Pope Benedict delivers final Sunday homily
The countdown to the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate continued apace yesterday when the Pope offered his last Sunday Angelus homily to a packed St Peter’s Square.
Just four days away from the moment on Thursday evening when he officially steps down, the pope told the 100,000-strong crowd that he was resigning because of his age and diminishing strength.
“The good Lord has called me to climb unto the Mount, to dedicate myself ever more to prayer and meditation. This does not mean abandoning the church; rather if God has asked this of me, it is so that I can continue to serve him with the same dedication and love as I have done until now, but perhaps in a way more suited to my age and my physical strengths,” he said in his address.
At several points during his homily, pilgrims interrupted the pontiff with applause.
Even when he had finished in his multilingual greetings in French, English, German, Spanish and Polish, he made no attempt to linger over the moment. Rather than “milking the applause”, he quickly turned away from his apartment window and disappeared from sight.
The pope’s apparent serenity was in contrast with ever more febrile preconclave atmosphere in the Holy See last weekend.
For example, last Saturday, in an unprecedented document, the secretariat of state denounced any attempt to condition the forthcoming conclave, rejecting pressure from “public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the church is living”.
Arguing that the church has always defended the freedom of the college of cardinals when it comes to electing a pope, the Holy See statement bemoaned the “distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories, that cause serious damage to persons and institutions”.
The Holy See communique appears to be a reaction to persistent Italian media speculation last week that claimed, among other things, that the pope’s decision to resign may have been at least partly influenced by an internal Vatican report highlighting rivalries, tensions and the “inappropriate influence” of a gay ring within the Holy See.
The report, compiled by three elderly cardinals – Herranz, Di Giorgi and Tomko – was submitted to the pope last December 17th.
No one has been more criticised in recent years than secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, considered by many to have abused his powers as de facto Vatican prime minister, in the process availing of Benedict’s almost total lack of political savvy. Those same critics point to a series of “fin de regime” appointments made in the last few days, involving the Vatican bank IOR and other posts, as further testimony to the overweaning influence of Cardinal Bertone.