Pope Benedict pledges support for his successor
February 28, 2013
At a farewell meeting with members of the College of Cardinals on February 28, Pope Benedict XVI reflected: “In these eight years we have faithfully lived beautiful moments of radiant light along the Church's journey along with times when clouds gathered in the skies.”
The Pope spoke with obvious emotion as he entered the last hours of his pontificate, but the mood in the Clementine Hall was not mournful for the Pope’s last private audience. The assembled cardinals greeted the Pontiff with warm applause, and the Holy Father in turn encouraged the cardinals to remain united in service to the Church, reminding them that such serves brings a joy “that no one can take from us.”
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, speaking in his capacity as the dean of the College of Cardinals, said that the prelates felt “deep affection and heartfelt gratitude for your selfless witness of apostolic service, for the good of Christ's Church and of all humanity.”
In his own remarks, Pope Benedict drew attention to the real nature of the Catholic Church. He highlighted a quotation from Romano Guardini:
Church is not an institution devised and built by human beings ... but a living reality. ... It lives still throughout the course of time. Like all living realities it develops, it changes ... and yet in the very depths of its being it remains the same: its inmost nucleus is Christ.'
Looking forward to the coming conclave, the Pontiff said that he hoped the College of Cardinals will function “like an orchestra, where diversity, the expression of the universal Church, always contributes to greater and concordant harmony.” He promised that he would be praying for the cardinals as they meet to choose his successor.
As he neared the conclusion of his remarks, the outgoing Pope made a dramatic observation: “Among you, the College of Cardinals, is also the future Pope, to whom I already today promise my unconditioned reverence and obedience.”
After his remarks the Pope spoke individually with each of the 144 cardinals who had attended his final audience.
At 5 pm local time, with all the bells of the Vatican tolling, Pope Benedict left the Vatican, on a helicopter flight to Castel Gandolfo.