Pope Benedict XVI arrives to celebrate Mass on New Year's Eve Day in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1, 2010. Pope Benedict died Dec. 31, 2022, at the age of 95 in his residence at the Vatican. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Canadian Catholics mourn Pope Benedict XVI’s passing

  • December 31, 2022

Tributes have been pouring in from across Canada as the Catholic community has joined the world in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

The former pope died Dec. 31 at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. He was 95.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, hailed the former pope as a man who inspired discipleship and theological wisdom.

“Throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto, we join in mourning the loss of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,” wrote Collins. “We give thanks for his years of faithful, thoughtful and inspiring service to the Church. As a priest for more than 70 years and in his time as bishop and supreme pontiff, Pope Emeritus Benedict offered each one of us a personal example of fidelity and of what it is to be a devoted disciple of Jesus.

“As a theologian, he followed in the footsteps of the great St. Augustine, in offering to us profound insight into the mysteries of our Christian faith, insight arising by God’s grace not only from his astonishing intellect and learning, but also from his personal holiness and pastoral care for God’s people; his writings will help guide disciples of Jesus in the centuries that lie before us.” 

Collins also lauded Benedict XVI’s leadership of the universal Church.

“As pope, he led the universal Church with wisdom and holiness, providing a clear and loving message of how our faith can inspire us and guide us through the storms of life’s journey. More than ever, his own witness, humility and invitation to put others before ourselves should resonate throughout the world.”

Collins asked all 225 parishes of the Toronto archdiocese to add a special prayer of the faithful — “For the repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and in thanksgiving for a life of faithful and humble service. We pray to the Lord” — at all Masses until Benedict XVI’s funeral on Jan. 5 at St. Peter’s Basilica. Parishes also lowered their papal flags until the conclusion of the former pontiff’s funeral and were asked to celebrate a special Mass before the celebration of life at the Vatican.

Benedict’s intellectual prowess and gifts as a communicator of the Catholic faith was also admired by Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller.

“The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict is an occasion that causes us both sadness for our loss and gratitude for his ministry,” said Miller. “Although the Church and the world have lost one of the finest Christian minds of modern times, his passing invites reflection on his dedicated service to the Gospel.

“The former pope’s writings, known for their clarity and depth, form a legacy that will endure through the ages. History will remember his bold decision to resign from the papacy when he felt himself unable to fulfill the demands of the office.

“As a close collaborator of St. John Paul, he contributed greatly to a life-giving implementation of the Second Vatican Council and fostering the new evangelization for our times.”

Msgr. Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), remembered a man who sought to “heal the wounds of our past.”

“Benedict XVI was the first pope to meet victims of abuse by members of the clergy. He publicly acknowledged the scourge of abuse by these clergy, apologized for it, and strengthened Church processes to respond to allegations, including facilitating the prosecution or suspension from the clerical state those found responsible for abuse,” said Poisson, Bishop of St-Jérôme-Mont-Laurier.

Poisson also noted that years before Pope Francis’ papal trip to Canada this past summer, the late pope had met with and expressed sorrow to Chief Phil Fontaine and a delegation from the Assembly of First Nations for past wrongs done in the name of the Church.

“Pope Benedict XVI also invited a Canadian delegation, made up of representatives of Indigenous communities, as well as Catholic dioceses and religious communities across Canada, to a private meeting in April 2009 to discuss their experience of residential schools. During this meeting, the Pope listened to their stories and expressed his regret and sadness for the sorrow suffered by many Indigenous people in the residential school system.”

One of the highlights of Benedict XVI’s papacy, Poisson said, occurred on Oct. 21, 2012, when he canonized North America’s first Indigenous saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton offered “profound thanks to God for the gift that this humble servant of the Lord has been to the Church and world.”

A model disciple and gifted teacher, he leaves as his legacy both a personal example of loving fidelity to the Lord and a corpus of writings that offers sure guidance for Christian living,” said Smith. “May the merciful Lord now grant to this good and faithful servant eternal peace and joy.”

Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine emphasized Benedict XVI’s efforts to foster bonds with leaders and followers of other faiths.

“He was, like every human being, a synthesis of different elements, and wanted to be a man of faith. But I think it was also very conscious in him to consider the importance of dialogue, especially between Christian and Jewish followers as well as with Muslims.”

Calgary Bishop William McGrattan unveiled a pastoral letter in memorium where he wrote fondly about the former pope’s mind, humility, spirit of service and encouraging warmth. 

He also focused on the late PopeEemeritus’ connection with youth. McGrattan reminisced about a speech delivered by Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day in 2011 in Madrid, Spain. There was a rainstorm so strong that his address had to be paused for some time. 

“(He) resumed praising the youth for their strength which he described as ‘stronger than the rain.’ He then exhorted them to be grounded in Christ, ‘may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, His name will continue to resound throughout the world.’

“These words seem to have been a personal reflection of his life in that while he had envisioned a quiet of life of retirement, he instead received the call from God in the later stages of his life to become the Vicar of Christ. His service as pope was his contribution to the ongoing plan of God for the Church.”

“We have been blessed and are incredibly grateful to have had the guidance from Pope Benedict XVI to assist and sustain us with the fullness of Catholic teachings in matters of public importance in Canada and the world,” added the Catholic Civil Rights League of Canada in a statement. “We can find numerous references in his words where he brought Christ and the theology of the Church to the public square, against the onslaught of efforts to remove positions of faith from public engagement.”

Founded in 1985, the League came to be as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the president of the International Theological and Pontifical Biblical commissions. 

It was during the League’s 20th anniversary that Benedict was chosen pope. His homily at the opening Mass of the papal conclave was one of the occasions he inspired the League in its mission and mandate to “inform public policy and public opinion in the light of religious faith and reason.”

In that speech Pope Benedict XVI spoke about overcoming ideological currents and a “dictatorship of relativism” by building a mature faith centred on love of Jesus Christ.”

Last modified on January 4, 2023

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