Today is the last day of work for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. At 8 pm Rome time the See of Rome becomes vacant.
Last Sunday I had the honour of representing Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at a Mass of Thanksgiving for the ministry of Pope Benedict at which the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, presided. Other ecumenical guests came from the Orthodox, Armenian and United Reformed Churches as well as Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and Churches Together in England. We were able to convey to Archbishop Nicols the assurance of our prayers for the Roman Catholic Church at this momentous time.
In his homily, Archbishop Nichols said that now is the time to pray for the discussions and decisions of the Conclave, and to thank God for the blessings of the pontificate of Pope Benedict, and to pray that God will bless and preserve him. The Archbishop ended the service in the packed cathedral with this prayer:
Almighty ever-living God, who has given your faithful servant Benedict grace to maintain his faith and hope in you amid the labours of his apostolic ministry; graciously bestow upon him, we pray, the consolations of your Holy Spirit and uphold him in serenity of life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(All photos © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)