Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told Catholics to “stand firm in the faith” in his final message to the faithful.
The Vatican published the late pope’s spiritual testament shortly after his death on Saturday. In it, Benedict thanked his family, friends, and God for the blessings of his life, and asked forgiveness from anyone whom he had wronged. He then urged believers to stand strong in the faith, even in the face of philosophical and scientific opposition.
“If in this late hour of my life I look back at the decades I have been through, first I see how many reasons I have to give thanks,” Benedict wrote. “First and foremost I thank God himself, the giver of every good gift, who gave me life and guided me through various confusing times; always picking me up whenever I began to slip and always giving me again the light of his face. In retrospect I see and understand that even the dark and tiring stretches of this journey were for my salvation and that it was in them that He guided me well.”
He went on to thank his parents for providing him with a loving home and role models for his faith; he also thanked his brother and sister for caring for and guiding him through his life. He also thanked his friends, colleagues, and former students. He thanked God for the beauty of his home under the Bavarian Alps, and all the beauty he experienced on his travels and in Rome and Italy. He then asked for forgiveness from any people he had wronged during his life.
Benedict then instructed Catholics to remain true to the faith in the face of opposition from science and philosophy. “Stand firm in the faith!” he wrote. “Do not let yourselves be confused! It often seems that science — the natural sciences on the one hand and historical research (especially exegesis of Sacred Scripture) on the other — are able to offer irrefutable results at odds with the Catholic faith. I have experienced the transformations of the natural sciences since long ago and have been able to see how, on the contrary, apparent certainties against the faith have vanished, proving to be not science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently pertaining to science.” He also noted that the sciences help to better define the parameters of faith.
“It is now sixty years that I have been accompanying the journey of Theology, particularly of the Biblical Sciences, and with the succession of different generations I have seen theses that seemed unshakable collapse, proving to be mere hypotheses,” the pope added, using liberalism, existentialism, and Marxism as examples of philosophies that have come and gone.
“I saw and see how out of the tangle of assumptions the reasonableness of faith emerged and emerges again. Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth and the life — and the Church, with all its insufficiencies, is truly His body,” he said.
A spiritual testament is a document that is written for the faithful by the pope — and is only to be published after his death. The late Pope Emeritus’s spiritual testament was written in 2006, just over a year after he was elected to the papacy.
Also on Saturday, Benedict’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, revealed that the Pope’s final words were “Lord, I love you,” a phrase reminiscent of St. Peter’s confession to Jesus in the Bible.