Goodbye, Mister Chips

At 11 a.m. (Rome time) Benedict XVI met with the College of Cardinals for the last time as pope in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican. He had some interesting things to say.

Despite all the talk in the media about curial behavior perhaps contributing to the pope’s decision to resign, Benedict XVI said, “For me as well, it has been a joy walking with you these past eight years,” and, “we have faithfully lived beautiful moments of radiant light.” If he was exasperated or discouraged by the Curia, he certainly didn’t show it then.

Although some have wondered what it would mean to have for the first time in 600 years two living popes, Benedict made it very clear that this would be no cause for division in the church. “Among you, among the College of Cardinals, is also the future pope,” he said, “to whom I already today promise my unconditioned reverence and obedience.”

Although some gave him tearful farewells in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Benedict XVI himself seemed to take it all very well. I can’t help but think that an enormous weight has been taken from him, and he feels great consolation and spiritual peace within.

As for myself, I was a little surprised at my own feelings as I gathered with the chancery staff to watch him enter the car that took him to the helicopter, which then took him over the skyline of Rome and away.

I cracked a few jokes because I didn’t want to burst out bawling in front of my coworkers. Many Catholics acquired a deep attachment to Pope John Paul II over the 26 years of his pontificate. Benedict XVI served a much shorter time, and he didn’t have the charisma of his predecessor, so perhaps he didn’t have quite the same following.

Nevertheless, Benedict XVI showed himself to be sensitive, intelligent and gentle. He could strong — but also warm and very pastoral in a way that demonstrated the whole “God’s Rottweiler” meme was merely a churlish slur. We grew to respect, and then like, and then love him.

I miss him already.

Benedict, we hardly knew you!

I’m sorry that I never truly appreciated you. Your humility and holiness has already lifted you high above the yipping and braying packs of the superficial, the hypercritical and the ignorant.

God love you!