The following is EWTN’s coverage of the final hours in Vatican City of Pope Benedict on February 28, 2013. We see him take leave of the Apostolic Palace and staff of the Roman Curia and then, in one of the more moving moments of perhaps any live event we’ve seen on television, we follow the helicopter that takes the Pope to Castelgandolfo as it flies over Vatican City and its gardens, St. Peter’s Basilica, ancient Rome, the Colosseum, St. John Lateran Basilica (the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope) and the Italian countryside, including ancient Roman aqueducts (one of which still works!) to the peaceful, small Roman hill town of Castelgandolfo

Towards the end of the video, we can see a sign in Castelgandolfo as Benedict arrives: “Your humility has made me greater! Thank you, Pope Benedict”

Get out the handkerchiefs!

And this is the video of literally the final moments of the Benedict papacy as the doors of the apostolic palace of Castelgandolfo close at precisely 8 pm!




For those who have been following events in the Holy Land and the fact that the doors of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre were closed by religious leaders to protest a proposed tax on Church properties by the Israeli government: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre reopened early Wednesday morning after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became personally involved and stopped measures.

“We, the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulchre and the status quo governing the various Christian holy sites in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custodian of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – give thanks to God for the statement released earlier today by Prime Minister Netanyahu and offer our gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to uphold the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the status quo,” the leaders of the three denominations in charge of the site said in a statement.

Among those urging leaders to reconsider this proposal, citing the potential damage to the Christian populace, was Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher.


Pope Francis’ general audience was originally scheduled to take place today in St. Peter’s Square but, given the frigid temperatures, the faithful were accompanied to both St. Peter’s Basilica, where the Holy Father stopped briefly, greeting people and shaking hands, and then in the Paul VI Hall where the main body of his catechesis took place.

Continuing his weekly general audience catechesis on the Mass, Pope Francis today highlighted the Liturgy of the Eucharist that begins, he said, with the “preparation of the gifts of bread and wine,” a rite that “invites us to present our own lives as a spiritual offering.”

“In our catechesis on the Mass, we now turn from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Following the Lord’s command at the Last Supper to ‘do this in memory of me’, the Church at every Mass makes sacramentally present the sacrifice of the New Covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the cross. The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the Preparation of the Gifts of bread and wine that will then be consecrated in the Eucharistic Prayer and received by the faithful in Holy Communion.

“The rite of the Preparation of the Gifts invites us to present our own lives as a spiritual offering together with the gifts we bring to the altar. The Prayer that concludes this rite voices our confidence that the Church’s offering will be transformed by the Holy Spirit and become a sacrifice pleasing to the Father, in union with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”

Francis said that, “through the holy signs, the Church renders ever present the Sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the Cross. (The Cross) was the first Christian altar, (and) when we approach the altar our memory goes to that first altar. …. The priest, who in the Mass represents Christ, does what the Lord himself did and entrusted to the disciples at the Last Supper: He took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, gave them to the disciples, saying: ‘Take, eat … drink: this is my body … this is the cup of my blood. Do this in memory of me’. Obedient to the command of Jesus, the Church has arranged the Eucharistic Liturgy in moments that correspond to the words and gestures He made on the eve of his Passion.”

“At every Mass,” concluded the Pope, “may we experience the Preparation of the Gifts as an invitation to offer our lives completely to the Lord, in order to receive from him the grace to live ever more fully our vocation to grow in holiness and to serve the coming of his Kingdom.”


In his greetings to pilgrims and visitors from Syria, the Holy Land and the Middle East at the general audience, Pope Francis improvised yet another appeal for what he called that “martyred nation,” saying, “We must pray for these brothers and sisters of ours and for all persecuted Christians, they want to drive them away.”

Although the United Nations Security Council has called for a ceasefire in order to allow humanitarian aid to reach the most affected areas, reports from Syria claim that fighting is continuing despite the truce.



Thursday, February 28, 201

Venerable and Dear Brothers,

I welcome you with great joy and I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, as always, interpreted the sentiments of the entire College: Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart] I warmly thank you, Your Eminence. And I would like to say — taking up your reference to the disciples of Emmaus — that for me too it has been a joy to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord.

EWTN’s coverage of this final morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp0aTMJ3RU

As I said yesterday to the thousands of faithful who filled St Peter’s Square, your closeness and your advice have been of great help to me in my ministry. In these eight years we have lived with faith very beautiful moments of radiant light on the Church’s journey, as well as moments when several clouds gathered in the sky. We sought to serve Christ and his Church with profound and total love, which is the heart and soul of our ministry. We gave hope, the hope that comes to us from Christ, which alone can give light to us on our journey. Together we may thank the Lord who has enabled us to grow in communion and, together, pray him to help us to grow even more in this profound unity, so that the College of Cardinals may be like an orchestra where differences — an expression of the universal Church — contribute to a superior and harmonious concord.

I would like to leave you a simple thought, which is deep in my heart: a thought about the Church, about her mystery, that constitutes for us all — we can say — the reason and passion for life.

I will allow a sentence of Romano Guardini to help me. It was written in the very same year that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, in his last book, which also a personal dedication to me — which makes the words of this book particularly dear to me. Guardini says the Church “is not an institution conceived and built in theory… but a living reality…. She lives through the course of time, in becoming, like every living being, in undergoing change…. And yet in her nature she remains ever the same and her heart is Christ”.

It seems to me that this was our experience yesterday in the Square: seeing that the Church is a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and which is really brought to life by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. That is why Guardini’s other famous saying is both true and eloquent: “The Church is reawakened in souls”. The Church is alive, she grows and is reawakened in souls who — like the Virgin Mary — welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the action of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh. It is precisely in their poverty and humility that they become capable of begetting Christ in the world today. Through the Church, the Mystery of the Incarnation lives on for ever. Christ continues to walk through the epochs and in all places.
Let us stay united, dear Brothers, in this Mystery: in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and in this way we shall serve the Church and the whole of humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For this reason, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.