Pope’s humility seen as characteristic

Archbishop Kurtz spoke at a press conference at the Chancery Feb. 11. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)
Archbishop Kurtz spoke at a press conference at the Chancery Feb. 11. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)
By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

Though the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was unexpected, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz told members of the press Feb. 11, that he was not surprised the pontiff would be so careful a steward of the Petrine ministry.

The archbishop said during the press conference at the Chancery, “That careful stewardship and his very humble way of saying the church is about Jesus Christ and it’s not necessarily about anyone person here on earth … is giving testimony to that.”

Pope Benedict’s humility, he noted, was evident from the first day of his papacy in April of 2005.

“Do you  remember what he said when he first started? He said, ‘I’m simply a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord,’ ” the archbishop told the press. “Someone who’s well known and well-reknowned, he called himself a humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.”

Calling the pope’s decision to resign an act of moral strength, the archbishop added, “I’m filled with gratitude that he would love the church so much.”

The archbishop has encountered the pope on multiple occasions and said that in person Pope Benedict is soft-spoken and “has a real pastoral heart.”

He met the pope in 2004 — when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — during a meeting of new bishops. Archbishop Kurtz said he was struck by the cardinal’s “graciousness, his sense of awareness of each bishop.”

“I think there were 20 of us there, but I felt like I was the only one there,” he said. “That pastoral heart, in which he sought to reach out to people as Christ would, is, I think, going to be his legacy.”

He also noted that Pope Benedict is “a great scholar” — still publishing books — and that he will also be known for his “desire to seek, as he often said, what is true, what is good and what is beautiful” in an effort to grow closer to Christ.

The archbishop said his next encounter with the Holy Father came in 2005 during World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, not long after the pope was elected. Archbishop Kurtz said he recognized in the midst of that event that the pope is “his own man.”

“You could hear a pin drop as we were praying silently,” he said. “This was the first time, in a sense, that I and the rest of the world were able to see what was the same and what was different about the leadership of Pope Benedict versus Pope John Paul II. I came away from that saying he was his own man.”

Archbishop Kurtz said he also enjoyed encounters with the pope at an interfaith gathering in Assisi in 2011, during his ad limina visit to the Vatican in January of 2012 and in October when he attended the Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome.

“I saw when I was in Rome in October no signs of frailty in terms of his capacity to interact, to speak,” he noted. “I’m sure at the age of 85 his ability to travel has been curtailed.”

The archbishop speculated that the Holy Father is looking forward to a retirement of study and prayer.

Quoting the pope’s resignation statement, the archbishop said the pope “wants to ‘… devotedly serve the holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.’

“I would imagine he’s desiring something that I think he actually desired before he was elected — that was to return as a scholar to writing and to prayer. That’s what I suspect he will do,” said Archbishop Kurtz.

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