The pope's heartfelt goodbye -- and a nod to the Curia

The pope's heartfelt goodbye -- and a nod to the Curia

  More than 100,000 came for the pope's farewell

Those waiting for Pope Benedict to open his heart on the question of his resignation were not disappointed today.

In his final general audience, the day before he abdicates the papal throne, the pope spoke in an unusually personal way about his decision and offered a frank assessment of his pontificate – both the moments of joy and moments of “rough waters.”

His words appeared designed to counter the popular media image of a discouraged and defeated pope who felt let down by the top officials of the Roman Curia.

He went out of his way, in fact, to thank the Curia, in particular the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who has been seen by many observers as a big part of the problem when it comes to Curia tensions and infighting.

Benedict also expressed gratitude to the many Vatican employees who “remain in the shadows, but who precisely in their silence and daily dedication … have been for me a sure and trusted support.”

Speaking to an overflow and enthusiastic crowd in St. Peter’s Square, the pope took issue with what has become a dominant narrative in the media: that of a pontiff so frustrated with the problems of church governance and ill-served by his aides that he felt constrained to leave the scene.

“I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the weight of the papal ministry,” he said. He said he’s relied on cardinals and the Roman Curia for advice, and always felt the “attention and great affection” of Catholic faithful around the world.

And despite the disappointments of his pontificate – which he did not specify – the pope said he was left with the conviction that the church still offers the path to real happiness, even “at a time when so many people talk about its decline.”

Some of the pope’s words also could be read as cautionary advice to a successor, especially when he said that “whoever assumes the papal ministry has no more privacy.” He no longer belongs to himself, but belongs to everyone, and any “private dimension” of his life disappears, the pope said.

That goes for a retired pope, too, he added.

“I’m not returning to a private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions or conferences,” he said. Instead, he said he plans to emulate St. Benedict, his papal namesake, in leading a life dedicated completely to God.

In explaining his own decision to retire, the pope made a remark that might have been aimed at the cardinals who will soon gather to elect his successor: “To love the church also means having the courage to make difficult choices, agonizing choices, keeping one’s focus always on the good of the church and not on oneself.”

The pope ended his talk on a characteristic note, asking his audience to remember that God loves them. Then he sat back and, with a beaming smile, listened as the crowd gave him a prolonged ovation.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Brendan Kelleher svd wrote:
Am finding your webpage and blog a welcome and balanced addition to the stream of commentary coming from Rome during these unprecendented days in the life of the Church. One question I have is, why, given the consensus among commentators that the present Curia are at the heart of the present malaise the Church is experiencing, why does Benedict still defend them. His remarks defending Cardinal Bertone are the most difficult to parse in an otherwise fine envoi.
Looking forward to reading your forthcoming book, "Vatican Diaries".
I am part of a group of priests and laymen who administer a facebook page that seeks to disseminate news and comment on the Church to non-Japanese speakers, and English speaking Japanese here in Japan. A link that would enable us to share directly to facebook would be much appreciated.

Wed, February 27, 2013 @ 5:45 PM

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