At his last public Mass as Pope, Benedict XVI showed both his generous humanity and his commitment to liturgical integrity. From the Associated Press:
Smiling and clearly moved, Benedict responded, “Grazie. Now let us return to prayer” — his words bringing to an end several minutes of thundering applause. Then, in a rare gesture and sign of respect, the bishops removed their mitres.
The Pope is no fan of applause at Mass, because it reveals a focus on man rather than the God who is to be worshipped at Mass. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the need of the faithful assembled to make a gesture of gratitude and affection, given the short notice leading up to what has become his last public Mass. Still, when he judged the time ripe, he called them all back to God.
Thus the bishops’ gesture is all the more striking: a profound sign of respect that did not disturb the theocentric ambience of worship. Clever bishops.