12 February 2013

Pope Benedict: 'I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome'.

The Latin text of Pope Benedict's Declaratio yesterday contains these words: Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commissum renuntiare  ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave  ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.

The official English translation of that reads: 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.

Dr Robert Moynihan, founder and editor of Inside the Vatican, in an emailed newsletter yesterday makes this point: First, Pope Benedict has not decided to "resign" his office, but to renounce it. The distinction is important. He will not be a "retired Pope," but he will be, according to Vatican officials I spoke with today, simply "Cardinal Ratzinger" once again. There will be no danger of "two Popes" -- this present Pope will no longer be a Pope, not even a retired one.

More than once Pope Benedict has spoken about the importance of  'pacing' ourselves. While on vacation in Les Combes (Aosta Valley), in the mountains of northern Italy he said in his Angelus talk on 17 July 2005:

I have been here for some days in the marvellous mountains of the Aosta Valley, where the memory of my beloved Predecessor John Paul II lives on; his stays here over the years were relaxing and invigorating. This summer break is a truly providential gift of God after the first months of the demanding pastoral service that divine Providence has entrusted to me . . .

In the world in which we live, the need to be physically and mentally replenished has become as it were essential, especially to those who dwell in cities where the often frenzied pace of life leaves little room for silence, reflection and relaxing contact with nature. Moreover, holidays are days on which we can give even more time to prayer, reading and meditation on the profound meaning of life in the peaceful context of our own family and loved ones. The vacation period affords unique opportunities for reflection as we face the stirring views of nature, a marvellous "book" within the reach of everyone, adults or children. In contact with nature, individuals rediscover their proper dimension, they recognize that they are creatures but at the same time unique, "capable of God" since they are inwardly open to the Infinite. Driven by the heartfelt need for meaning that urges them onwards, they perceive the mark of goodness and divine Providence in the world that surrounds them and open themselves almost spontaneously to praise and prayer.

In his Angelus talk in the same place a year later, 16 July, Pope Benedict said:

I again have the joy this year of spending a period of rest here in the Aosta Valley, in the house that so often welcomed beloved John Paul II and in which I feel perfectly at home, truly on holiday, in a place where the Creator gives us this fresh air, beauty and restfulness and the joy of being alive.

I have immersed myself immediately in this magnificent Alpine scenery that helps reinvigorate body and spirit, and today I am happy to have this family meeting, for as the Bishop has said, it is not a crowd but a gathering, indeed, it is a family of the faithful.

The Valley of Tora, Lorenzago di Cadore

And on 15 July 2007, in Lorenzago di Cadore, also in the mountains of northern Italy, the Pope said in his Angelus talk:

Every good Christian knows that vacations are an appropriate time for relaxation and also the nourishment of the spirit through more extended periods of prayer and meditation, in order to grow in one's personal relationship with Christ and to conform increasingly to his teachings.

Cathedral, Bressanone (Brixen)

In  the Cathedral Plaza of Bressanone in the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone (Bozen-Brixen) on 10 August 2008, when he was once again on vacation in northern Italy, Pope Benedictg said in his Angelus talk:

There is a point in Mark's Gospel where he recounts that after days of stress the Lord said to the disciples: "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (6: 31). And since the Word of Christ is never connected solely to the moment in which it was spoken I have applied this invitation to the disciples also to myself, and I came to this beautiful, tranquil place to rest for a while. I must thank Bishop Egger and all his collaborators, the whole City and Region of Bressanone, for preparing this beautiful quiet place for me in which, during the past two weeks I have been able to relax, to think of God and of humanity, and thus to recover fresh energy. May God reward you!

Sadly, Bishop Wilhelm Emil Egger OFMCap died six days later, suddenly as I recall.

Many commentators have pointed out 'clues' that Pope Benedict has given over the years that he might take the step he has taken. But for me one mark of his pontificate is that he has always been himself, trying to do faithfully what God has asked him to do, constantly reminding us that our faith is in Jesus Christ, God who became Man. He has not tried to do the impossible but he has carried the Cross and will continue to do so.

Pope Benedict will continue to serve as Bishop of Rome till 2000 hours, Roman time, on Thursday 28 February (0200 hours, Philippine time, Friday 1 March). Until a new pope is elected we won't be praying for the pope during Mass, since there won't be any. 

But we should pray for Pope Benedict in a special way between now and then. The Mass for the Pope has three alternative Collects. Here is the third.

O God, who chose your servant Benedict
in succession to the Apostle Peter 
as shepherd of the whole flock, 
look favourably on the supplications of your people 
and grant that, as Vicar of Christ on earth, 
he may confirm his brethren 
and that the whole Churhc may be in communion with him 
in the bond of , love and peace, 
so that in you, the shepherd of souls, 
all may know the truth and attain life eternal. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.

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