Bishop Peter Collins has paid a personal tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died this morning, 31 December, aged 95.
News of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has saddened the Universal Church and the entire world. Since his resignation from the Papacy in February 2013, Benedict XVI had been resident in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery within the grounds of the Vatican. His entire life was dedicated to Christ and his Church.
Joseph Ratzinger was baptised on the day of his birth, April 16, 1927, at Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, near the border with Austria. In 1943, aged just 16, Joseph was conscripted into the German Army. In 1945 he entered seminary formation and was ordained to the priesthood, together with his brother Georg, on June 29, 1951. For the next 25 years, alongside pastoral responsibilities, he dedicated himself to university teaching and academic research. Joseph Ratzinger will be remembered and honoured as one of the great theologians of the twentieth century.
Pope St Paul VI appointed Professor Ratzinger as Archbishop of Munich in 1977, and he became a Cardinal in the same year. Pope St John Paul II appointed him as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981. Cardinal Ratzinger remained in this post until the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.
Many attempted falsely to depict Cardinal Ratzinger as some kind of harsh enforcer. Whilst he was duty-bound to robustly defend the theological integrity and rational coherence of the Church’s teaching, Cardinal Ratzinger always fulfilled his responsibilities with calm exactitude and a most caring courtesy.
As Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Ratzinger was Celebrant at the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Just a few days later, on April 19, 2005, his fellow cardinals elected him as the 265th Successor of St Peter and he remained as Supreme Pontiff until February 2013.
In the midst of our sadness, it is with joy that we recall the Papal Visit to the United Kingdom undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. We remember the impact of his words as he addressed parliamentarians under the ancient beams of Westminster Hall, speaking of the legitimate role of religion within the public square and the contribution of faith in service to the common good of humanity.
I was privileged to be present at Westminster Cathedral when Pope Benedict celebrated Mass, during which he blessed a newly erected mosaic of St David. Together with so many others, I then travelled from London to Birmingham to join Pope Benedict for the celebration of Mass in Cofton Park during which he beatified the great nineteenth century English theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman – later canonised as a Saint by Pope Francis.
It is worthy of note that Cardinal Ratzinger visited the Diocese of East Anglia in 1988, coming to deliver the annual Fisher Lecture at the Catholic Chaplaincy in Cambridge. The title of his address was ‘Consumer Materialism and Christian Hope’. When the chaplaincy was raising funds for a new chapel in 2005, Ratzinger, by then Pope, sent a donation of £2,000 from his own pocket.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lived his life to the full in Christ. Through the union of faith and reason, Joseph Ratzinger explored the depths of Divine Revelation and has helped us all to navigate our own journey through the wondrous expanse of God’s providential love. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
There will be a Requiem Mass for the Pope Emeritus on Monday, 2 January at 12pm, midday, at St John’s Cathedral in Norwich. In advance of the funeral on Thursday, Solemn Vespers will be celebrated at the Cathedral on Wednesday 4 January, at 6pm – ecumenical and civic representatives will be invited.