A telegram - signed by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano – was sent to Benedict XVI by the prelates which met this morning, 5 March, in the Synod Hall at the Third General Congregation.

“The Cardinal Fathers meeting in the Vatican for their General Congregations with a view to the upcoming Conclave”, the text reads, “send you in unison a devout greeting, together with the expression of their renewed gratitude for the whole of your luminous Petrine ministry and for the example you have given them of generous pastoral solicitude for the good of the Church and of the world. Their gratitude is intended to represent all the gratitude of the Church for your tireless work in the Lord's vineyard. Lastly, the members of the College of Cardinals trust in your prayers for them and, likewise, for the entire Church”.

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In this week’s editorial, Fr. Federico Lombardi, sj, reflects on the witness of Pope Benedict XVI in the final days of his pontificate. Fr. Lombardi is the director of the Press Office of the Holy See. Read Vatican Radio’s English translation below.

The final days of the pontificate of Benedict XVI will certainly remain ingrained in the memory of innumerable people and will mark an important stage, new and unprecedented, in the history of a pilgrim Church. For many it was almost a discovery of the Pope’s humanity and spirituality; for others, a confirmation of his humility, along with his deep life in faith.

If Pope Wojtyla had given, with admirable courage before the eyes of the world, his courageous witness of faith in the suffering of sickness, Pope Ratzinger, without lesser courage, gave us the witness of acceptance before God of the limits of old age and of the discernment on the exercise of responsibility that God had entrusted to him. Both taught us, not only with the Magisterium, but also and perhaps even more effectively with their lives, what it means to seek and to find everyday the will of God for us and for our service, even in the most crucial situations of human existence.

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A heartfelt thanks! I am truly moved! And I see the Church alive! Pope Benedict XVI

From all over the world thousands of pilgrims arrived at St. Peter's Square. Among them there were also Pallottine Missionary Sisters from three Roman communities. Early in the morning, we came in the front of the Basilica of St. Peter to keep vigil in unity with the living Church that today, with whole heart gave thanks to the Holy Father for his love, dedication and service.

As we waited for the Pope to arrive, we marveled at the beautiful azure skies and enjoyed the brilliant sunshine. Above our heads waved flags from many countries and banners expressing feelings of love and gratitude in different languages such as: "Tu est Petrus”, "Non ci sentiamo abbandonati, ma fortificati” - We young ones love you; "You always remain in our hearts, "We thank you Holy Father", "We'll miss you", "Pozostaniesz zawsze w naszych sercach".

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"Thank you, thank you from my heart. I am happy to be here with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your friendship that does me so much good, thank you for your friendship, for caring. You know that today is different from others… as of eight pm I will no longer be the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. I will simply be a pilgrim who is beginning the last part of his pilgrimage on earth. But with my heart, my love, my prayer, with all my inner strength, I will work for the common good and the good of the Church and all humanity. And I feel greatly supported by your affection. Let us move forward together with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. I will now impart upon you all my Apostolic Blessing.
Thank you and good night. Thank you all."

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Pope Benedict XVI held the final General Audience of his pontificate on Wednesday in St Peter's Square. 

Below, please find Vatican Radio's English translation of the Holy Father's remarks.

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