Bishop celebrates Mass for late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
A Christmas creche still sat in the corner of St. Joseph Cathedral, but the two dozen who gathered on the evening of Jan. 4 were there to mark a death, not a birth. Bishop Michael W. Fisher led a Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31, 2022, at the age of 95.
Pope Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, made headlines in 2013 when he resigned from his position as leader of the Catholic Church. Known for his favorable views on traditional Catholic doctrine and values, Benedict maintained an active role in the Vatican after his retirement.
Calling the late pontiff a “wonderful servant of the Lord,” Bishop Fisher memorialized the man who dedicated his life for the mission of the Church. “Oh God, immortal shepherd of souls, look on your people’s prayers and grant that your service, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who presided over Your Church and charity may live with the flock entrusted in his care, receive from your mercy the reward of faithful steward,” he said at the Mass.
In his 22 minute homily, the bishop recalled visiting his grandmother at a nursing home at the time of the Benedict’s 2005 election. He shared that they had lost Pope John Paul II and had elected Cardinal Ratzinger as the new pope.
When his grandmother asked about him, the bishop told her he was from Germany and had served as Pope John Paul II’s chief theologian. “I knew he was a great intellect and theologian who had served in Vatican II. (Pope Benedict was the last of council fathers to pass.) He was one of those council father who knew the mind of the council and implemented that during his papacy,” Bishop Fisher explained
His grandmother waved the resume away and asked, what he knew of him.
“I said, ‘Well, I know people say that he is humble. He’s a humble man who actually walked from apartment every day to the Vatican offices.” He was said to stop every day to feed and pet the cats who roamed the local cemetery.
“My grandmother stopped me right there, and as sick as she was, said, ‘Anyone who loves cats must be a wonderful person.’”
“In Pope Benedict we saw a humble man who certainly understood his limitations, as well as one who also knew those gifts that had been given to him by God. Those gifts he had been given of a great mind, a German orderliness. And he used it for the benefit and the care of others, trying to bring souls to Christ,” the bishop said.
Pope Benedict wrote three encyclicals during his papacy, “Deus Caritas est (God is Love),” “Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope),” and “Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth),” which focused on God’s love, hope and social justice.
“During his papacy, Pope Benedict saw many problems in our modern world. Its tendency at times to reduces truth in moral teachings to a relativism. You know, it depends on how a person feels about something, and that is the rule or the law. That there are no absolute truths any longer. He was concerned about this and it is a problem in our society. It may be why we don’t have people sitting in our pews.”
Rose Recchia came in from Williamsville to attend the Mass.
“I love Pope Benedict,” she said. “I was praying for him when Pope Francis said to pray for him, and I’ve been praying for him since he died. So, I was really happy to be able to come to the Mass for him.”
She called the service “beautiful.”
“I thought the homily was beautiful and honored Pope Benedict,” she said.
Bishop Fisher has asked the faithful to join him in a novena in memory of Pope Benedict XVI.
Listen to Michael Mroziak, reporting from the Mass.