Pope Benedict XVI has revealed to his closest collaborators in the Sacred College of Cardinals how the “dark nights” of his life have brought him closer to Christ.
“In this moment my words can only be a word of thanks; firstly gratitude to the Lord for giving me so many years; years with many days of joy, wonderful times, but also dark nights,” he said May 21.
“But in retrospect one realizes that even the nights were necessary and good, a cause for thanksgiving.”
Pope Benedict made his unscripted remarks at a private lunch at the Vatican with several dozen cardinals. The gathering was held to mark the 7th anniversary of his pontificate and also his 85th birthday. The comments were only officially released to the media May 22.
During lunch, the Pope told the cardinals that “we see how evil wants to dominate in the world and that it is necessary to enter into the fight against evil.”
He added that although the term “the Church Militant” is deemed “a bit out of fashion” these days, it is actually the phrase that best “possesses the truth.”
This evil, he said, manifests itself in many obvious ways through “different forms of violence” but, more subtly, it can also be found “masquerading as goodness, and thus destroying the moral foundations of society.”
Pope Benedict reminded the cardinals of St. Augustine’s maxim that “all of history is a struggle between two loves.” Either we love of ourselves and have contempt for God or we love God and have contempt for ourselves in martyrdom.
“We are in this fight and in this struggle it is very important to have friends,” he told them before thanking them personally for their friendship over the past seven years.
“Thank you for the communion of joys and sorrows. Let us go forward,” said the Pope, reminding them of the Christ’s promise “Courage, I have overcome the world.”
“We are in the Lord’s team, therefore in the winning team,” he concluded before proposing a toast.
Yesterday’s remarks are in keeping with several recent comments by the Pope in which he has alluded to the difficulties he has faced during his pontificate.
Earlier this month he used a Wednesday General Audience to thank people for their prayers and support since he election as Successor of Peter in 2005.
“From the first moment of my election as the Successor of St. Peter, I have always felt supported by the prayers of you all, by the prayer of the Church, especially by your prayers at moments of greatest difficulty, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he told pilgrims in St. Peters Square May 9.
“Unanimous and constant prayer is a precious instrument in overcoming all of the trials that may arise in the path of life, because it is our being deeply united with God that allows us to also be deeply united to others,” the Pope said, before thanking everyone again.