A girl holds a sign in Italian that reads, "You are not alone, I am also with you," as Pope Benedict XVI leads his final Angelus as pope at the Vatican Feb. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Thousands of pilgrims began
gathering at St. Peter’s Square at dawn today, to be present for Pope Benedict
XVI’s final Angelus address. From
Vatican Radio’s report:
They had come in their
thousands, pouring into the square since early dawn, men, women and children,
old and young, religious and lay Catholics. They held banners, emblazoned with
messages of gratitude and farewell for the 85-year-old Pope, who had guided them
in the faith over the past eight years.
Pilgrims such as a father
and his young son from the earthquake devastated city of Aquilla, central
Italy, who held aloft a homemade sign, thanking Pope Benedict for having
visited the city’s people in their time of need, for his material support and
spiritual solidarity. Or the Dominican nuns from the Philippines who had held
vigil since dawn praying the rosary. And beside them the young people in their
sleeping bags, from Spain, Brazil, Mexico with their banner that read “the
gates of hell will never prevail”.
With outstretched arms and
visibly moved, Pope Benedict greeted them all, repeating ‘grazie, grazie,’ as
he attempted to quiet the crowds. An almost impossible task.
Then, as is tradition, he
reflected on the Sunday Gospel, Luke chapter 9, which recounts the
Transfiguration of the Lord.
Below is the full text of the Holy Father’s final Angelus address
(translation from Vatican Radio).
Pope Benedict XVI leads his final Angelus as pope from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square Vatican Feb. 24. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Dear brothers and sisters!
On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always
presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist
Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he
prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a
sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of
Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine
manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).The Lord, who shortly
before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a
foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear
the voice of the Heavenly Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One listen
to him" (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and
the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history
of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new
"exodus" (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses,
but to Heaven. Peter’s words: "Master, it is good that we are here"
(9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St.
Augustine says: "[Peter] ... on the mountain ... had Christ as the food of
the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up
there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy
conduct? " (Sermon 78.3).
We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on
this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the
work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn
to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath
to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the
world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us
back to the path, to action. "The Christian life - I wrote in my Message
for Lent - consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming
back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our
brothers and sisters with God’s own love "(n. 3).Dear brothers and
sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this
point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to
devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean
abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I
can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love
with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age
and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she
always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.
I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for
this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory
School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and
closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our
Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the
Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon
all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!
A man holds a sign in Italian that reads, "Dear pope, we will miss you," as a crowd waits for Pope Benedict XVI to recite his final Angelus as pope. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)