We watched his helicopter take off from behind the Vatican walls tonight, on a big screen in St. Peter’s Square with a couple thousand of our closest friends.
Just when it seemed like he had flown out of sight for good, we saw onlookers atop nearby roofs waving at the sky, and turned to see the Papal helicopter coming in for a final pass over the crowd in the piazza.
When Pope Benedict emerged from the Apostolic Palace tonight my throat closed up, and when a sweet Italian man in his late 40s knelt before the aging pontiff to kiss his Fisherman’s ring, I burst into tears.
Here was the driver of the world’s most famous Mercedes Benz, the Popemobile, paying his last respects to his departing boss.
I have nothing profound to add to the conversation much of the world is having tonight, except to express both gratitude and sorrow: gratitude for a man whose love transcended human bonds, whose deep humility guided his pontificate and his decision to step aside and let another take his place, and sorrow for the world whose rejection, hatred, and scorn he must surely have known every day of his papacy.
But then, the One he serves was treated much the same.
God bless you, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Roman Pontiff. A father who can no longer care for his children will always choose to entrust their care to another more capable than he rather than see them suffer for his lack. We understand. But it doesn’t lessen the pain of your leaving much.
Still, gentle Papa, in your own words to us this evening…buona notte.