Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always (cf Philippians 4:4). These words we heard only recently in Advent and though they may at first appear strange in connection with the passing of an individual, they express our Christian Hope and our faith regarding the ultimate destination for those who are baptised in Christ. They express the joy with which we should all hope to approach our dying and the prayer that Jesus will come to take us home Dominus prope est: the Lord is nigh (cf Philippians 4:5).
As a Christian, Pope Benedict held to the belief that those who are baptized into Christ are destined for eternal life in Heaven. This hope is based on Jesus’ promise that He has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). As Pope Benedict stated in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, and which I too quoted only yesterday in my epistle for the New Year, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Therefore, we have hope and assurance that those who have been baptized into Christ will one day be with Him in Heaven for eternity.
Pope Benedict XVI was the 265th Pope of the Catholic Church, and his life was a testament to his faith in Jesus Christ and service to His Church. Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on April 16, 1927 in Bavaria, Germany, he was ordained a priest in 1951 and consecrated as Bishop of Munich-Freising in 1977. In the consistory of 27 June 1977, he was named Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino by Pope Paul VI. He served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 until his election as Pope on April 19th, 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI was known for his intelligence, humility, and commitment to justice and peace. He sought to bring unity within the Church by emphasizing its core teachings and through his novel “hermeneutic of continuity” approach tried to reconcile the divergent doctrinal and liturgical trends following Vatican Council II. Particularly notable was his attempt at restoring to the wider Church the Traditional Latin Mass through his apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum” (2007) and his attempt to reconcile Anglicans with the Church through the apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus” (2009). He also lifted the excommunications of the Society of St Pius X bishops in 2009 bringing then fresh hope for restoration to the Church of the perennial Faith.
Pope Benedict wrote three encyclicals: Deus Caritas Est (2005), Spe Salvi (2007), and Caritas in Veritate (2009). He also convened two Synods of Bishops, held four consistories to create new cardinals, and visited various countries such as the United Kingdom, Brazil, the United States, Cameroon, Angola and Australia. Of particular note were his catechetical Wednesday Audiences on various themes but particularly on the teachings of St Augustine of Hippo, of whom he was a noted scholar. Pope Benedict wrote extensively on topics such as faith, the Church, and the modern world and he was a strong advocate for the sanctity of life and consistently defended traditional Christian moral teaching.
Sadly his pontificate was also marred by scandals, the revelatory extent of clerical sexual abuse in America that broke under Pope John Paul II continued to expose major flaws in Vatican policy and the handling of abuse cases by the Church worldwide. The “Vatileaks Scandal” in which leaked documents showed infighting among Benedict’s aides and general dysfunction in the Curia; financial corruption and allegations about the existence of a so-called “gay lobby” that used blackmail to protect its members. He was never favoured by the MSM who constantly misportrayed or deliberately misconstrued his meaning when reporting his speeches and negativized his socially conservative views.
The legacy of Pope Benedict XVI will no doubt be analysed and proposed by others far more insightful and informed than I over the days, months and years to come. History will be written and re-written as new sources and testimonies come to light. From a deeply personal perspective, I will mourn the loss of one who, of all contemporary Popes, did the most to – and might have succeeded in – restoring orthodoxy to the Catholic Church; how his pontificate was ultimately impeded, I am sure will one day be revealed, “For there is not any thing secret that shall not be made manifest, nor hidden, that shall not be known and come abroad.” (Luke 8:17)
I am consoled by and offer to you these words of the apostle, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) That Pope Benedict suffered is obvious and in his retirement in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the Vatican precincts, he spent days in recollection and prayer; repentance and reparation. It is my prayer for Benedict XVI and for yourselves who strive to hold fast to Christ, trusting in His promises, that we will realise our Christian Hope and Rejoice in the Lord always (cf Philippians 4:4)!
With my prayers for you all in consolation
S. Silvestri Papæ et Conf. MMXXII A.D.
Deus, qui inter summos sacerdótes fámulum tuum Benedictum ineffábili tua dispositióne connumerári voluisti: praesta, quáesumus; ut, qui Unigéniti Filii tui vices in terris gerébat, sanctórum tuórum Pontíficum consortio perpétuo aggregétur. Per eundem Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.
God, Who in Thy ineffable providence, did will that Thy servant Benedict should be numbered among the high priests, grant, we beseech Thee, that he, who on earth held the place of Thine Only-begotten Son, may be joined forevermore to the fellowship of Thy holy pontiffs. Through the same Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
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