Tens of thousands filled St. Peter’s Square today to hear the final Sunday sermon by Pope Benedict XVI. The pope stressed to the crowd that he was not abandoning the Church and that the Lord directed him to make the decision to step down.
Catholic News Agency reported:
Around 120,000 pilgrims heard Pope Benedict XVI deliver his last Angelus address, in which he said that “the Lord called me to ‘climb the mountain,’ to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation,” a change that does not mean he is “abandoning the Church.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope said as he dwelt on the Sunday Gospel on the Transfiguration, “the Word of God feels particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord called me to ‘climb the mountain,’ to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation.”
“But this does not mean abandoning the Church,” he qualified, “indeed, if God asks me this it is just so that I can continue to serve with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done so far, but in a way more suited to my age and for me.”
The Pope will be both physically and spiritually “climbing the mountain,” since the Mater Ecclesiae monastery where he will retire sits on the highest point in Vatican City with a view of the back of St. Peter’s Basilica and then the rest of Rome.
When he mentioned how the Gospel felt directed at him, the crowd reacted with applause that echoed through an overflowing St. Peter’s Square.
In his reflections on the Transfiguration in Luke’s Gospel, Pope Benedict described the encounter as “a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John, the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master.”