Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, conveyed his "sense of loss" and "total disbelief" at Pope Benedict's announcement that he would be resigning the See of St. Peter at the end of the month.
"Allow me to tell you, in the name of this apostolic cenacle - the College of Cardinals - on behalf of these your dear colleagues, let me tell you that we are closer to you than ever, as we have been in these eight luminous years of your pontificate," Cardinal Sodano said.
Reflecting on the beginning of the Holy Father's papacy, Cardinal Sodano admired the Pope's resolve when first elected as Supreme Pontiff.
"On April 19th, 2005, if I remember correctly, at the end of the Conclave I asked you, with trembling voice, 'Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?', And you did not take long - albeit with trepidation - to respond by saying that you accepted, trusting in the Lord and in the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church," he said.
"Like Mary, that day you gave your "yes" and thus began your luminous pontificate following in continuity, that continuity of which you have spoken to us so much in the history of the Church, in continuity with your 265 predecessors in the Chair of Peter, in the course of two thousand years of history, from the Apostle Peter, the humble fisherman of Galilee, up to the great popes of the last century, from St. Pius X to Blessed John Paul II."
Cardinal Sodano said that before the Holy Father officially resigns on February 28th, the College of Cardinals as well as the faithful will have "the opportunity to better express our feelings." The Dean of the College of Cardinals also said that during this month, the faithful will have the joy of listening to the Pope on Ash Wednesday, on the Thursday's meeting with the clergy of Rome, as well as the Angelus addresses on the coming Sundays. Such moments, he said, will give the faithful "many opportunities still to hear your fatherly voice."
"Your mission, however, will continue: you have said that you will always be close to us with your testimony and your prayer. Of course, the stars in the sky shine forever and so there will always shine in our midst the star of your pontificate. We are close to you, Holy Father and bless us," Cardinal Sodano concluded.