Goodbye Pope Benedict XVI up close from the Vatican-A A +A
By Luci Lizares
Thursday, March 7, 2013
ON FEBRUARY 11, 2013, Monday, Pope Benedict XVI convoked a consistory not only for the three canonizations, but also communicated his renouncement of the Petrine ministry due to the fact that his strengths are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the said ministry.
I was alone at that time and kept on going over the news in my mind. As I replay the words of the Holy Father in my mind, I bring back memories related to him. I had chances of seeing the Holy Father up close. But, reading his writings is what I consider my closest contact with the Pope.
I was an economic instructor when he started his papacy. I read his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. The profundity of his reflections were expressed simply, adjusting to an average mind, the clarity of his explanations due to the aptness of the words he used, his ability to articulate human conditions hooked me to read his first encyclical again and again. Furthermore, I began to read more of his books up to a point that I have a checklist of his books, which I have and have not read.
Being an intellectual, I must not discount the fact that some of his works are indeed very difficult to understand, of higher level of abstraction, just like Calculus in Mathematics. In general though, his writings are very friendly, very schematic.
The writings of the Holy Father came to me as grace that has been leading me to where I am now, to what God has been wanting for me. I came across these lines, which helped me decide to take that leap and study theology and later on would help me affirm this decision, "...because your existence is good, my own existence too has become better, more precious, happier. By saying 'yes' to another, 'to you', I receive myself made new and can now in a way say 'yes' to myself thanks to you" (Pope Benedict XVI, The Yes of Jesus Christ).
I am not a nun nor do I belong to any religious congregation. I am just an ordinary common person with a career to manage, like everyone else.
However, God wants me to take His Words more seriously by studying theology to be able to explain His Words to people from all walks of life, for instance applying the Gospels in the context of Economics. Saying 'yes' to God makes me a better person because He knows what is best for. Ultimately, it is saying 'yes' to myself because this is really what I am made for. Thanks to the help of friends and a foundation, I am currently taking my second year of Theology here in Rome.
The news of his renouncement came as a shock. Yet, pondering his words and his person, I came to the conclusion that this must be the will of God. Reading his books leads me to think that the author is a man of prayer. His decisions are not a result of giving in to a desire for a comfortable life, nor out of whim, but definitely fruits of his prayer and therefore the will of God.
Furthermore, his humility, which can be defined as his acknowledgement of the truth, is admirable. Unlike people of his age who suffer from lack of senility of varying levels, his mind is very clear and very sharp still.
Yet, it cannot also be denied that a person of his age does suffer physical disabilities. This weakness he recognizes and he recognizes as well the fact that "in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith" he no longer has the strength to face these challenges as part of adequate performance of his ministry. His superior intellectual capacity could have compensated for his physical limitations. But, he did not insist on it. Instead, he makes an act of acknowledgement of truth, which is ultimately abandonment into the hands of God.
On February 17, 2013 Sunday, I was with friends at St. Peter's Square to accompany the Holy Father as he prayed the Angelus by his window and to bid him goodbye as he was headed to his retreat that evening.
On February 24, 2013 Sunday, we welcomed him back from his retreat by praying the Angelus with him. Days before, we would hear news that there would be many people and that it would be really very crowded. My friends and I decided to be there by 10:30 am though the Angelus did not take place until 12:00 noon. We were surprised to see St. Peter's Square already quite filled with people. We saw young people with their banners, cheering, enjoying. Many of us came to show our support and gratitude to the Holy Father. My friends and I came up with signs saying THANK YOU in different languages: German, Spanish, French and Chinese.
On February 27, 2013, Wednesday, we attended his last general audience held in St. Peter's Square instead. While we had difficulty acquiring the entrance tickets, luckily, during the Sunday Angelus, we were able to ask from the bronze gate.
Upon entering at the side entrance of the Square, we were given cards and stampitas as a token or souvenir from this last audience of the Holy Father. We arrived at the Square around 8:30 a.m.; it was already crowded. People had been arriving as early as 6:30 a.m. There were pilgrims from the neighboring countries in Europe, namely France, Spain, England, Ireland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, etc. The pilgrims were just there for the day to be there to support and to thank the Holy Father.
This week, since his last Sunday Angelus and his last general audience, the Pope's message has been consistent and very personal, giving us a peek of how his prayer had been these past days, of what he has been thinking, considering. He had been repeating the idea that he is not abandoning the Church, that he is not abandoning the Cross instead he will serve the Church with the same dedication and love but in a manner suited to his age and strength and that is through his prayers. Furthermore, he emphasized that his decision to renounce the Petrine ministry was not to return to privacy. He belonged to the Lord forever. Assuming the Papacy entailed belonging to all, to the Church. He promised to continue to follow the path of the Church with prayer and reflection.
He recalled how his reaction was when he assumed the Papacy on April 19, 2005. He had always been certain that God has always been accompanying him. These past eight years, though at times it could be tough, he knew that God has guided him, has been near him. He knows that the Church -- he referred to it as the boat of Peter -- is not his, not ours, but His. It is always God, though through human beings, who has been directing this boat. He also acknowledged that the Work of guiding the Church is not solely the Pope's responsibility, although it his first responsibility. It is the work of many people, who through their generosity, have stayed close to him. He was grateful for all the help.
On February 28, 2013, 5 p.m., we went to the rooftop and waited and waved for his helicopter to pass our place. At 8 p.m., we no longer had a Holy Father. (As narrated by Dorothy Jeanne Lacson Castaneda)
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 07, 2013.