Sede Vacante.

As of 1:00pm Central Standard Time, the See (seat) of the Diocese of Rome is vacant, and we have no Pope.

Benedict XVI, who will now be known as Supreme Pontiff Emeritus, departed the city of Rome this morning via helicopter for the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, about 30 kilometers southeast of Vatican City.

AP Photo/Michael Sohn

AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Once he arrived at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, he greeted the lay faithful with a few words, and said, “I am simply a pilgrim starting the final stage of his pilgrimage on this earth.  But I would like yet again, with my heart, my love, my prayers, my reflection, with all of my interior strength, to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity . . . let us go forward together with the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world.  I impart to you now my blessing with all of my heart.”

And then, at 8:00pm in Castel Gandolfo, in front of the papal villa, the Swiss Guard departed from their post and ceremonially gave the duty of protecting the pope to the Vatican police, and the Diocese of Rome became sede vacante, a “vacant see (seat)”.  You can watch this changing of the guard in this video (the event happens around minute 8:45 and continues for a few minutes after that).

Perhaps you could offer a prayer in thanksgiving for the holy and beautiful eight-year reign of Benedict XVI, pope emeritus, sometime today?

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Saying goodbye: Benedict’s final Wednesday Audience

AP/Gregorio Borgia

AP/Gregorio Borgia

Today the Holy Father said an emotional, moving goodbye to tens of thousands of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, as well as to the one billion Catholics throughout the world who call him shepherd.  The crowd was vibrant and alive, and the Holy Father said so himself, remarking early in his remarks: “La Chiesa è viva!” (“The Church is alive!”)  It was also a remarkably beautiful February morning in Rome, for which the Pope thanked God our Creator.

Some of the more beautiful passages of his audience:

I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit.  I gather everyone and everything in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Colossians 1:9-10).

At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s Word of Truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life.  The Gospel purifies and renews; it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity.  This is my faith, this is my joy.

When … I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry …the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me?  It is a great weight that you place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord has really guided me.  He has been close to me: daily I could feel his presence.  [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments.  I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat in the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep.  Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in his barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink.  It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He destined it to be so.  This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish.  It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord.  I would like that we all entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk everyday, even in times of struggle.  I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love.  I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian.  A beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart, I thank you for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us!  Let us thank God for this everyday, with prayer and a coherent Christian life.  God love us, but He also expects that we love Him!

In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church.  I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind.  Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life.  My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry does not revoke this.  I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on.  I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord.  I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds.  St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me.  He showed me a way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and power of the Holy Spirit.

In the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love.

The Pope’s Final Angelus Address

Yesterday in St. Peter’s Square, from the window of his apartment in the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father led upwards of 200,000 people in the Angelus, a short prayer recited at noon that honors Our Lord’s Incarnation in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as he does on every Sunday that he is in Rome.  At this Angelus, the last of his pontificate, he also shared additional details about his resignation:

The Lord is calling me to “go up the mountain” to dedicate myself to prayer and meditation.  But this does not mean that I will abandon the Church, rather … it is because I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love which which I have sought to do until now, but in a way more suited to my age and my strength.

I thank you for your affection and sharing in this particular moment in my life and for the Church, especially through your prayers.  To all I wish a good day and a good week.  In prayer we are always close to each other.  Thank you all!

The Holy Father’s reign as pope will conclude at 1:00pm Central Time (8:00pm Rome Time) on Thursday, February 28th.  When the See of Peter is vacant (sede vacante), the Cardinals will gather and determine a start date for the conclave to elect Benedict’s successor.  The Church needs our prayers in this time!  Why not say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be today for Pope Benedict, his successor, and the cardinal electors in the conclave?

Papal Resignation Roundup

Well, folks, it’s been quite the week.  Besides our annual entrance into Lent on Wednesday, Monday also saw the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI – the first pope to do this in centuries.  As we look to the end of Benedict’s pontificate, the “interregnum” (literally, between reigns), the conclave, and, finally, the election of a new pope, it promises to be an exciting month for the Church and for the world.

We’ll do what we can to keep you updated on news as it develops.  To start, here are a few great articles, videos, and general quotes to consider if you’re in need of playing catch-up on resignation news:

In Benedict’s Own Words:

Reaction from bishops in the United States:

Remembering Benedict’s Legacy

What’s next?  
The Church awaits word on a conclave date, which is to be determined by the cardinals who will elect the next pope.

What should I do? 
This is a unique time in the life of the Church.  The best thing any of us can do is to pray very much for the Holy Father, the cardinal electors who will participate in the conclave, and the next man who will be Successor to St. Peter, known, at this moment, only to God.  If you are interested, join us for a rosary in the St. Paul’s Chapel at 8:40PM on Monday nights, starting on February 18th and ending upon the election of a new pope.  

Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us and pray for the Pope! 

The Pope’s final public Mass: Ash Wednesday at St. Peter’s Basilica

Yesterday, our beloved Holy Father celebrated his last public Mass as Pope – fittingly, at the main altar at St. Peter’s Basilica, below which lie the mortal remains of St. Peter, the first Pope.

We’ll be sure to share selections from his homily later this week, as soon as it is translated into English.

There were many moving moments in this final public liturgy celebrated by the Holy Father.  One such moment was a short address at the conclusion of Mass by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the current Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See, who thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his great gift of his life to the Church:

As Mass concluded and the choir began a beautiful rendition of Palestrina’s “Tu es Petrus (You are Peter)”, the Holy Father kissed the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica a final time and began his recessional down the main aisle, to the sound of thunderous applause from the faithful present.  The recessional in its entirety is a bit long (seven minutes), but a historic moment to watch:

 

What was it like to be in the room when the Pope resigned?

Curious about what it was like in the room when the Holy Father announced his resignation?  Cardinal Francis Arinze, the former prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, was there when the announcement was made and recently sat down in an interview to describe what it was like.  He also shares words of wisdom about what this means for the Church:

Oremus pro Pontifice! (Let us pray for the Pope!)

By now you have probably heard that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has chosen to resign from the papacy, effective on February 28th.  Yesterday in Rome he spoke to a gathering of cardinals, where he made the announcement in Latin (translated from the Vatican’s website):

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. 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.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.  And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

While this announcement may evoke in us an emotional – perhaps even confused – response, let us trust in Christ and in His Providence and Plan for His Bride, the Church.  As we seek to trust in God’s plan, let us especially offer many prayers for our Holy Father, the 117 cardinal electors who will elect a new pope, and for the next successor who will shepherd the Church.

One prayer that we can consider using is called the Oratio pro summo Pontifice – simply, the Prayer for the Pope:

V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies (Psalm 40:3).

Say one Our Father, one Hail Mary

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant N, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Still have questions about the Holy Father’s resignation, or perhaps questions about what comes next?  Join us for Mustard Seed, our weekly large group gathering, on Thursday, February 21st for a brief lesson in Conclaves 101.  Fr. Eric Sternberg will join us to provide some insight into what is a conclave and what will it look like, as well as provide answers to any questions you might have.

As we near the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict and usher in a new age in the life of the Church, let us keep in mind the wise words of the Holy Father, some of the first words he spoke to us as Pope, at his installation Mass almost eight years ago:

My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.