Late pope remembered for his writings and his courage

At a Mass for the Dead celebrated for Pope Benedict XVI Jan. 5, local Catholics remembered the late pope for his writings, courage and contributions to the universal church.

The liturgy was celebrated by Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre at the Cathedral of the Assumption a few hours after the pontiff was laid to rest in St. Peter’s Basilica crypt.

When reflecting on the late pontiff’s life, Carmen Rendon said she thinks of his faithfulness and bravery.

“He was so faithful and wanted to share his faith with everyone,” she said during an interview prior to the Mass. Rendon, a member of the cathedral, said Pope Benedict’s love for Catholics was also evident.

“The fact that he stepped back was a very brave thing to do. He was willing to sacrifice his papacy for us, to make sure we’d be OK with a new shepherd,” she said, referring to his resignation in 2013. Rendon added that the pope “gifted us with his writings” that were “so insightful.”

David Cyphers, who served as an usher at the liturgy, believes, too, that Pope Benedict showed courage when he resigned from the papacy. The late pope was the first to do so in nearly 600 years.

“It was smart of him to retire when he realized he couldn’t humanly fulfill his duties as a pope,” said Cyphers. “It takes a lot of courage to step aside. He may have set a new standard. Pope Francis could very well do the same rather than the tradition of a new pope coming when a pope dies.”

Beyond his resignation, several others reflected on his contributions to Catholic thought and theology.

The congregation included parishioners, school leaders and directors of various Archdiocese of Louisville’s agencies, including Eva Gonzalez, far right, who serves as director of the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Office. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Eva Gonzalez, the director of the archdiocese’s Office of Hispanic Ministry, said she is grateful to Pope Benedict for his work on the catechism. He previously served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Pope John Paul II entrusted the catechism to him and the work he did with it was just marvelous,” said Gonzalez. “I’m very grateful to him for that. It’s one of his greatest contributions, from my humble perspective. When I got to learn from the catechism he developed, it made a huge difference. I’ve learned about my faith deeper.”

Members of the clergy who attended the liturgy also reflected on Pope Benedict’s contributions.

Father Mike Tobin, pastor of St. Rita and St. Luke churches, said he admired the late pope for his writing and his humility.

When Father Tobin was a seminarian studying in Europe, he attended a Mass celebrated by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican’s German College.

“The gestures (during Mass) were so precise and exact. I think that tells us something about how Pope Benedict taught Catholic doctrine,” said Father Tobin. “His teachings were always done with great precision and exactness. His agenda was clarity of thought.”

Father Tobin said he admires the pope’s “humility” in taking time to “prepare for his death.”

“It’s a model for all of us to be prayerful and prepare ourselves for the kingdom,” he said.

Deacon Lucio Caruso said the late pontiff’s writings helped guide his own work in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Deacon Caruso serves as pastoral administrator of St. Ignatius Martyr Church but spent more than a decade at Catholic Charities.

“Given my work at Catholic Charities, I think of his two encyclicals, ‘Caritas in Veritate’ and ‘Deus Caritas Est,’ that were all about charity. For me and for others, it was wonderful work,” said Deacon Caruso.

He also quoted a line from “Deus Caritas Est,” which was released in December 2005: “The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.”

That statement helped him remember that, though his work involved “meeting material needs,” he was also proclaiming the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

“That’s what roots our work and it’s the greatest act of charity,” he said.

Father Benedict Brown, a senior priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville, said that over the past month he’s been reading a two-volume biography on the late pontiff.

“I’ve had a new appreciation for Pope Benedict, particularly the life he, his brother, sisters and parents lived in Germany in the 1930s and into World War II,” said Father Brown. “Raised in that atmosphere, he was still able to go to the seminary and took his studies very seriously developing his intellect. … It’s given me a lot of insights and it affected me differently today than it would” have had he read it at another time.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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