The following is the English translation of the greeting by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, addressed to Benedict XVI in the Clementine Hall this afternoon.
With great trepidation the Cardinal Fathers present in Rome today cling to you in order to demonstrate to you yet again their deep affection and to express their profound gratitude for your witness of self-sacrificing Apostolic service for the good of the Church of Christ and all of humanity.
Last Saturday at the end of the Spiritual Exercises in the Vatican, you desired to thank the Cardinals and your collaborators of the Roman Curia recalling these moving words: “Dear friends”, you called us, “I would like to thank all of you, and not only for this week, but for the past eight years during which you have carried with me – and with great competence, affection love and faith – the burden of the Petrine ministry”. You also addressed similar and moving words to the people and your collaborators yesterday in St Peter's Square.
Beloved and venerable Successor of Peter, we are the ones who should thank you for the example you gave us in these eight years of your Pontificate. On 19 April 2005 you were added to a long list of the Successors of the the Apostle Peter and today, 28 February 2013, you are preparing to leave, awaiting that the helm of the barque of Peter pass to other hands. Thus continues the Apostolic succession which the Lord promised to his Holy Church, until we hear the voice of the Angel of the Apocalypse on earth, proclaiming: “Tempus non erit amplius... consummabitur mysterium Dei” (Rev 10:6-7) “there shall be no more delay... the mystery of God..should be fulfilled”. Thus ends the history of the Church together with the history of the world, with the advent of a new heaven and a new earth.
Holy Father, with deep love we have sought to accompany you on your journey, reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus, who after walking with Jesus for a time on the road, said to each another: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?” (Lk 24:32).
Truly, Holy Father, you must know that our hearts burned when we walked with you in these eight years. Today we want to express once more all of our gratefulness.
Together we repeat the traditional expression of your dear homeland: "Vergelt's Gott". May God reward you!