In his final meeting with the College of Cardinals before formally renouncing the Throne of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI thanked the assembled 144 cardinals for “your closeness and your advice,” saying, “In these eight years we have lived with faith the most beautiful moments of radiant light on the Church’s journey, alongside moments when several clouds had gathered in the sky.”
He also spoke briefly of his successor, noting, “Among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.”
But the heart of Pope Benedict’s remarks concerned the Church herself. Quoting Romano Guardini, he said that the Church “is not an institution conceived and built in theory… but a living reality…. She lives through the course of time, in becoming, like every living being, in changing…. And yet in her nature she remains ever the same and her heart is Christ.”
It seems to me that this was our experience yesterday, in the Square: seeing that the Church is a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and which is really brought to life by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. That is why Guardini’s other famous saying is both true and eloquent: “The Church reawakens in souls”. The Church is alive, she grows and is reawakened in souls who – like the Virgin Mary – welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the action of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh. It is precisely in their poverty and humility that they become capable of begetting Christ in the world today. Through the Church, the Mystery of the Incarnation lives on for ever. Christ continues to walk through the epochs and in all places.
Let us stay united, dear Brothers, in this Mystery: in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and in this way we shall serve the Church and the whole of humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.
Pope Benedict’s full remarks to the College of Cardinals can be read here.