My dearest Papa Benedetto,
We have never met face-to-face and yet I love you so much. I have seen you a few times in my life-during the 2005 World Youth Day in your beloved Germany and on the feast of Christ the King in 2008 in Rome. I have prayed for you every Monday for the past three years-and on countless other occasions over the years.
I remember the day you were elected Pope. I’m sure that it made me happier than it did you. That “Habemus Papam,” the first of my life , filled me with such joy. You had comforted us so beautifully at the funeral of our beloved John Paul II when you reminded us of JPII’s constant refrain “Be not afraid.” And you have been the Papa of the Catholic Church for eight beautiful but difficult years. You have taught us about love and truth in difficult times. The name Benedict, the blessed one, has become incredibly important to me.
And today, you announced that you are resigning the Papacy effective February 28. You are stepping down for reasons that are good. I understand. And I pray that only the best will come to you. I pray for your successor, for the College of Cardinals who must listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit to choose your successor. I wish you well.
But I will miss you, your strong but gentle fatherly presence as our Papa. Blessed John Paul II was the Papa of my childhood. You are the Papa of my young adulthood, the Papa who educated me and led me into a fuller understanding of the faith. Your encyclicals strengthened and encouraged me. Your faith in Christ and your devotion to the people have inspired me. You have blessed me in so many ways.
You have been open to the work of God in your life. You have followed the Lord wherever he has led you. You have lived a life that is not the life you would have chosen for yourself because it is the life that God chose for you. You have shown us how to live humbly and how to follow the will of the Father. You have blessed us by your example and your willingness to follow the Lord.
Your name, Benedict, means the “blessed one,” but in truth we, the Catholic Church you have served with your life, we are the blessed ones. We have been blessed by your service, by your prayers, by your faith, by your wisdom, by your love. We have been so incredibly blessed by you-by your priesthood, by your years as a professor, by your time as a bishop, by your time as Prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of Faith, by your Papacy. You were called to be the Servant of the servants. You were called to serve. And you have served. You continue to serve. Knowing you, you will continue to serve until the day you are called home to the Father’s side.
God has used you to bless so many people. And we are so grateful both to him and to you for your openness to God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Thank you. Thank you for everything. Papa Benedetto, on behalf of a grateful Church, thank you for your fidelity and your service. We love you and we will continue to pray for you. Pray for us.
And Father God, thank you for the gift and blessing of your servant, Benedict. Thank you all you have done in him and through him.
And Papa Benedetto, well done, good and faithful servant. Thank you for everything. We love you. We will continue to pray for you.
Be not afraid. Today is a happy day for you and for the Church. Once again, I must say the only thing I can say to you. Well done, good and faithful servant. Thank you for eight beautiful years. May you have many blessed years. Pray for us, Papa Benedetto. We will continue to pray for you.
With sincere love and gratitude,
To the greater glory of Christ and his Church