Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his "extraordinary leadership" Register file photo

CCCB president thanks Pope Benedict for “extraordinary leadership”

  • February 12, 2013

OTTAWA - The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his “extraordinary leadership” on the day the world found the pontiff would be stepping down from the papacy.

In an open letter to the Pope dated Feb. 11, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said Canada’s bishops received the news of Benedict’s resignation from office with sadness but also immense gratitude to God for the blessings of his pontificate

“We and the faithful of Canada have grown to love and admire you,” Smith wrote.

“With admiration we acknowledge the courageous witness of life and marvelous clarity of thought that have marked your many dedicated years of service as priest and bishop, teacher and writer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, especially, as pastor of the Universal Church.”

On behalf of the bishops, clergy and faithful in Canada, Smith offered “heartfelt thanks” for “the entire gift you have made of yourself for the good of the Church.”

“Your beautiful and inspiring encyclicals, homilies and innumerable messages form a legacy of clear teaching, infused with love for Christ and His Church, that you now leave as a sure guide for Christians of future generations,” he said.

Smith thanked the Pope on behalf of the bishops for the “great kindness and support” Benedict showed the Church in Canada.

“I particularly wish to express our deep appreciation for expressing the sorrow and regret of the Church for past errors toward the indigenous people in Canada, while opening the way to a new future with the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha,” he said.

In the letter, Smith acknowledged the Pope’s decision to step aside arises out of his love for the Church.

Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast told journalists he had wondered during his last audience with the Pope Jan. 16 “how long such a frail man could keep up the pace the papacy was demanding of him.”

Prendergast said Benedict’s legacy will be his “love for the Word of God” and how well he could clearly communicate that word.

“He made it very clear that the teaching of the Church is centred on Jesus Christ,” he said.

Benedict will also be remembered for his view of the Second Vatican Council as a reform in continuity with what preceded it, said Prendergast.

“He’s going to be remembered as a great teacher.”

Benedict always tried to relate to young people, a challenge for him with his more introverted personality, but he did a good job, Prendergast said.

“He had a beauty in the way he presided at Mass,” he said. “He invited young people to be quiet.”

During previous World Youth Days under Pope John Paul II the Mass could get “a little rowdy,” but at Cologne and Sydney, Benedict invited them to be quiet.

“You could hear a pin drop. One million people.”

Quebec Archbishop Gerald Lacroix told a news conference the Pope won the confidence of young people with his accessible words, noting more people participate in his papal audiences than ever before. This is not because of a charismatic personality but because of his “extraordinary witness of the faith,” he said.

Lacroix said he had 15 minutes alone with the Pope after he was appointed bishop and found a man of great simplicity, a listener, a “great theologian who was also a pastor.”

“Pope Benedict XVI never failed to invite us to conversion,” Lacroix said, noting the Synod on New Evangelization last fall in Rome.

Lacroix said Benedict surprised many who feared the former prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the faith would “take the Church back 50 years” or be a doctrinal enforcer. But he proved to be a deeply humble man, a “lover of Jesus Christ and a lover of humanity.”

Benedict expressed this love through a dialogue with all human beings regardless of station, the Quebec archbishop said. He also showed great courage in visiting countries such as Lebanon, Cuba and Mexico during difficult times.

Prendergast also pointed out Pope Benedict’s efforts at restoring Christian unity.

“The Holy Father feels very strongly the disunity of the Church and has done everything possible to bridge that.”

He noted the Pope’s recent talks with Lutherans, his continuing dialogue with Anglicans and his offer in Anglicanorum coetibus for Anglicans wishing to come into the Church.


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