VATICAN CITY — The cardinals and bishops who attended Pope Benedict XVI’s last big public appearance made sure to show him their love and respect, but it was a hard moment as well.
“There was a touch of sadness, as when one sees a person for the very last time,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella after the Pope’s last general audience.
“Bishops and cardinals have shown a lot of respect, love and affection towards him here today,” he said.
Around 200,000 people from all over the world came to St. Peter’s Square to see Pope Benedict for the last time before he steps down as pope tomorrow evening.
Archbishop Fisichella, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said that the audience was important in two ways.
“The first is the great humanity of the Holy Father, because he has spoken about his suffering in taking this decision, but it has also been a big experience of faith,” the archbishop said.
“The living Church embraces the Holy Father and manifests its love, but it’s an experience of faith,” he said. “We have the certainty that the Holy Spirit is with us, and so is the Holy Father with his resignation; but he is present among us with his prayer and his presence.”
Archbishop Fisichella believes Pope Benedict has given “a testimony of faith and big hope to the whole Church” during his papacy. “With his testimony and his teaching, which has a very rich deepness, and with his presence, prayer and silence — which talks about true prayer that we need to give to God — he will continue to help the Year of Faith.”