Seven years ago!

May he be our shepherd for many, many more!

“When, little by little, the trend of the voting led me to understand that, to say it simply, the axe was going to fall on me, my head began to spin. I was convinced that I had already carried out my life’s work and could look forward to ending my days peacefully. With profound conviction I said to the Lord: Do not do this to me! You have younger and better people at your disposal, who can face this great responsibility with greater dynamism and greater strength.

I was then very touched by a brief note written to me by a brother Cardinal. He reminded me that on the occasion of the Mass for John Paul II, I had based my homily, starting from the Gospel, on the Lord’s words to Peter by the Lake of Gennesaret: ‘Follow me!’. I spoke of how again and again, Karol Wojtyła received this call from the Lord, and how each time he had to renounce much and to simply say: Yes, I will follow you, even if you lead me where I never wanted to go.

This brother Cardinal wrote to me: Were the Lord to say to you now, ‘Follow me’, then remember what you preached. Do not refuse! Be obedient in the same way that you described the great Pope, who has returned to the house of the Father. This deeply moved me. The ways of the Lord are not easy, but we were not created for an easy life, but for great things, for goodness.

Thus, in the end I had to say ‘yes’. I trust in the Lord and I trust in you, dear friends. A Christian is never alone, as I said yesterday in my Homily. In this way, I expressed the marvellous experience that we all lived through in the past four extraordinary weeks. Following the Pope’s death and all the sorrow that it brought, the living Church emerged. It was clear that the Church is a unifying force, a sign for humanity.

When the great radio and television broadcasting stations gave 24-hour coverage on the Pope’s return to the house of the Father, of people’s grief, of the accomplishments of this great man, they were responding to a participation that exceeded every expectation. The Pope appeared to them as a father who offered them security and trust, who in some way united everyone.

It became obvious that the Church is not closed in on herself and does not exist only for herself, but is a shining point for humanity. Indeed, it was seen that the Church is not old and immobile. No, she is young.

If we look at these young people who were gathered around the late Pope, and as a result, around Christ, whose cause the Pope espoused, something just as comforting could be seen: it is not true that young people think only of consumerism and pleasure. It is not true that they are materialistic and self-centred. Just the opposite is true: young people want great things. They want an end to injustice. They want inequalities to be overcome and all peoples to have their share in the earth’s goods. They want freedom for the oppressed. They want great things, good things.

This is why young people are – you are – once again fully open to Christ. Christ did not promise an easy life. Those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.

From the Address of Pope Benedict to German pilgrims, April 25, 2005

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