As of 2 p.m. EST on February 28, the seat of St. Peter has been vacated. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI left the Vatican via helicopter to Castel Gandolfo where, it is said, he will spend a couple months before “retiring” in a former monastery within the Vatican walls. Shortly after his arrival in Castel Gandolfo, he gave what was his final address as supreme pontiff:
“Dear friends, I’m happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and your well wishes, which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship and your affection. You know this day is different for me than the preceding ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 o’clock this evening [Central European Time] and then no more.
I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth. But I would still … thank you … I would still with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength, like to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your sympathy.
Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you, I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!” (taken from the Associated Press)
During this time of Lent, let us remember in our prayers Benedict XVI. Let us also pray for the cardinals as they anticipate the start of the conclave to elect our next pope. Let us also remember in our prayers the Church, all of us around the world, as we wait in anticipation for the white smoke to rise from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Once elected, let us also keep in our prayers the next supreme pontiff, the 266th pope of our Church.
In keeping with the times of today’s growing technology in the Church, let me conclude with Benedict’s final tweet as pope:
“Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”