28 February 2013
Pope Benedict XVI, in his last general audience with tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square, has thanked people around the world "who, in recent weeks, have sent me touching tokens of concern, friendship, and prayer".
"Yes, the Pope is never alone," he said. "I feel this again now in such a great way that it touches my heart.
"The Pope belongs to everyone and many people feel very close to him. It's true that I receive letters from the world's notables — from heads of states, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, etc. But I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their hearts and make me feel their affection, which is born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church.
"These people do not write to me the way one would write, for example, to a prince or a dignitary that they don't know. They write to me as brothers and sisters or as sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie.
"In this you can touch what the Church is — not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ who unites us all. Experiencing the Church in this way and being able to almost touch with our hands the strength of His truth and His love is a reason for joy at a time when many are speaking of its decline. See how the Church is alive today!
"In these last months I have felt that my strength had diminished and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its seriousness and also its newness, but with a profound peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, agonized choices, always keeping in mind the good of the Church, not of oneself.”