In April 2005, when Pope John Paul II passed away, I felt like my neighbour's father had passed away. It came with a subtle tinge of melancholy, but not a very heavy heart. I felt, well, sorry at the grief expressed by many Catholic faithful throughout the world, but I shed no tear. The one who had passed away was a very, very good man. But he was "someone else".
Pope Benedict XVI - or "Benny", as I have been presumptuously addressing him all these years - is special to me because it was during his pontificate that I garnered enough courage to cross the Tiber. Such courage was in no small part due to many of his writings that I had devoured in the past years in the course of my academic labours.
But this is not the time for one to be overwhelmed with sentimentality. Knowing that the decision His Holiness has made is for the greater good of the Church, our spirits must be quickened to embrace the same virtue of servitude we see in the Vicar of Christ. Decisions often have to be made regardless of subjective sentiments, and this is a mark of spiritual depth and maturity.
I know that if we are to continue enjoying Joseph Ratzinger's presence with the Pilgrim Church in time to come, he must go and rest. I truly desire that for him, just as he desires the best for God's Church. His no longer being Pope will have no effect whatsoever over the affection and deep respect I have for him. He will ever be in my prayers as he devotes himself to the ministry of prayer.
We must have full faith that the Petrine Ministry will persist and that the Holy Church will continue being guided by the Spirit of God. In deep respect and admiration for the humility evident in the life of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, together with His undying love for the Church, we must continuously affirm our full communion with the See of Peter and pray for the next successor who will be called to bear this unenviable burden of office.
It is not the best thing for us to ask why this was necessary, for we can never fully understand. It is also not the best thing for us to ask who the next successor will be, for it is not for us to know until things unfold in God's good time. But it is for us to pray, and to invoke the intercessions of our Blessed Mother and all the saints of heaven, for all that is to take place in the next one month in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
It was a very wise Pope who exhorted us, in this Year of Faith, to "keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the 'pioneer and perfecter of our faith' (Heb 12:2)". ["Porta Fidei", 13]