Portrait of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Vatican Media)
The late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Vatican Media)
“With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican,” the Vatican spokesman, Dr. Matteo Bruni, said a few minutes ago in an official Vatican communiqué. (link)
Above, from top, two images of Pope Benedict XVI (April 16, 1927-December 31, 2022), during his papacy (April 19, 2005-February 28, 2013), when he was between 77 and 85 years old; a young Fr. Joseph Ratzinger at the time of his ordination to the priesthood in 1951, when he was 24 (he was born in 1927); and a close-up from about the same time; and a view of the Holy Father during his papacy (2005-2013) when he was about age 80.
Letter #139, 2022, Saturday, December 31: Farewell, Benedict
Feast of St. Sylvester I (285 A.D. to 335 A.D., Pope from January 31, 314 until his death on December 31, 335)
Declaration of the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Matteo Bruni, December 31, 2022 (link)
“With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican.
Further information will be provided as soon as possible.”
Testo in lingua italiana
“Con dolore informo che il Papa Emerito, Benedetto XVI, è deceduto oggi alle ore 9:34, nel Monastero Mater Ecclesiae in Vaticano.
Non appena possibile seguiranno ulteriori informazioni.”
Traduzione in lingua francese
“J’ai la douleur de vous annoncer que le pape émérite, Benoît XVI, est décédé aujourd’hui à 9:34 heures, au Monastère Mater Ecclesiae, au Vatican.
D’autres informations vous seront communiquées dès que possible».
Traduzione in lingua tedesca
“Schmerzerfüllt muss ich mitteilen, dass Benedikt XVI., Papst Emeritus, heute um 9:34 Uhr im Kloster Mater Ecclesiae im Vatikan verstorben ist.
Weitere Informationen folgen baldmöglichst.”
Traduzione in lingua spagnola
„Con pesar doy a conocer que el Papa emérito Benedicto XVI ha fallecido hoy a las 9:34 horas, en el Monasterio Mater Ecclesiae del Vaticano.
Apenas sea posible se proporcionará mayor información.”
Traduzione in lingua portoghese
“Com pesar informo que o Papa Emérito Bento XVI faleceu hoje às 9,34, no Mosteiro Mater Ecclesiae, no Vaticano.
Assim que possível, serão enviadas novas informações”.
[02037-XX.01] [Testo originale: plurilingue]
The official Vatican News website reported (link):
Farewell to Benedict XVI: ‘Humble worker in vineyard of the Lord’
The 95-year-old Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away on Saturday at 9:34 AM in his residence at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.
By Vatican News
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has returned to the Father’s House.
The Holy See Press Office announced that the Pope Emeritus died at 9:34 AM on Saturday morning in his residence at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, which the 95-year-old Pope emeritus had chosen as his residence after resigning from the Petrine ministry in 2013.
“With sorrow I inform you that the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, passed away today at 9:34 AM in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican. Further information will be provided as soon as possible. As of Monday morning, 2 January 2023, the body of the Pope Emeritus will be in Saint Peter’s Basilica so the faithful can bid farewell.”
News of worsening health condition
Already for several days, the health conditions of the Pope Emeritus had worsened due to advancing age, as the Press Office had reported in its updates of the evolving situation.
Pope Francis himself publicly shared the news about his predecessor’s worsening health at the end of the last General Audience of the year, on 28 December.
The Pope had invited people to pray for the Pope Emeritus, who was “very ill,” so that the Lord might console him and support him “in this witness of love for the Church until the end.”
Following this invitation, prayer initiatives sprung up and multiplied on all continents, along with an outpouring of messages of solidarity and closeness from secular leaders.
In the next few hours, the Holy See Press Office will communicate details for the funeral rite.
Fr. Lombardi: ‘Benedict spent his life seeking the face of Jesus’ (link)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s former spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, paints a portrait of the late Joseph Ratzinger and his extraordinary mission centred on faith in Christ.
By Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ
“Soon I will stand before the ultimate judge of my life. Although in looking back on my long life I may have much cause for fear and dread, I have nevertheless a joyful spirit because I firmly trust that the Lord is not only the righteous judge, but, at the same time, the friend and brother who has already suffered my inadequacies himself and therefore, as judge, is at the same time my advocate. Looking at the hour of judgment, the grace of being a Christian thus becomes clear to me. Being a Christian gives me knowledge and, moreover, friendship with the judge of my life and enables me to cross the dark door of death with confidence. In this regard, I am constantly reminded of what John recounts at the beginning of Revelation: he sees the Son of Man in all his greatness and falls to his feet, as dead. But He, laying His right hand upon him, says to him, “Do not be afraid. I am…” (cf. Rev. 1:12-17).”
So wrote Benedict XVI in his last letter, dated February 6 (2022), at the conclusion of painful days “of examination of conscience and reflection” over criticism of an abuse affair when he was archbishop of Munich more than 40 years earlier.
Eventually, the time of the encounter with the Lord came.
It certainly cannot be said that it was unexpected and that our great elder came to it unprepared. If his predecessor had given us a precious and unforgettable testimony of how to faithfully live a painful, progressive illness until death, Benedict XVI has given us a beautiful testimony of how to live in faith the growing frailty of old age for many years until the end. The fact that he gave up the papacy at an opportune time allowed him — and us with him — to walk this path with great serenity.
He had the gift of completing his path by keeping a lucid mind, approaching with fully conscious experience those “ultimate realities” about which he had had like few others the courage to think and speak, thanks to the faith he had received and lived.
Both as a theologian and as Pope he had spoken to us about them in a profound, credible and convincing way.
His pages and words on eschatology, his encyclical on hope remain a gift to the Church on which his silent prayer set the seal during the long years of his retreat “on the mountain.”
Of the many things that can be remembered about his pontificate, the one that honestly seemed and continues to seem to me the most extraordinary was that in those years he was able to write and complete his trilogy on Jesus.
How could a Pope, with the responsibilities and concerns of the universal Church, which he carried on his shoulders, manage to write a work like that?
Certainly, it was the result of a lifetime of reflection and research.
But undoubtedly the inner passion, the motivation had to be formidable.
His pages came from the pen of a scholar, but at the same time of a believer who had committed his life to seeking an encounter with the face of Jesus and who saw in that, at the same time, the fulfillment of his vocation and his service for others.
In this sense, as much as I well understand why he made it clear that that work was not to be considered “pontifical magisterium,” I continue to think that it is an essential part of his witness of service as Pope, that is, as a believer who recognizes in Jesus the Son of God, and on whose faith we can continue to lean ours as well.
In this sense, I cannot consider it coincidental that the time of the decision to resign from the papacy, the summer of 2012, coincides with the time of the conclusion of the trilogy on Jesus.
The fulfillment of a mission centered on the faith in Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt that Benedict XVI’s pontificate has been characterized by his magisterium more than by his governance.
“I knew well that my strength — if I had one — was that of the presentation of the faith in a way suited to the culture of our time” (…).
A faith always in dialogue with reason, a reasonable faith; a reason open to faith.
Rightly, Pope Ratzinger was respected by those who live attentive to movements of thought and spirit and try to read events in their deeper and longer-term meaning, without limiting themselves to the surface of events and changes.
It is not for nothing that some of his great speeches before audiences not only of the Church, but of representatives of the whole of society, in London, in Berlin… have remained etched in memory.
He was not afraid of confrontation with different ideas and positions.
He looked with loyalty and foresight at the great questions, at the darkening of God’s presence on the horizon of contemporary humanity, at the questions about the future of the Church, particularly in his country and in Europe.
And he tried to face the problems with loyalty, without evading them even if they were dramatic; but faith and the intelligence of faith allowed him always to find a perspective of hope.
Joseph Ratzinger’s intellectual and cultural value are too well known to be reiterated.
The one who knew how to understand and value him for the universal Church was John Paul II.
For 24 years out of the 26 years of his predecessor’s pontificate, Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Two different personalities but — allow me to say it — a “formidable pairing.”
The boundless pontificate of Pope Wojtyla cannot be adequately thought of, doctrinally speaking, without the presence of Cardinal Ratzinger and the trust placed in him, in his ecclesial theology, in the breadth and balance of his thought.
Serving the unity of the Church’s faith in the decades following Vatican II by facing epochal tensions and challenges in dialogue with Judaism, ecumenism, dialogue with other religions, confrontation with Marxism, in the context of secularization and the transformation of the vision of man and sexuality… succeeding in proposing a doctrinal synthesis as broad and harmonious as that of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, welcomed by the great majority of the ecclesial community with unexpected consensus, so as to lead this community to cross the threshold of the third millennium feeling as the bearer of a message of salvation for humanity…
In fact, that long and extraordinary collaboration was the preparation for the pontificate of Benedict XVI, seen by the cardinals as the most suitable continuer and successor of the work of Pope Wojtyla.
An overall look at Joseph Ratzinger’s itinerary does not escape — indeed it impresses — the continuity of his thread and, at the same time, the progressive broadening of the horizon of his service.
Joseph Ratzinger’s vocation is, from the beginning, a priestly vocation, at the same time to theological studies and to liturgical and pastoral service.
He progresses through its various stages, from seminary to early pastoral experience and university teaching; then the horizon has a first major broadening to the experience of the universal Church with the participation at the Council and the relationships with the great theologians of the time; he returns to academic activity of theological study, but always in the midst of ecclesial debate and experience; then he widens again into the pastoral service of the great archdiocese of Munich; he definitively passes to the service of the universal Church with the call to lead the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome; finally a new call leads him to the government of the entire Church community.
The horizon became total not only for its thought, but also for priestly and pastoral service.
To serve the whole community of the Church, to lead it intelligently on the paths of our time, and to guard the unity and genuineness of its faith.
The motto chosen on the occasion of his episcopal ordination, “Cooperators of the Truth” (John 3:8), expresses very well the whole thread of Joseph Ratzinger’s life and vocation, if one understands that for him truth was not at all a set of abstract concepts, but was ultimately embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.
The pontificate of Benedict XVI is and will also commonly be remembered as a pontificate marked by times of crisis and difficulty.
This is true, and it would be unfair to gloss over this aspect.
But it should be seen and evaluated not superficially.
As for internal or external criticism and opposition, he himself recalled with a smile that several other Popes had faced far more dramatic times and situations.
Without the need to go back to the persecutions of the early centuries, one can think of Pius IX, or Benedict XV when he condemned the “useless slaughter,” or the contexts in which Popes operated during the world wars.
So he did not consider himself a martyr.
No Pope can imagine not encountering criticism, difficulties and tensions.
This does not detract from the fact that, if necessary, he knew how to react to criticism with vivacity and decisiveness, as happened with the unforgettable Letter written to the Bishops in 2009, after the affair of the remission of excommunication to the Lefebvrians and the “Williamson case”; a passionate letter that expressed, as his secretary commented to me, “Ratzinger at its purest state.”
However, what has been the heaviest cross of his pontificate, the gravity of which he had already begun to grasp during his time at the Doctrine of the Faith and which continues to manifest itself as a test and a challenge to the Church of historic magnitude, is the affair of sexual abuse.
This was also a reason for criticism and personal attacks on him until his last years, thus also a reason for deep suffering.
Having also been very much involved in these matters during his pontificate, I am firmly convinced that he saw in an increasingly lucid way the seriousness of the problems and had great merits in addressing them with breadth and depth of vision in their different dimensions: listening to the victims, rigor in pursuing justice in the face of the crimes, healing the wounds, establishing appropriate norms and procedures, formation and prevention of evil.
It was only the beginning of a long journey, but in the right directions and with much humility.
Benedict never worried about an “image” of himself or the Church that did not correspond to the truth.
And even in this field he has always moved in the perspective of a man of faith.
Beyond pastoral or juridical measures, necessary to confront evil in its manifestations, he felt the terrible and mysterious power of evil and the need to appeal to grace in order not to be crushed by it in despair and to find the path of healing, conversion, penance, purification, which people, the Church and society need.
When I was asked to summarize, with an episode, the story of Benedict XVI’s pontificate, I recalled the Prayer Vigil during World Youth Day in Madrid, in 2011, on the large esplanade of the Cuatro Vientos Airport, attended by about a million young people.
It was in the evening, the darkness growing thicker as the Pope began his speech.
At one point, a veritable hurricane of rain and wind blew in.
The lighting and sound systems stopped working and many of the tents on the edge of the esplanade collapsed.
The situation was truly dramatic.
The Pope was urged by his staff to move away and take shelter, but he would not.
He patiently and courageously remained seated in his place on the open stage, protected by a simple umbrella flapping in the wind.
The whole immense assembly followed his example, with confidence and patience.
After some time, the storm quieted down, the rain stopped, and a great and wholly unexpected calm took over.
The facilities resumed operation.
The Pope finished his speech and the wonderful monstrance from Toledo Cathedral was brought to the center of the stage for Eucharistic adoration.
The Pope knelt in silence before the Blessed Sacrament and behind him, in the darkness, the immense assembly joined in prayer at length in absolute calm.
In a sense, this may remain the image not only of the pontificate but also of Joseph Ratzinger’s life and the goal of his journey. As he now enters the ultimate silence before the Lord, we too continue to feel ourselves behind him and with him.
Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, is the President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation
Benedict XVI: Key events of his pontificate (link)
The papacy of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was momentous and focused on the goal of bringing “God back to the centre”.
By Vatican News
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s reign lasted exactly seven years, ten months and nine days.
It began on 19 April 2005 and ended on 28 February 2013 with the surprise announcement that he was stepping down from the Petrine Ministry, the first Pope to do so in nearly 600 years.
Although his papacy was a lot shorter than that of his predecessor, St. John Paul II, it was still a busy and momentous one.
In those nearly 8 years, Benedict carried out 24 Apostolic Visits abroad; participated in three World Youth Days and a World Meeting of Families; wrote three encyclicals, an Apostolic Constitution, three Apostolic Exhortations; summoned four Synods (2 Ordinary and 2 Extraordinary); created 84 cardinals; proclaimed 45 saints and 855 blessed, among them his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
One of the key themes of his pontificate was his desire to bring “God back to the centre” in a world where he said “the faith is in danger of dying out” (Letter to the bishops of the whole world – 10 March 2009). He also often stressed the need to purify the Church.
Pope of dialogue between faith and reason
In the wake of his predecessors – from John XXIII to John Paul II – and in line with the main themes spelt out in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI was a Pope who was aware of the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, although this was an often under-estimated characteristic of his pontificate.
This dialogue was marked by several difficulties and misunderstandings but Benedict persevered with his efforts to reach out to those of different religions, faiths and cultures.
A recurring theme in many of his discourses and writings was the link between faith and reason: faith presupposes reason and perfects it,” he wrote.
Examples of this theme were contained in his famous (but misunderstood) address at Regensburg in Germany, (2006), his address to representatives of the world of culture in Paris (2008), his historic address at London’s Westminster Hall (2010) and an equally historic address to the German Bundestag (2011).
A Pope at the helm of a boat in stormy waters
Pope Benedict’s reign coincided with a particularly difficult period for the Church, marked above all by the clerical sex abuse crisis and the Vatileaks scandal.
In a keynote speech at the start of his pontificate, the German Pontiff had condemned “the filth” in the Church, and he faced up to these crises with clarity and determination and laid the groundwork for the reforms that would be carried out later by Pope Francis.
One of the distinctive features of Benedict’s pontificate was the relentless struggle he waged against the scourge of paedophilia within the Church. This was borne out by the sharp increase in the number of priests suspended in 2011 and 2012 (400) due to involvement in cases of sex abuse as well as the number of bishops sent away because of their mismanagement of the crisis.
These figures were the first tangible result of the reform Benedict enacted, entitled “De Gravioribus Delictis” a document that contained regulations aimed at making law enforcement and prevention of sexual abuse more effective.
When it came to financial scandals involving the Vatican, credit must also go to Benedict XVI for initiating reforms to make the management of the Holy See’s financial affairs more transparent.
A case in point was his Motu Proprio of 30 December 2010 on “Preventing and Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.”
Death of Pope Emeritus Benedict: his official biography (link)
Following the announcement of the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Saturday at the age of 95, we look back at his long life and its main highlights with the following official biography.
By Vatican News
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, was born at Marktl am Inn, Diocese of Passau (Germany) on 16 April 1927 (Holy Saturday) and was baptised on the same day.
His father, a Police Commissioner, belonged to an old family of farmers from Lower Bavaria of modest economic resources. His mother was the daughter of artisans from Rimsting on the shore of Lake Chiem. Before marrying, she worked as a cook in a number of hotels.
Joseph spent his childhood and adolescence in Traunstein, a small village near the Austrian border, thirty kilometres from Salzburg. In this environment, which he himself has defined as “Mozartian”, he received his Christian, cultural and human formation.
His youthful years were not easy. His faith and the education received at home prepared him for the harsh experience of those years during which the Nazi regime pursued a hostile attitude towards the Catholic Church. The young Joseph saw how some Nazis beat the Parish Priest before the celebration of Mass.
It was precisely during that complex situation that he discovered the beauty and truth of faith in Christ; fundamental for this was his family’s attitude, who always gave a clear witness of goodness and hope, rooted in a convinced attachment to the Church.
He was enrolled in an auxiliary anti-aircraft corps until September 1944.
From 1946 to 1951, he studied philosophy and theology in the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich.
He received his priestly ordination on 29 June 1951. A year later he began teaching at the Higher School of Freising.
In 1953, he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled “People and House of God in St Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church”.
Four years later, under the direction of the renowned professor of fundamental theology Gottlieb Söhngen, he qualified for University teaching with a dissertation on: “The Theology of History in St Bonaventure.”
After teaching dogmatic and fundamental theology at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology in Freising, he went on to teach at Bonn, from 1959 to1963; at Münster from 1963 to 1966; and at Tübingen from 1966 to 1969. During this last year, he held the Chair of dogmatics and history of dogma at the University of Regensburg, where he was also Vice-President of the University.
From 1962 to 1965, he made a notable contribution to Vatican II as an “expert”, being present at the Council as theological consultant of Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne.
His intense scientific activity led him to important positions at the service of the German Bishops’ Conference and the International Theological Commission.
In 1972, together with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and other important theologians, he initiated the theological journal Communio.
Bishop and Cardinal
On 25 March 1977, Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and Freising. On 28 May of the same year, he received episcopal ordination. He was the first diocesan priest in 80 years to take on the pastoral governance of the great Bavarian Archdiocese.
He chose as his episcopal motto: “Cooperators of the truth.” He himself explained why:
On the one hand I saw it as the relation between my previous task as professor and my new mission. In spite of different approaches, what was involved, and continued to be so, was following the truth and being at its service. On the other hand I chose that motto because in today’s world the theme of truth is omitted almost entirely, as something too great for man, and yet everything collapses if truth is missing.
Paul VI made him a Cardinal with the priestly title of “Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino,” during the Consistory of 27 June 1977.
In 1978, he took part in the Conclave of 25 and 26 August which elected John Paul I, who named him his Special Envoy to the III International Mariological Congress, celebrated in Guayaquil (Ecuador) from 16 to 24 September. In the month of October of the same year, he took part in the Conclave that elected Pope John Paul II.
He was Relator of the V Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which took place in 1980 on the theme: “The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World,” and was Delegate President of the VI Ordinary General Assembly of 1983 on “Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church Today.”
John Paul II named him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission on 25 November 1981. On 15 February 1982, he resigned the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
The Holy Father elevated him to the Order of Bishops assigning to him the Suburbicarian See of Velletri-Segni on 5 April 1993.
He was President of the Preparatory Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which after six years of work (1986-1992), presented the new Catechism to the Holy Father.
On 6 November 1998, the Holy Father approved the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals, submitted by the Cardinals of the Order of Bishops. On 30 November 2002, Pope John Paul II approved his election as Dean; together with this office he was entrusted with the Suburbicarian See of Ostia.
In 1999, he was Special Papal Envoy for the Celebration of the XII Centenary of the foundation of the Diocese of Paderborn, Germany, which took place on 3 January.
In the Roman Curia he was a member of: the Council of the Secretariat of State for Relations with States; the Congregations for the Oriental Churches, Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Bishops, the Evangelization of Peoples, Catholic Education, Clergy and the Causes of the Saints; the Pontifical Councils for Promoting Christian Unity and Culture; the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and of the Pontifical Commissions for Latin America, “Ecclesia Dei,” the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, and the Revision of the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches.
Since 13 November 2000, he was an Honorary Academic of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Among his many publications, special mention should be made of his Introduction to Christianity, a compilation of University lectures on the Apostolic Creed, published in 1968; and Dogma and Preaching (1973), an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to pastoral arguments.
His address to the Catholic Academy of Bavaria on “Why I am still in the Church” had a wide resonance; in it he stated with his usual clarity: “one can only be a Christian in the Church, not beside the Church.”
His many publications are spread out over a number of years and constitute a point of reference for many people, especially for those interested in entering deeper into the study of theology. In 1985, he published his interview-book on the situation of the faith (The Ratzinger Report) and in 1996 Salt of the Earth. On the occasion of his 70th birthday the volume At the School of Truth was published, containing articles by several authors on different aspects of his personality and production.
He received numerous honorary doctorates: in 1984 from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, (Minnesota, USA); in 1986 from the Catholic University of Lima (Peru); in 1987 from the Catholic University of Eichstätt (Germany); in 1988 from the Catholic University of Lublin (Poland); in 1998 from the University of Navarre (Pamplona, Spain); in 1999 from the LUMSA (Libera Università Maria Santissima Assunta) of Rome and in 2000 from the Faculty of Theology of the University of Wrocław in Poland.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected on 19 April 2005 as the 265th Pope.
He was the oldest person to be elected Pope since 1730, and had been a Cardinal for a longer period of time than any Pope since 1724.
On 11 February 2013, during the Ordinary Public Consistory for the Vote on several Causes for Canonization, Benedict announced his decision to resign from the Petrine ministry with these words:
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter.”
His pontificate came to an end on 28 February 2013.
After his resignation took effect, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lived within the Vatican in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery until his death
I first met Cardinal Ratzinger-Pope Benedict XVI in 1984, then met him on numerous occasions over the years. He was kind to me, and patient with me, and I spent many hours in conversation with him, and interviewing him, as I began to write about the Vatican.
As Fr. Lombardi, who served Pope Benedict as his press secretary, writes above, Benedict’s entire life was a seeking of the face of Christ — to come to know Christ, to write about him for the world, to encounter Christ personally, to be with Christ in prayer and silence.
“As he now enters the ultimate silence before the Lord, we too continue to feel ourselves behind him and with him,” Fr. Lombardi writes.
That is how I too feel.
I mourn his passing with deep sorrow, and with profound gratitude for the witness of faith he gave, to me, to the entire Church, and to the world.
He ran the difficult race of faith with great courage, to the very end.
May eternal light shine upon him, and may he rest in peace. —RM
Pope Benedict on September 1, 2006, visiting the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.
The small cloth that has been preserved there for several hundred years, but is believed by many to date from 2,000 years ago in Palestine, bears the image of the face of a man whose nose and cheeks have been severely bruised.
But no trace of paint or pigment has been found on the veil fabric, meaning that the cause or source of the image remains a mystery. Some maintain that the image was made simply by light itself.
Pope Benedict made no pronouncement about the image. Addressing priests, religious and pilgrims who packed the shrine that day, he said that those who seek the true face of Christ can find it in their brothers and sisters, “especially the poorest and those most in need.”
Here are some of the remarks Pope Benedict XVI made that day, September 1, 2006, about seeking to see the face of Christ, and gaze upon that face:
“The is the path of Christ, the way of total love that overcomes death”
Words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI
on September 1, 2006
in Manoppello, Italy
at the Shrine of the Holy Face
During my pause for prayer just now, I was thinking of the first two Apostles who, urged by John the Baptist, followed Jesus to the banks of the Jordan River, as we read at the beginning of John’s Gospel (cf. 1: 35-37).
The Evangelist recounts that Jesus turned around and asked them: “What do you seek?”
And they answered him, “Rabbi… where are you staying?”
And he said to them, “Come and see” (cf. Jn 1: 38-39).
That very same day, the two who were following him had an unforgettable experience which prompted them to say: “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1: 41).
The One whom a few hours earlier they had thought of as a simple “rabbi” had acquired a very precise identity: the identity of Christ who had been awaited for centuries.
But, in fact, what a long journey still lay ahead of those disciples!
They could not even imagine how profound the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth could be or how unfathomable, inscrutable, his “Face” would prove, so that even after living with Jesus for three years, Philip, who was one of them, was to hear him say at the Last Supper: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?”
And then the words that sum up the novelty of Jesus’ revelation: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14: 9).
Only after his Passion when they encountered him Risen, when the Spirit enlightened their minds and their hearts, would the Apostles understand the significance of the words Jesus had spoken and recognize him as the Son of God, the Messiah promised for the world’s redemption.
They were then to become his unflagging messengers, courageous witnesses even to martyrdom.
“He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
Yes, dear brothers and sisters, to “see God” it is necessary to know Christ and to let oneself be moulded by his Spirit who guides believers “into all the truth” (cf. Jn 16: 13).
Those who meet Jesus, who let themselves be attracted by him and are prepared to follow him even to the point of sacrificing their lives, personally experience, as he did on the Cross, that only the “grain of wheat” that falls into the earth and dies, bears “much fruit” (Jn 12: 24).
This is the path of Christ, the way of total love that overcomes death: he who takes it and “hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12: 25).
In other words, he lives in God already on this earth, attracted and transformed by the dazzling brightness of his Face.
This is the experience of God’s true friends, the saints who, in the brethren, especially the poorest and neediest, recognized and loved the Face of that God, lovingly contemplated for hours in prayer.
For us they are encouraging examples to imitate; they assure us that if we follow this path, the way of love, with fidelity, we too, as the Psalmist sings, will be satisfied with God’s presence (cf. Ps 17: 15).
“Jesu… quam bonus te quaerentibus!” — “How kind you are, Jesus, to those who seek you!”
This is what we have just sung in the ancient hymn “Jesu, dulcis memoria” [Jesus, the very thought of you], which some people attribute to St Bernard.
It is a hymn that acquires rare eloquence in the Shrine dedicated to the Holy Face, which calls to mind Psalm 24: “Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob” (v. 6).
But which is “the generation” of those who seek the Face of God, which generation deserves to “ascend the hill of the Lord” and “stand in his holy place”?
The Psalmist explains: it consists of those who have “clean hands and a pure heart,” who do not speak falsehoods, who do not “swear deceitfully” to their neighbour (cf. vv. 3-4).
Therefore, in order to enter into communion with Christ and to contemplate his Face, to recognize the Lord’s Face in the faces of the brethren and in daily events, we require “clean hands and a pure heart.”
Clean hands, that is, a life illumined by the truth of love that overcomes indifference, doubt, falsehood and selfishness; and pure hearts are essential too, hearts enraptured by divine beauty, as the Little Teresa of Lisieux says in her prayer to the Holy Face, hearts stamped with the hallmark of the Face of Christ…
[End, remarks of Pope Benedict XVI, September 1, 2006, in Manoppello, Italy]
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