The Death of Pope Benedict XVI
In February of 2012, myself and 2000 of my closest friends had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI in the massive audience hall at the Vatican. (My experiences with Papal Audiences were not intimate affairs.) Little did I know at the time that within a year to the date of that event, Benedict would do what no Pope had done in 600 years: resign from the Papacy. It was an unexpected move in a life filled with the unexpected.
Three quick ideas on the life of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict.
Coming of age at a time of war
You may hear some people comment that the Pope was a former member of the Nazi Youth. That is accurate, but a tad misleading. All Ger- man youths were compelled by law to join the Nazi Youth group. But young Joseph Ratzinger’s family were not big fans of Hitler or the Nazi cause. Joseph himself was unenthusiastic. In 1941, one of Ratzinger’s cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and murdered during the Action T4 campaign of Nazi eugenics. Even though he was compelled to join the army, he ended the war in a prisoner of war camp, but was released when hostilities in Europe ended.
An influential theologian
Pope Benedict had a great mind and is certainly one of the leading theologians of the 20th Centu- ry. He was a peritus, a theological consultor, at the Second Vatican Council and was thought of as a liberal thinker. As is often the case, a liberal in the 50’s becomes a conservative in the 70’s. But what others saw as a more traditionalist turn, Ratzinger saw as a continuation of his thought.
He was especially wary of secularist and relativ- istic ideas. I think as his ideas are studied more and more, it will become difficult to paint him specifically as conservative. He is much too rich and deep of a thinker to be narrowed into a sin- gular category.
Did anyone see Pope Benedict’s resignation in 2013 coming? He had some health issues even before he became Pope. (He had a slight stroke in 1991.) He gave up the Papacy, but he did not give up service to the Church, which he declared would be “in a life of prayer.” Some people thought that it was because of some pressure from the outside that he stepped down. But Ben- edict himself firmed stated that he did so freely and without outside interference. It was a bold move and one that set a fascinating precedent for the future.
No matter what you may personally think about the Pope Benedict, he was a man who gave his entire life in service to the church. There are cer- tainly more issues we could talk about and de- bate, and people being people will, but there can be no doubt that he was a man of deep faith, courage and hope.
Requiescat in pace, serve bone et fidelis.
On another topic.
In the next few weeks, you will be hearing about Stephen Ministries in our parish. I would like for some of you to give serious consideration about becoming a Stephen Minister. Stephen Ministry is an outreach for those dealing with grief. A Ste- phen Minister is not quite a therapist but more than a friend. A Stephen Minister is someone who walks with a person through the valley of sadness and mourning. In order to become a Stephen Minister, a person has to go through a certain level of training so that one can under- stand the boundaries of this ministry as well as some of the pitfalls of trying to help someone in the midst of grief. It is not as easy as it sounds, but it provides an important service to those who are suffering loss.
If you are interested, training will be starting up soon, and if you know anyone that may need this ministry, just let me know and we will try to pair you up with a trained Stephen Minister. More in- formation on this vital ministry will be coming at the weekend Masses soon.