Memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict Celebrated at the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel

Courtesy of Zachary Lichter

By Zachary Lichter

On Thursday, January 12, 2023, Campus Ministry held a Memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Vincent de Paul Chapel. 

Pope Benedict XVI was born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl, Germany and was baptized Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger studied theology and philosophy at the University of Munich and was ordained as a priest on June 29, 1951. From 1959-1969, he taught dogmatic and fundamental theology at the higher school of philosophy and theology of Freising, Bonn, Münster, and Tübingen. In 1969, he became a professor of dogmatic theology and the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg, where he then became Dean and Vice-Rector. During his tenure as a professor, he was present during all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council as a Chief Theological Advisor to Cardinal Josef Frings, the Archbishop of Cologne. On March 24, 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed him as the Archbishop of Munich and Freising and he was then ordained as a bishop on May 28. Pope Paul VI proclaimed him a Cardinal in the Consistory on June 27, 1977. He would then become the Dean of the College of Cardinals on November 30, 2002 until Pope John Paul II’s death on April 2, 2005

Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope on April 19, 2005, becoming one of the oldest newly elected popes since Pope Clement XII. He chose the name Benedict after St. Benedict of Nursia, the patron saint of Europe. Among the notable things he did during his tenure as pope his visit to  Turkey to improve the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. He also created new guidelines for a greater use of the Latin Mass. In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit as pope to the United States. According to an email to the Catholic University Community from President Peter Kilpatrick, Pope Benedict XVI gave a notable speech about the value and importance of Catholic education at the Edward J. Pryzbla Center at the Catholic University of America

On February 28, 2013, he resigned as pope due to his age and health problems. He became the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died on December 31, 2022.

Prior to the Mass, Father Frassati Davis gave his comments about Pope Benedict XVI.

“Pope Benedict XVI had a great influence on me when I was discerning the priesthood,” Fr. Davis said. “I went to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain and it was the first time I had ever gone to such a large Catholic gathering. People from around the world were there to see the successor of St. Peter, and it was a very emotional experience. I realized that even though the Church is so big, it is also very small when so many people can feel connected to a singular spiritual leader.”

The Mass was at 5:10 pm, and students, faculty, and staff were all welcome to attend. Fr. Aquinas was the celebrant, and Fr. Frassati was the concelebrant. Fr. Aquinas read the Gospel and gave his homily about Pope Benedict XVI. In his homily, he mentioned how he was in New York at the time when Pope Benedict XVI came to the United States in 2008. He remembered how he saw a picture of Pope Benedict XVI coming out of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, and on the front page of the New York Post the headline read, “Come to Papa!” Fr. Aquinas then mentioned how a lot of people were asking him, “What do you think Pope Benedict’s legacy will be?” He answered that Pope Benedict’s legacy is still working itself out because of the lives, minds, hearts, and faithful he touched during his life. He predicted that between Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis, will all be remembered as triptych pontificates. 

After the Mass, Fr. Aquinas gave his comments on what people should remember about Pope Benedict.

“If people don’t know much about Pope Benedict and want to become familiar with him they should read his three encyclicals on the three theological virtues,” Guilbeau said. “Deus Caritas Esc: virtues of love and charity, Spe Salvi: theological virtue of hope, and Lumen Fidei: theological virtue of faith. There you get really a distillation of his entire life’s work, but also a very beautiful exposition of the christian life and practical advice too on how we should grow in those theological virtues. I think among those three, they are the most important things that he wrote as pope and that’s what I feel myself going back to over and over.”

At the end of Mass, Fr. Aquinas led everyone in singing “Salve Regina,” and everyone turned their attention to the picture of Pope Benedict XVI and the display of his zucchetto.

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