FEBRUARY 11 IN NUMBERS
February 11 commemorates some important moments for the Catholic Church:
Today is the 162st anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette.
It is the 91st anniversary of the establishment of Vatican City State via the 1929 Lateran Pacts.
It is the 28th World Day of the Sick, established in May 1992 by St. John Paul II, a year after he learned that he had Parkinson’s.
It is the 7th anniversary of the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he would resign the papacy effective at the end of the month.
The 11th hour of the 11th Day….
Today I focus on that last anniversary because of its unique nature and because of what it entailed for me – and hundreds of others – as a vaticanista. How to handle history as it is actually being made! Getting it right!
Where does one start to write about a day that is historical, stunning, amazing and also sad – there were so many reactions and emotions. Having lived in Rome for decades and having worked for or covered the Vatican and the papacy for all but two of those years, all of the above emotions were part of that incredible February 11, 2013 when we heard Pope Benedict XVI tell the world he would resign the papacy effective February 28, 2013!
Over the years, from my first visit to Rome as a college student to this very day, I have met or been in the presence of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis and have actually spoken to the last four. I was at the 1978 Mass when John Paul I was installed as Pope but never did meet him during his very brief pontificate.
Up to February 11, 2013, the whole world knew that the death of a Pope was the only way the papacy was vacated, that there could be a “sede vacante,” literally, a vacant seat (from which we get the word vacancy).
No one is alive on this earth today who had ever heard a Pope say what Pope Benedict did on that fateful, historical morning exactly seven years ago – Monday, February 11, 2013.
I remember every moment of that day and subsequent ones like it just happened yesterday – the resignation, the TV appearances, the press conferences, the preparations for a conclave, the mountains of research need to answer questions and to prepare for EWTN’s live television coverage of all events, the visits prepared for the media to Castelgandolfo where Benedict would be living until his permanent home was ready to receive him, and the monastery where Benedict now lives.
I look back at February 11, 2013 with amazement, with gratitude for being here during an historical period, with awe at the events of the months that followed, and once again with gratitude for a Church that could so beautifully transition from one papacy to another.
I look back at the courage and humility and love of the Church that prompted Pope Benedict to resign as he feared, sensed, realized he could not serve the Church he loved as she deserved.
Benedict XVI had become a role model for so many people, for millions of Catholics – and others – who miss him very much today and wish him well and pray for him on a daily basis. More frequently than you might imagine – still today, seven years later – people write me to ask me to please extend to Pope emeritus Benedict their regards, their love, their prayers and their thanksgiving for his pontificate. I try to pass on what I can!
I vividly remember telling U.S. television the night of Benedict’s resignation that Pope John Paul II, in his long suffering, taught us how to die and Pope Benedict, in his humility, courage and love, was teaching us how to live!
Too often we live and make decisions based on what others might think of us. We want to “look good,” we need approval before we act. We rarely look inside ourselves to see – even pray – what is the right thing to do. That is what Benedict XVI did. He looked inside himself and, with great honesty, unbelievable courage and his noted humility, he knew he had to leave the papacy.
In my mind’s eye today I’ve relived every encounter I had with Pope Benedict over the years – the brief exchanges, his soft smile, his wonderful blue eyes, his total sincerity. I will go to Mass and say a rosary today for Benedict, out of love, respect and gratitude.
All this, of course, was a lead-in to the conclave that elected our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
So let’s pray for both!
Vaticannews photo –