Vatican City—As he left office for a quiet life of prayer, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged the difficulties he’s faced during the past eight years. “There were moments of joy and light but also moments that were not easy,” he told a crowd of 150,000 people in St. Peter’s Square. There were moments, as there were throughout the history of the church, when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping.”
Benedict, now known as pope emeritus, said he had “a profound serenity of spirit” about his resignation, a rare move that he said is for the good of the church. Benedict, who said he’ll continue to serve the church through prayer, pledged his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor, who’s expected to be in place by Easter.
Vatican communications adviser Greg Burke said Benedict was calm and serene. “Above all else, he showed he has faith,” Burke said. “His message was that it’s not our church, it’s not my church, it’s the church of Christ.”
To loud applause, Benedict said, “To love the church means also to have the courage to take difficult, painful decisions, always keeping the good of the church in mind, not oneself.”
Most well-wishers who heard Benedict’s farewell address said he made the right decision. Sister Carmela said it was a day of hope. “There is no room for sadness here today. We have to pray, there are many problems in the church but we have to trust in the Lord.”
After Benedict’s address, the Pope’s Twitter account posted this message: “If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!”
Sources: Reuters, nbcnews.com
- How do you feel about the way Pope Benedict exited? Were you surprised to hear him admit how tough his papacy was? Why or why not?
- Can you relate to the Pope’s lament about times when God seemed to be asleep? If so, explain. When life gets “stormy,” why does it often seem as if God is far away? How can you reconcile those feelings with God’s promise to always be with us?
- What makes you feel serene, and why? Are you ever able to experience calm and peace in the middle of difficulties? If so, explain.
- How do challenges and trials affect your trust in God? your hope? your prayer life? After the difficulties pass, do you tend to pray less? Why or why not?
- What do crises and how they’re handled reveal about someone? Are you willing to endure lots of difficulties if they present you with opportunities to grow stronger and to witness to others? Why or why not?
- Why do you think churches often experience internal strife? Can churches still be effective at preaching God’s Word and spreading the gospel, even when they have inner turmoil? How can churches be strengthened by storms?
- Describe a time when you’ve put the needs of the church above your own needs and desires: What impact did that have on you? on others? What sacrifices are you willing (or unwilling) to make for the sake of God’s kingdom as a whole?
Scripture links: Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 121; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 14:25-35; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16.