Statement by Cardinal Willliam Levada At Press Conference
At the beginning of this press conference, I would like to make a few preliminary remarks, after which I will be happy to reply to questions, insofar as I am able.
It is important for me to begin with an affirmation of my great respect for and loyalty to Pope Benedict XVI, who has announced his resignation from the office of the Papacy effective at 8pm on this coming Thursday, February 28 (Rome time). Tomorrow I will leave San Francisco for Rome, planning to arrive on February 27 and thus be able to participate in the meeting to which he has invited the Cardinals at 11am on February 28, in order to greet us individually and offer us his farewell as Pope. I have no doubt that this encounter will be a moment of great emotion for me and for many of my brother Cardinals.
I was associated with the Holy Father long before his election as Pope on April 19, 2005. During the last year of my six-year term of service as an official in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1981) Cardinal Ratzinger succeeded Cardinal Seper, the former Archbishop of Zagreb in Croatia as Prefect. Subsequently Cardinal Ratzinger, as president of the Commission for a Catechism of the Catholic Church, appointed me one of seven bishops from around the world to serve on the Editorial Committee, responsible for preparing the successive drafts for what would finally be adopted as the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992.
In 1999 Cardinal Ratzinger and members of his staff came to San Francisco for the last of a series of continent-wide meetings with the heads of the Doctrinal Commissions of the various Bishops’ Conferences of the region, on this occasion those from North America and Oceania. After this meeting, he gave a masterful public lecture on Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical “Faith and Reason” here in this seminary chapel. From 2000-2005 I served as a “member” of the Congregation over which he presided as Prefect for so many years; the “members” serve as a kind of Board of Directors of this department of the Holy See.
When I visited the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI the week after his installation to offer him personal congratulations and the fervent promise of prayers for his ministry, he thanked me and then told me he was calling me to succeed him, to my great surprise. The next seven years were a graced moment for me: heavy responsibilities, to be sure, but reassured by the confidence he expressed in me at our weekly meetings, and grateful for his ready response to the decisions I presented for his review.
Naturally I was as surprised as the rest of the Church and world by his decision to resign. But it is clear to me that in view of his age and weakening condition, his paramount concern was the good of the Church, and her need to have a Pope capable of meeting the enormous demands of the Papacy. Now I want to say to Pope Benedict, and to remind us all, how much he has given to the Church during his almost eight years of service to the universal Church as Bishop of Rome. He has left an immense patrimony that will enrich the Church for years to come: I think of his encyclicals, his catecheses, his splendid homilies during so many liturgies at St. Peter’s and throughout the world. I think too of the remarkable addresses he gave on various trips on the role of faith in today’s cultures, for example in the United States and at the United Nations, at Westminster Hall in London, at the College des Bernardins in Paris, at the Bundestag in Berlin, and so many others.
Holy Father, I thank you for your dedication to serving us as Pope, above all for your constant reminder to turn always to Jesus Christ, sent as our Good Shepherd by a loving God and Father to save us and lead us to eternal life. Holy Father, we wish you many fruitful years ahead, ad multos annos!
With Pope Benedict’s resignation, the historic mission of the Cardinals as Electors of his successor comes to the fore. As the first of the Cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict, this will be a new experience for me. To date, it seems that 117 Cardinals under the age of 80 (out of a total of 120 possible Electors) will enter the Conclave in the Sistine Chapel for the papal election. I will be the first former Archbishop of San Francisco to have this privilege and solemn duty. To exercise it well, I rely on the prayers of all the faithful of the Church. I also ask the prayers of my brother and sisters in other Christian communities. Jesus has assured us that the prayers we fervently pray to God will receive a response. I ask as well the good will and prayers of the whole community for this important moment in the history of the Catholic Church. Thank you.
By CARDINAL WILLLIAM LEVADA
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
February 25, 2013, Saint Patrick’s Seminary and University
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