THE Age of Ministries is ending… but something more beautiful is going to arise. It will be a new beginning, a restored Church in a new era. In fact, it was this present pope who hinted at this very thing while he was still a cardinal:
The Church will be reduced in its dimensions, it will be necessary to start again. However, from this test a Church would emerge that will have been strengthened by the process of simplification it experienced, by its renewed capacity to look within itself… the Church will be numerically reduced. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), God and the World, 2001; interview with Peter Seewald
He was echoing, perhaps, Pope Paul VI, who made the startling admission that, because of the growing apostasy in the Church, there will likely be left a mere remnant of the faithful:
There is a great uneasiness, at this time, in the world and in the Church, and that which is in question is the faith… I sometimes read the Gospel passage of the end times and I attest that, at this time, some signs of this end are emerging… What strikes me, when I think of the Catholic world, is that within Catholicism, there seems sometimes to pre-dominate a non-Catholic way of thinking, and it can happen that tomorrow this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism, will tomorrow become the stronger. But it will never represent the thought of the Church. It is necessary that a small flock subsist, no matter how small it might be. —POPE PAUL VI, The Secret Paul VI, Jean Guitton, p. 152-153, Reference (7), p. ix.
It is the divine protection of this little flock in times to come that concerns this present writing…