As the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI comes to a close this evening with his resignation taking effect at 8pm Roman time, it is a great moment for us all to reflect on the Church and her mission in the world, and Christ's promise to Her.
The last 8 years have been full of challenges and sorrows for the Church and her members as the Holy Father pointed out in his final audience. But during that same time we have also witnessed countless instances of God's grace and work in our midst - Benedict's teaching and example not least among them.
At the end of his final address to us as Pope, Benedict exhorts us: "God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love."
We thank the Holy Father for the time he guided the Barque of Peter through turbulent waters, and we entrust his successor to Our Lord and his mercy. Though we do not yet know who that successor is, we have the assurance of Christ himself that he built his Church on Rock and "the gates of hell not prevail against it."