I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013, BENEDICTUS PP XVI
The first time I saw Pope Benedict XVI was December 2010 in Rome. As he recessed down the aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica he paused numerous times to bless those in attendance. He was nearing my section but due to the affectionate mob I was not able to get to the end of the pew.
This is when being 5’9” and wearing 4-inch heels helps. A lot!
Pope Benedict stopped at my pew section, turned, locked eyes with mine while moving his hands in the shape of a cross and imparted his blessing to the crowd. While he clearly blessed the entire section, his gaze never parted from my eyes. Afterwards, friend and colleague, Teresa Tomeo, pulled on my coat and said, “He was looking right at you!” With tears streaming down my face, all I could do was nod.
I’ll never forget that memory of coming face to face with the Holy Father. Likewise, I’ll never forget this day – the day the Persona Christi embraced the will of God with humility and faith.
Even in his departure he continues to teach us. I can’t help but reflect on his words,
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
How many of us could discern our conscience and current duties with the same humility? Such lessons Pope Benedict imparts to us.
This year has been called the ‘Year of Faith’, issued by Benedict himself. We see his faithfulness to the Church and to the office of the See of Peter by his renouncement of this office due to his waning health— A decision not made in haste or without discernment.
Pope Benedict XVI shepherds us into this upcoming season of Lent reminding us to be humble, to accept our weaknesses as opportunities for God’s grace, and to entrust our lives to “Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ”. What better way to enter into Lent?
I pray that we can all be as faithful as Pope Benedict XVI – to discern the will of God in our lives and have the courage to carry it out.