~via Papa Ratzinger Forum, from Il Messagero. Cardinal Ruini is one of my favorite Cardinals whom I met in Rome at the Lateran. I was impressed by his graciousness and loved his smile. He and Pope Benedict had a tremendous sympathy for each other. There was a time when Sandro Magister talked about the Ratzinger/Ruini wing of the Church.
For Rome, it is the end of an era.
Camillo Ruini, the 'subtle cardinal' as they call him in the Curia for his intelligence and perfectionism, made his farewell tonight, in a solemn Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, from the Diocese that he has led as the Vicar of the Pope since 1991.
A role that until last year was super-imposed on his presidency of the Italian bishops conference and which gave the Cardinal from Emilia-Romagna unrivalled visibility and authority in Italian Catholicism and the life of the nation.
Ruini - one of the closest collaborators to Papa Wojtyla as well as to Papa Ratzinger - revived the public role of the Church in Italy in the 1990s after the collapse of the Christian Democrats as a viable political party and made the Church an absolute leading player in Italian cultural, political and social life.
In his farewell to the Diocese of Rome on the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop, he begged to be excused by the faithful if he had given back 'little' compared to the love he had received from them, and above all, "for my weakness and mediocrity in what is the first duty of any bishop - prayer".
"How many times did I receive from others requests for prayers, in their correct belief and certainty that a Bishop is above all a man of God, and therefore, a man of prayer. I ask pardon if I have not done enough in this regard, and I certainly plan, with the help of God, to remedy that failing in some way. Because I feel that I have not done enough to merit the solidarity that I have received, and for this, I beg your pardon.
"The contribution I sought to make was, above all, in my sense of duty, which meant assiduousness at work and in taking on my responsibilities, trying as best as I could to be sincere and faithful."
He said he wished to leave a 'small testament' to the diocese: on how to meet the great challenge of "the kingdom of sin that threatens Christian faith in thought and deed."
Thus, he said, "let us look at it without illusion, rather with penetrating eyes, with the eyes of faith, which is necessarily different and even more penetrating that a look that is merely human."
Then he noted that the Church today would have less problems if all bishops showed themselves more strong and more united in their support of the Pontificate - and he recommended this to be an orientation for the future.
"To stand with the Pope in announcing and testifying to the faith, especially when this may be inconvenient or requires courage, is really the task of every bishop, an essential aspect of episcopal collegiality," he explained.
"Allow me to say that if the entire episcopal corps were strong and explicit in this regard, then many difficulties in the Church would have been less serious, and so, even for the future, this should be an effective way to cut down problems to size and be able to overcome them."
Then he spoke of his relationship with the city: "In all these years, I have received a great gift from Rome itself, from the diocese and from the city of Rome - a gift that I understood a little at a time and increasingly more with time. Now that my service as Cardinal Vicar is over," he said, "I hope to enjoy it even more, and to repay you, in the years that are left to me, with memory and prayers."
Pope Benedict XVI thanked Ruini in a special letter that was read during the Mass 'for your commitment in the service of the Church of Rome."
"Everyone recognized your great capacity for work, your simple and direct faith, your intelligent pastoral creativity, your faithfulness to the living identity of the Church through unity with the Pope even in the midst of difficulties, your confident and smiling optimism."
Curial sources say that Cardinal Agostino Vallini, now prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura (the highest court of canon law), will be named Ruini's successor. He is an internationally respected canon law expert, but has also had pastoral experience, first in Naples as auxiliary to Cardinal Giordano, and then as Bishop of Albano (the diocese to which Castel Gandolfo belongs).
Vallini met with Pope Benedict this morning and attended the Mass at the Lateran.