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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
On February 27, 2013 there will be many people including focolarini, at the last General Audience of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square.

This will be a unique occasion for the Focolare Movement to once again express its gratitude and to pray with the Pope and  thousands of others who will gather at St. Peter’s, for the Church’s future.

“Your Holiness, the Focolare Movement wishes to be near to you with great gratitude for the fatherly love and support you have always shown it.”

The Focolare wishes to be part of the planetary embrace that has enveloped the Holy Father during these final days of his Pontificate. It wants to be there to express to the Holy Father its closeness in prayer. As the news began to spread at the Vatican Press Office on February 11th, Maria Voce wrote to the Pope on behalf of all the focolarini of the world: “We want you to know that we are at your side, in deep and constant prayer for this new phase that is opening in your life and in the life of the Church with that sure faith in God’s love, which you called us to in a special way this year. We continue to wish you well and we will always love you!”

The announcement of the Pope’s resignation took the world by surprise. Declarations of esteem and support immediately began to arrive  praising the Pope’s “humility and courage”. Messages arrived from politicians, Christian and non-Chrisitan leaders, and ordinary people in response to this rather unique gesture in the history of the Church. And all of them expressed the love and consideration that this Pope enjoys at all levels of today’s world.

The president of the Focolare Movement admits that the first reaction was one of “dismay and even pain as the Pope spoke of his declining ‘strengths of both body and spirit, due to an advanced age’. Words spoken so simply and so humbly by the Pope that they make him appear all the greater to us precisely in his weakness.” It was because of this sentiment that the focolarini felt urged to send a “message of gratitude” to the Holy Father. But we also saw in this a call of God to a greater unity. Maria Voce explains: “This is our charism and in this moment more than ever we should give witness to it, pulling together in a worldwide renewal of the pact, from one end of the world to the other, so that we can make available to the whole Church the great  treasure of Jesus in our midst.”  

The Citta Nuova website dedicated a special edition to the Pope’s resignation and received many reactions from its readers. “Many people give their analyses, critical or benevolent acclaim, I simply wish to express my love for Benedict XVI.” “After the initial shock . . . I saw his decision as a confirmation of his greatness.” “I was struck by how the Pope was able to conceal his decision during these months, probably in a deep and ongoing conversation with God. I feel that his experience personally challenges me and has much to teach me.”

With regard to this ongoing conversation with God, theologian Piero Coda, Dean of the Sophia University Institute writes: “Benedict XVI has surprised us from the beginning of his ministry because, with the simplicity and radicalism of the Gospel he talked to us about his relationship with Jesus and the relationship that, in Jesus, we are called to have among ourselves in the most beautiful and intense expressions of our [human] experience: friendship. The unexpected gesture with which he today announced his resignation from the ministry of the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter the Apostle, is the highest sign of this friendship that he has offered us. It is a high gesture that not only places the seal on his extraordinary Pontificate, but one that opens a new stage in the way of understanding and adminstrating the ministry of the papacy.”

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