* … this is it, friends!) – to what has driven this good and prayerful across the arc of his life. My emphases and comments:
Venerable and dear brethren!
With great joy I accept and extend to each one of you my most cordial greeting. I thank Angelo Cardinal Sodano who, as always, knew how to act as the interpreter of the feelings of the whole College: Cor ad cor loquitur. [The motto of Bl. John Henry Newman, who he beatified when he went on the State Visit (not Pastoral) to England. Newman was important to Ratzinger the seminarian and student. His trip to England was a “Benedict goes to England” moment, in the sense of “only Nixon could go to China”. Thus, in the first few lines, Benedict underscores what he considers something important in his pontificate.] Heartfelt thanks, Your Eminence. I would like to say – picking up on the reference to the experience of the disciples at Emmaus – that it was also a joy for me to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord. [For Ratzinger, the Emmaus event also has liturgical implications. There is the breaking open of the Word and the breaking of the bread wherein the disciples encounter the Lord in a new way, a nearly blinding and mysterious moment of recognition. For Ratzinger, the walk on the path, the liturgy, which is an Easter-like experience, is to set our hearts aflame within us. We move from being down-hearted to being exalted in his presence and Communion.]
As I said yesterday, before the thousands of the faithful who filled St. Peter’s Square, your nearness and your counsel have been a great help in my ministry. [“Ministry” is an important word and concept for Ratzinger. He even put together a book, for seminarians and clerics Ministers of Your Joy. I have an autographed, actually inscribed, copy.] In these eight years, we lived with faith very beautiful moments of radiant light in the Church’s path, together with moments in which some clouds grew thick in the sky. [He often has recourse to images of sky and water, paths and boats. He spoke yesterday about feeling sometimes like Peter in the boat on the water when the Lord was asleep in the storm. Before he was elected in his Stations of the Cross on Good Friday he spoke of the water the boat was taking on.] We sought to serve Christ and His Church with deep and total love, which is the soul of our ministry. We gave hope, the hope that comes from Christ, that alone can illuminate the path. [Hope was the topic of an encyclical.] Together we can give thanks to the Lord that He made us grow in communion, and together to beg Him to help you still to grow in this deep unity, as if the College of Cardinals were like an orchestra, [he writes as a music lover…] where differences – expressions of the Universal Church – contribute (concorrano) [subtle.. in Italian this can also mean “to compete”] always to the higher and concordant harmony. [What else can this be be a subtle plea for them to put aside differences and come together to find the right solution to the problem of the next Pope?]
I would like to leave with you a simple thought, which has been close to my heart: a thought about the Church, about her mystery, which constitutes for all of us – we can say – the reason of and the passion of life. I am aided by an expression by Romano Guardini, [A great mentor. Ratzinger dedicated to one of his most important pre-election books to him, even giving it the same name as Guardini’s book: The Spirit of the Liturgy, in the course of the Liturgical Movement. Ratzinger wanted to spark a new Liturgical Movement. I think he did.] written in the year in which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen gentium, in his final book, with a personal dedication personal for me, too; thus, the words of this book are particularly dear to me. Guardini says: The Church “is not a thought-up institution, constructed on a table…, [This, too, is a reference to his view on liturgical worship. This is how he described at one point the Novus Ordo. This, therefore, has to be a quiet reference to another of this Pope’s most important contributions: Summorum Pontificum as well as what he laid down about discontinuity and continuity – against the school of Rahner! – in 2005, a pivotal moment in his pontificate.] She lives through the course of time, in becoming, as every living being, being transformed… even if in her nature she remains always the same, and her heart is Christ.” [Continuity! And think of Newman, at the top, and his thought on continuity.] That was our experience, yesterday, it seems to me, in the Square: to see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit and living truly from the force of God. She is in the world, but she is not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. For this reason another famous expression of Guardini [Coming back to Guardini twice in his precious last official words is important!] is true and eloquent: “The Church awakens in souls.” [He moves from worship to identity.] The Church is alive, she grows and she awakens in souls, which – as the Virgin Mary – welcomes the Word of God and conceive it through the work of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh, indeed in their own poverty and humbleness, becoming capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church, the Mystery of the Incarnation remains forever present. Christ continues to walk the path through the ages and all places.
Let us remain united, dear brethren, in this Mystery: [capitalized in the original] in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and thus let us serve the Church and all of humanity. This is our joy, which no one can take from us. [Though some have tried and will continue to try to do]
Before greeting you each personally, I desire to tell you that I will continue to be near to you in prayer, especially in the upcoming days, so that you may be entirely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of a new Pope. May the Lord show you what He wants you to do. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is the future Pope, to whom I, already, promise my unconditioned reverence and obedience. [The fact that he says this here and now means that he is not going to appear later to do it in public. He really will just disappear and cast no shadow hear the new Pope.] For this, with affection and thanksgiving, I impart to you from my heart the Apostolic Blessing.
A summary of some points that are at the core of the now concluded pontificate and which are dear to the heart of this good old man.