The cardinals who took part in Monday’s consistory did so thinking that it would be somewhat of a routine, that after Benedict XVI heard the reports of the postulators and the indications of the cardinals regarding those that are to be canonized, he would indicate the dates for the canonizations, and the cardinals would go about their ways.
Instead, at the end of the consistory came the great surprise: with the calm that characterizes him, Benedict XVI announced his resignation.
ZENIT asked Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, who attended the consistory, exactly what happened and how the cardinals received the Holy Father’s decision.
ZENIT: Eminence, how did they receive the news in a consistory that seemed quite ordinary?
Cardinal Abril y Castelló: We were very astonished by the news because evidently such an announcement is no small thing for the life of the Church. And we, who are the Holy Father’s closest collaborators and pastors of the Church, received the news at the same time with profound regret.
Because we saw that the pastor of the Church, who gives her direction, took at a certain moment in conscience this important decision. A regret we all shared at that moment.
ZENIT: So, regret for the resignation was evident?
Cardinal Abril y Castelló: We received it especially with immense respect, because we know that Benedict XVI has a very profound sense of what the Church is. He has thought that it was appropriate for Her good that he resign from his post as pastor, as he indicated in his message.
ZENIT: Regret and at the same time respect …
Cardinal Abril y Castelló: Yes, and also because of the esteem and veneration we have for this Pope, in as much as he is a pastor with a great personality and immense love of the Church. A Pontiff who has been characterized by his humility despite his having a lucid mind and a tremendously clear vision of everything.
ZENIT: The Holy Father said he lacked strength. Has he been affected by the great load of work he’s had these years and the endeavor for transparency and purification that he has promoted?
Cardinal Abril y Castelló: On some occasions he seemed very tired, although in no way did it seem to be a worrying state of health. However, the Holy Father has been able to size up well his physical situation at 85, which isn’t as good as we thought.
ZENIT: Father Lombardi, his spokesman, said that it was a decision that took great courage and humility.
Cardinal Abril y Castelló: Very much courage is needed to make a decision of this importance, and I’m sure that he thought about it very thoroughly. So we ask the Lord to continue to accompany and bless him for the immense good he has done.
Meanwhile I lament that in the future we won’t have the lucidity and clarity of his teaching as Pontiff, although we will be able to continue to profit from the books, addresses and documents he has left us.
ZENIT: He surprised us once again.
Cardinal Abril y Castelló: Certainly, without a doubt![Translation by ZENIT]
Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló is 77 years old. He was born in Alfambra, Spain, and ordained a priest at age 24. As a priest and bishop, he served as apostolic nuncio on various continents. Since 2011, he has been archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.