Cardinals Wept as Pope Stepped Down

More and more information about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is surfacing, such as how the Cardinals in attendance reacted with tears and sorrow when he made the announcement.

Pope Benedict’s Coat of Arms

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict chose to communicate his resignation personally, and did so to a group of around 50 Cardinals who had gathered to hear an announcement about the canonizations of three saints. At the conclusion of Midday Prayer, and after the announcement about the canonizations, the pope began to read the text of his resignation which was written in Latin in his own hand.

He is said to have delivered the message in a firm, calm voice, while the Cardinals listened in stunned silence. When he explained the reasons for his decision, that it was made with “full freedom” and “after having repeatedly examined my conscience before God,” he  asked “pardon for all my defects.”

At this, many Cardinals were overcome with emotion and began to weep.

“We were all taken by surprise, nobody had expected it,” said Cardinal Raffaele Farina, emeritus prefect of the Apostolic Library, to the Telegraph. “Many faces in the room were streaked with tears.”

It was at this moment that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, rose and spoke on behalf of those present.

“Your Holiness, beloved and venerable Successor of Peter”, he said, “your moving message rang out in this hall like a bolt from the blue. We heard it with a sense of bewilderment, almost totally unbelieving. In your words we noted the great affection which you have always had for God’s holy Church, for this Church which you have so deeply loved”.

He added: “May I be permitted to tell you on behalf of the apostolic ‘upper room’, the College of Cardinals, on behalf of your dear co-workers, that we are closer to you than ever, as we have been especially close in these luminous eight years of your pontificate”.

Cardinal Sodano then expressed how very precious the Pope’s last acts as Holy Father will be to his flock. “During this month we shall have the joy of hearing your voice as a pastor: on Ash Wednesday, then on Thursday with the clergy of Rome, at the Angelus on the coming Sundays, at the Wednesday General Audiences. There will thus be many occasions on which to hear your fatherly voice again”.

He concluded: “Your mission will nevertheless continue. You said that you will always be close to us with your witness and with your prayers. Of course, the stars of heaven always continue to shine and thus the star of your pontificate will always shine among us. We are close to you, Holy Father, and please bless us.”

The Holy Father did so, then discreetly left the room. As this video by Rome Reports reveals, the Cardinals watched him go in silence, without applauding, not knowing how to react at this unprecedented moment in recent Church history.

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