Pope Benedict XVI retires today,
Thursday, February 28,
at 8 pm Rome time, 1 pm Central time
I had the opportunity to reflect publicly on Pope Benedict’s gifts to the Church in this collection of reflections by various authors published in the national newsweekly Our Sunday Visitor.
Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 27. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Here’s what I wrote:
While much can be said about Pope Benedict XVI’s prolific and exceptional writing, I want to thank the 265th Pope for the 27 words he wrote on Dec. 12, 2012 — adding “@pontifex”to his numerous titles.
Pope Benedict’s eight-year-reign may be deemed the blink of an eye in the Church’s existence. But he bequeaths the next pope a number of impressive digital initiatives, not the least of which are 2.5 million Twitter followers. All this, from an 85-year-old pontiff who was born the year that the first transatlantic telephone call was made via radio from New York City to London.
Consider this. YouTube launched its first video just four days after Pope Benedict’s 2005 election. At the time, Facebook was a mere 1-year-old toddler. And Twitter was not born for another year. To these improbable inventions Pope Benedict responded with impressive enthusiasm, noting that the endless conversation online “demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import that can offer meaning and hope to their lives.”
Yet what is most impressive about Pope Benedict’s engaging response to social media networks is not just his vision and insight into their significance. After all, the man who made his episcopal motto Cooperatores veritatis — “co-operators of the truth” — recognized straightway their opportunity as powerful mediums for truth.
No, what’s most remarkable of all is that he faced these cultural encounters with the same openness, honesty, and humility that he displayed on becoming pope in 2005, and resigning in 2013. Like his compatriot Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Pope Benedict reminds me with his life that everything, down to the smallest detail, has coherent meaning in God’s all-seeing eyes.
Regardless the source of encounter, or the unlikeliest situation, or even acknowledging unimaginable technology, Pope Benedict XVI opened himself completely to possibility, knowing with his whole heart that God would be found there.
Thank you for your faithful example, @pontifex.
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In his last General Audience yesterday, February 27, Pope Benedict XVI’s spoke with tenderness and intimacy to his brothers and sisters around the world—his last public words as pope:
I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children to God's arms, certain that those arms always hold us up and are what allow us to walk forward each day, even when it is a struggle. I would like everyone to feel beloved of that God who gave His Son for us and who has shown us His boundless love. I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian…
Dear friends! God guides His Church, always sustaining her even and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the path of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each one of you, may there always be the joyous certainty that the Lord is beside us, that He does not abandon us, that He is near and embraces us with His love. Thank you.
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Mis amigos, let’s continue to pray for Pope Benedict, for the Cardinals who will gather to elect our new Pope—and always, for our Church Universal!