Aides assist Pope Benedict XVI as he walks in procession from the portico of St. Peter's Basilica for Ash Wednesday Mass at the Vatican Feb. 13 CNS photo/Donatella Giagnori, pool

A closeup view of a tired Pope

  • February 14, 2013

TORONTO - The Pope who loved Mozart gave it his all. The Catholic Register’s own Allison Hunwicks had a musician’s closeup view of Pope Benedict XVI in the final weeks of his papacy, investing the last ounce of his strength in the liturgy and the music he so loved.

As an alto in the Our Lady of Sorrows Ecumenical Choir, Hunwicks stood three metres from Pope Benedict as the choir assisted the Pope in St. Peter’s, offering the chanted Mass of the Angels. The Pope sang most of the Feb. 2 two-hour Mass in a light but strained voice.

“He had a lovely sort of beatific smile on his face the whole time,” Hunwicks said.

For Hunwicks and the entire choir, singing for and with the Pope was, truly, an awesome experience.

“He came around right up to us right after the Mass to give us a blessing,” said Hunwicks. “It was extremely powerful. Everyone felt he was looking right at them. It was a really wonderful moment. People were sort of overwhelmed by how powerful it was that we had just sung an entire Mass for the Pope.”

But Benedict’s waning strength was also evident.

“He did drop his staff,” reports The Catholic Register music and arts reporter and circulation manager. “One priest with great reflexes kind of snapped it up for him before it hit the floor.”

Choir members observed that the Pope did not walk without assistance. When rolled through the crowd, Benedict would attempt to raise his arms and bless the people.

“There was always somebody pulling his arm down and making him hold onto the railing,” said Hunwicks.

The Mass itself was a heroic effort.

“He did sing a good portion of it, but his voice was cracking and he was tired.”

The experience also demonstrated the Church as a community bound by kindness and love, as the Pope’s assistants cared for him, helped him and watched over him. As the Mass began the choir observed the Pope being vested.

“It was so tender the way they put everything together.”


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