Newsletter for Sunday 8 January 2023

6 Jan

Pope Benedict XVI, RIP

We are deeply saddened at the death of our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He went to the Lord on the last day of 2022 aged 95, almost the same age as Queen Elizabeth whose passing we mourned only in September. Although he was by nature a quiet man, Pope Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger) had been a towering figure in the Church for many decades, long before he became Pope, and ranked among the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. He was a theological adviser at the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and Pope St John Paul II’s brilliant right hand man for nearly three decades. In these roles he made an outstanding contribution to the Church, always upholding and defending the teaching of JESUS Christ, speaking out against relativism, and where necessary, correcting the course of the Church after much of the silliness of the 1960s and 70s when it was thought that everything was up for grabs. He strengthened the faith of his brethren. Benedict was a humble man deeply rooted in prayer, and for him Our Lord JESUS Christ was the centre of everything. Benedict always sought to be leading people to Christ, and in doing so inspired a decade of young vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

He emphasised the importance of beauty in the Sacred Liturgy and that the focus of it must always be Christ and not us. In 2007, after over forty years of liturgy wars, he gave the traditional Latin Mass much more freedom saying, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behoves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” Since then, many in the Church, both young and old as well as many new Catholics, have found here a real spiritual treasure. In 2011 he created the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, thanks to which we have Fr David in the parish. This was a great ecumenical gesture and enabled many Anglicans to come into full communion with the Catholic Church while at the same time retaining much of their heritage and patrimony. It has certainly enriched the Catholic Church in this country and indeed our own parish.

Then there are his personal theological and spiritual writings which include 66 books including his three volume work “JESUS of Nazareth” and innumerable essays. They are very accessible and I have personally known of several people who have found them to be life-changing.

The few things I have mentioned above don’t even begin to scrape the surface of his enormous influence and legacy. Pope Benedict XVI will be sorely missed. We thank God for his papacy and pray for the repose of his soul, and especially during these official nine days of mourning (Novemdiales) which began on Thursday, the day of his Funeral Mass. Please say a Hail Mary for him now as you read this, and I also encourage you to pray the Collect for a deceased Pope, printed below, from the traditional Latin Mass which he loved so much:

O God, Who by Thine ineffable providence wast pleased to number Thy servant Benedict amongst the sovereign pontiffs; grant, we beseech Thee, that he who reigned as the vicar of Thy Son on earth, may be joined in fellowship with Thy holy pontiffs for evermore. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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