The Holy See
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Vatican Basilica
Ash Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Most Holy Father,

Not only the Church but also the whole world has learned with deep emotion and profound respect the news of your decision to renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor to the Apostle Peter.

Were we not to tell you, Your Holiness, that this evening our hearts are veiled in sorrow, we would not be sincere. In these years your Magisterium has been a window open on the Church and on the world; it has let the rays of truth and of God’s love stream in, giving light and warmth to us as we go on our way, even and especially when clouds are gathering above.

We have all understood, Your Holiness, that it is the deep love you feel for God and for the Church that has urged you to make this act, revealing the purity of mind, the robust and demanding faith, the power of humility and meekness, as well as tremendous courage, which have distinguished every step of your life and your ministry. They cannot but come from closeness to God, from living in the light of the word of God, from constantly ascending the mountain of the encounter with him, to come down later to the city of men.

Holy Father, a few days ago, together with the Seminarians of your Diocese of Rome, you gave us a special lesson; you said that as Christians we know that the future is ours, the future is God’s and that the tree of the Church always puts out new growth. The Church is always renewed, she is always reborn.

Serving the Church in the firm knowledge that she is not ours but God’s, that it is not we but he who builds her; saying truthfully those words of the Gospel: “we are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Lk 17:10) and trusting totally in the Lord, is a great teaching that even with this anguished decision you are not only imparting to us, Pastors of the Church, but also to the entire People of God.

The Eucharist is thanksgiving to God. We want to thank the Lord this evening for the journey the whole Church has made under your guidance, Your Holiness. And from the depths of our hearts we want to say to you with deep affection, feeling and admiration: thank you for giving us the shining example of a simple and humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard, a worker, however, who was able at every moment to do what is most important: to bring God to men and women and to bring men and women to God. Many thanks!