Nearly 150 thousand people gathered from various parts to attend the final general audience of Benedict XVI. One could sense the importance of this historic day, and perhaps not only for the Catholic Church. The emotions were controlled and in tune with the humble greatness of the ageing pope.
Benedict XVI was visibly moved by the huge turnout that surrounded him with immense warmth. He spoke spontaneously from the heart : “Thank you. I see the Church is alive and we must also thank the Lord for the gifting us such good weather in winter.” He defined the Church as “a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. The Gospel purifies and renews.”
His open and lucid sharing reveals what he is presently living. “I took this step in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.” And he affirmed with conviction, “I’m not abandoning the cross, but remain in a new way close to the Crucified Lord.”
Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement, who together with a few hundreds of adherents of the Movement participated in Benedict XVI’s final general audience, gave her immediate impressions:
“It was a moment of profound communion with pope Benedict. I felt as if he raised us up with him on the mountain, to where God is now calling him, and helped us to contemplate the Church as it appears from that altitude, a united people, family of God, living body.” “While he reiterated his decision, we sensed however that it would not have distanced him but rather, I would say, enabled him to be closer to each one of us.” “Next to me, besides Giancarlo Faletti, there was Brother Alois from the Taizé Community with a confrere, Kiko Arguello from the Neocatechumenal Way, and other representatives of Movements. When he passed by us, he recognised and greeted us with visible affection.”
And apart from this, she replied to the following questions in an interview published by Città Nuova:
What do you think the Focolare Movement could learn from this?
“I was deeply struck by what Benedict XVI mentioned in his address, when referring to the Church he said that it was “renewed and purified by the life of the Gospel.” I strongly sensed it was a call to that life of the Gospel that truly renews us in every moment. I clearly understood that more than trying to improve something, it meant a return to a life of the Gospel that is integral, authentic, “with coherence” as the pope himself clarified. Coherent to the faith that we received and profess. Besides, we must be close to the pope and climb the mountain to pray with him. With his very trust in Jesus who leads the Church, with the same serene optimism that he has shown us.”
Which words touched you the most?
“The reference to the Church as a family, perhaps because even Chiara Lubich, before leaving this earth, urged us to “be family”. For this reason I felt that it was the same voice urging us from two sides the very same perspective. It is the one of Christ, who by coming on this earth, wanted to form his family, the Church. As he sees it and not as we humans are used to seeing and considering it. That is, the Church as it ought to be: his body, bride, family.”