Two years ago, on February 11, Pope Benedict took the floor in the Consistory. He spoke in Latin, so we strained to grasp where he was going. Within seconds it was clear what was happening. This was no ordinary address, writes Archbishop Leo Cushley.
- The Catholic Herald
February 11 is a holiday in the Vatican. It is the day when the Holy See celebrates the settlement in 1929 of the so-called “Roman Question,” the resolution of the 59-year stand-off between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See after the fall of Rome in 1870 to the Kingdom’s troops and the effective end of the ancient Papal States in central Italy.
By chance, it was also the day Pope Benedict XVI chose to resign.
The date had been scheduled for a small Consistory, comprising midday prayer and the announcement by Cardinal Angelo Amato of some beati due to be promoted to saints. There had also been a little gentle buzz for some time in the Roman Curia about the Holy Father announcing one or two important changes then, perhaps near the top of the administration, but these kinds of rumours circle like the seagulls around the Vatican’s Belvedere: they come round frequently, make a bit of noise and go away again. In other words, as in most places, nothing happens until it happens.
There was no indication that this day was going to be any different. It was also a holiday, and although the rest of the Curia was enjoying a rest, the few people around the person of the Holy Father, including myself, were to be on duty in the Apostolic Palace’s Sala del Concistoro to welcome him as he went to pray with the cardinals present in Rome and to go through the short ceremony.
As a Prelate of the Anticamera, a kind of aide de camp, who assists the Holy Father’s principal guests and makes sure everything goes according to plan when the great and the good come to call, I met the Holy Father before the ceremony began. As usual he came down by a private lift from his apartments with Archbishop Georg Gänswein and Mgr Alfred Xuereb, his two secretaries. He looked well but tired and greeted us in the usual way. As this was a day of particular solemnity, the Master of Ceremonies was present. Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the then-Almoner, was also there.
Once the Holy Father had been readied for the Liturgy of the Hours, we all followed him into the Sala del Concistoro to pray with the waiting cardinals. We sang midday prayer for the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11) then Cardinal Angelo Amato made his announcement regarding those soon to be promoted to the altars. So far so good.
Photo: Benedict XVI announces his resignation in Latin on February 11 2013