VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered to the cardinals present in Rome, when receiving them today in audience.
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Venerated Brother Cardinals!
1. I am meeting with you today as I would like to share, in a simple and fraternal way, the state of spirit I am living these days. After the intense emotions caused by the death of my venerated predecessor John Paul II, and then during the conclave and above all its epilogue, I perceive a profound need for silence and two complementary sentiments: an intense heartfelt gratitude and a sense of human impotence before the enormous undertaking that awaits me.
First of all, gratitude. I feel, in the first place, the need to render thanks to God, who willed me, despite my human frailty, as successor to the Apostle Peter, and has entrusted me with the task to govern and guide the Church, so that she will be a sacrament of unity in the world for the whole human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” No. 1). We are certain, that the eternal Shepherd leads his flock with the strength of his Spirit, supporting it, at all times, with Shepherds chosen by him.
In these days the unanimous prayer of the Christian people was raised for the new Pontiff, and the first meeting with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square the day before yesterday in the evening was truly moving: To all bishops, priests, men and women religious, young people and elderly I express my heartfelt gratitude for their spiritual solidarity.
2. I feel the need to express my profound gratitude to each one of you, venerated brothers, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, on behalf of all of you, expressed to me a short while ago your sentiments of affection and cordial good wishes. With him, I thank the cardinal chamberlain, Eduardo Cardinal Martínez Somalo, for the service generously rendered in this delicate phase of transition.
I then wish to extend my sincere gratitude to all the members of the College of Cardinals for their active collaboration in the administration of the Church during the vacancy of the see.
With special affection I wish to greet the cardinals who, for reasons of age or illness, did not take part in the conclave. I am grateful to each one for the example they gave of availability and fraternal communion, as well as for their intense prayer and expressions of faithful love of the Church, bride of Christ.
I cannot but express my profound thanks, moreover, to all those who with different functions, cooperated in the organization and development of the conclave, helping the cardinals in many ways to spend these days, charged with responsibility, in the most safe and tranquil way.
3. Venerated brothers, to you my most personal gratitude for the trust you placed in me, electing me Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the universal Church. It is an act of trust that constitutes encouragement to undertake this new mission with more serenity, because in addition to the indispensable help of God, I am convinced that I am also able to count on your generous collaboration. I beg you, never fail to give me your support!
If on one hand I am conscious of the limits of my person and my ability, on the other I am well aware of the nature of the mission that has been entrusted to me and that I set out to undertake with an attitude of interior devotion. It is not a question of honors, but of service to be carried out with simplicity and availability, imitating our teacher and Lord, who did not come to be served but to serve (cf. Matthew 20:28), and who in the Last Supper washed the feet of the apostles, asking them to do the same (cf. John 13:13-14).
Therefore, all that remains now is for me and all of us together to accept from providence the will of God and to do our best to correspond to it, helping one another in the fulfillment of our respective duties at the service of the Church.
4. I treasure at this moment going back in thought to my venerated predecessors, Blessed John XXIII, the servants of God Paul VI and John Paul I and especially John Paul II, whose testimony in days gone by has sustained us more than ever, and whose ever living presence we continue to feel. The painful event of his death, after a period of great trials and sufferings, was revealed in fact with paschal characteristics, as he hoped in his testament (24.II – 1.III.1980). The light and strength of the risen Christ were irradiated in the Church in that sort of “last Mass” that he celebrated in his agony, culminating in the “Amen” of a life totally given, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the salvation of the world.
5. Venerated brothers! Each one will now return to his respective See to take up his work again, but spiritually we will remain united in faith and love of the Lord, in the bond of the Eucharistic celebration, in constant prayer and in sharing daily the apostolic ministry.
Your spiritual closeness, your enlightened counsels and your energetic cooperation will be a gift to me for which I shall always be grateful and a stimulus to fulfill the mandate entrusted to me with total fidelity and devotion.
To the Virgin Mother of God, who with her silent presence supported the steps of the nascent Church, and comforted the faith of the apostles, I commend all of us and the expectations, hopes and concerns of the whole community of Christians. Under Mary’s maternal protection, Mater Ecclesiae, I invite you to journey in docility and obedience to the voice of her divine Son and our Lord Jesus Christ. Invoking her constant support, I impart from my heart the apostolic blessing to every one of you and to all those whom Divine Providence has entrusted to your pastoral care.
[Original text: Italian; translation by ZENIT]