Of all the Popes in a long while, Pope Benedict stands out for very different reasons than the others did. Rising up as Pope with the rise of technology, Pope Benedict’s worked tirelessly to carry out Pope John Paull II’s vision for the New Evangelization and social media. This blog would not exist if it was not for his push for this! As of late, he even started a Twitter account, where we can keep up with him and his busy schedule, listen to beautiful gospel messages, and even send him tweets! As Pope Benedict leaves us as Pope, to become Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, his legacy will be remembered for ever! Pope Benedict XVI has exhibited what St. Francis de Sales stated: ”Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”
Sudden news, but was it a sudden decision? Knowing his way of thinking and being, the Pope did all things for specific reasons. After all, this announcement comes on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, right around Lenten times. We are certain this is not something unplanned. Just like this decision is something he has been praying about for some time. In his declaratio, his announcement, there are certain words that should stand out to the faithful. Words which should be meditated upon should anyone doubt his reasons why he is doing this. In it he states:
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
Now, take a step back with us and go to the year 2009, on April the 29th to be precise. He stopped off in a small town in Italy who had recently experienced an earthquake. He visited the tomb of a medieval Saint, Pope Peter Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Saint Celestine’s tomb! Why is this something of importance? Up until now the two popes shared many things in common. The first was a contemplative who was made Pope at an advanced age, just like our current Pontiff, and then because he is the last pope so far in history to have “resigned”. In addition to stepping down, Pope Benedict’s spokesman announced that the Pope would remain in the Vatican but as a contemplative. Coincidence? We think not. As Padre Pio said, “pray, trust, and do not worry.”
Some of the contributors to Catholic Sistas have gathered some thoughts as an open letter to our Beloved Papa:
How brilliant that the Lenten season is going to be focused on teaching people about the role of the Pope & the Church! By teaching about those things it teaches the entire world that Christ Himself established the Church which He heads now & forever, His Kingship over the world and His eternal love & sacrifice for us going right into Holy Week & Easter. All eyes on the faith during the holiest time of year, witness to the Paschal mystery, may our hearts be turned toward the Lord as well. As this is a great reminder to all of us that during Lent we should get our spiritual house in order, get our souls right by God & focus on what He desires for us versus our own desires. For example, do we desire a pope who reflects what we want for the Church based on our worldly views or do we desire one who lives out his chosen role as the Vicar of Christ faithful to God in all things. Further, do we seek the same (to be faithful to God in all things) in our own lives as we live out our calling, our vocation, from God? It’s like God has a plan or something. http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/HaveNoFear.htm —Have No Fear/Be Not Afraid the most common theme in the Bible. Trust in God in all things. Even papal conclaves. ~ Beth
I am so grateful to have witnessed the gentle, loving and faithful papacy of Pope Benedict VI. He has been a tangible piece of the “hope” of which Blessed John Paul II so often spoke. He has reinforced for me, a convert, the incredible wisdom and beauty of the Church and the papacy. ~ Lynne
I’m so grateful for Pope Benedict’s stand against relativism. Even before the Holy Spirit called him to be the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI identified this as a cancer eating away at the faith of God’s people. I am thankful for his courage and fidelity to the Church founded by Jesus Christ. ~ AnnMarie C.
What an amazing time in history to be Catholic! We have been blessed with a gentle, loving, truthful, and faithful papacy of Pope Benedict XVI – at a time when it is much needed in this world. I look forward with much excitement to who the Holy Spirit brings as our next leader, and I look back with much gratitude to a beautiful example in Pope Benedict XVI. ~ Emily
Pope Benedict’s papacy began during my first year of marriage, and it has been such a blessing to watch both of these strongholds in my life flourish at the same time. Pope Benedict XVI is an amazing leader and has helped me become the Catholic that I know Jesus wants me to be. I love you Papa. ~ Rachel
The first time I prayed and waited to hear “Habemus Papam” was for him. Thank you, dear Papa Ben, for your wise, strong, loving leadership of our holy Church. We love you. ~ Allison
I am so grateful for what Pope Benedict has done for our Church. He has shown us how to be bold and strong in the face of criticism from the world. He has blessed the Church in so many ways, most notably by giving us this Year of Faith as a time to be mindful of deepening our faith as Catholics and evangelizing our non-practicing Catholic brothers and sisters. We will all miss your leadership and strong convictions, Papa Bene!! ~ Kerri
We are all blessed as Catholics to have had such a strong spiritual leader as Pope Benedict XVI and such a worthy successor of Saint Peter.Thank you Pope Benedict for everything you have done these last couple years and for being such a beacon of love and hope for us all. God bless and love you! ~ Natalie
Ever since he emerged from the “Room of Tears” to accept the responsibility of the weight of a billion souls, Pope Benedict has shown us a humble example of a virtuous life. His leadership was marked by justice, temperance, and fortitude. So, it is not surprising that his departure models the preeminent cardinal virtue of prudence. Our hearts are filled with love and gratitude. ~ Shiela
There are no words for the sadness I feel. I hold Papa Benedict in such high esteem, not only for his strength and steadfastness in a world in flux, but his role as a scholar has blessed our Church with rationality and intellectual reasonability. May God bless the rest of his life with tranquility and honor. ~ Charla
Oh, Pope Benedict! I am so happy for him and sad for myself; I feel like someone in my family has died. Oh, what a blessed holy man. Certainly, he deserves to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Now enter into the rest prepared for you.” ~ Katie
We are indebted to your faithful service, example, and fearless leadership of Christ’s Church. You have our continued love, support, and prayers, as you enter into the next chapter of your life, both here and in the next world. ~ Martina
I feel bereft, as if some indispensable member of my family is moving far away.This pope, with his gentle yet firm hand, has been one to whom I could relate so well. As a German myself, our German Shepherd’s words and writings resonated with me as if he were my own Opa. I love him with a depth that surprises me and pray that the twilight of his years will be spent in the peace that comes from a job well done. He has served us well and his toil for the people of God will stand the test of time. Well done, good and faithful servant. You have given me the gift of a deeper faith and a stronger determination for serving the Church founded by Christ Himself. ‘And the gates of hell will not prevail against her!’. Vielen Dank und möge Gott Sie segnen. ~ Birgit
Dear Papa, thank you for your heart, your strength, your love, and your service to God and to His Holy Church. You are such an amazing inspiration to all of us. My heart is heavy on this day to hear that you are resigning because of your lack of strength. The strength you’ve shown not only us but the entire world during your role as leader of our Catholic church has been uplifting, joyful, and spiritually rejuvenating. You have been a role model in how to live a life that resembles Christ’s own… protecting the innocent, especially the unborn, showing kindness and love to everyone, and sacrificing your own wants and needs for the good of others. Thank you so much for all you’ve given to all of us. I will be continuing to pray for you and as I wipe away the tears of sadness I know that God gave us the exact leader we needed as we needed him. I know He will do the same for our next Papa. ~With all my love and respect. ~ Michelle
I was standing in St. Peter’s Square when Joseph Ratzinger’s named was announced as our next pope. It was an incredible moment for me, but I didn’t know at the time what a huge blessing he would be to the Church and the world. I am saddened that he will not be our German Shepherd anymore, but grateful for the time he faithfully led the Church. I thank Pope Benedict from the bottom of my heart for his loving guidance. ~ Mary
What is left to say? I am heart broken. However, God is so good to us. I believe that Pope Benedict XVI would not have retired if he was not certain that good things, better things were still in store for the Church. If God speaks directly to someone on earth, it is him and I am sure that if his conscience is at peace with this decision, God has made it so. And God will provide as he did when He gave us Pope Benedict XVI after JPII. So from the bottom of my soul, I thank PBXVII for his selfless service and steadfast guidance. And it is with great excitement and anticipation that we look forward to the next great Bishop of Rome. The kids are excited to live in these times, challenging, full of surprises, and filled with God’s grace. ~ Cristina
I came back home to the Catholic faith the same year that Pope Benedict was elected to the Papacy. My faith journey has always included him. So although I am a bit sad in the way we all are when a wonderful pope is no longer in office, I am looking forward to the new chapter that a new pope will bring to the Church and to my own spiritual journey. Each pope has his own ferver, his own style, and I look forward to see what the new pope has to offer in this regard. Surely, Pope Benedict leaves mightily big shoes to fill. God bless the Office of the Pope, Pope Benedict, and our new pope who has yet to be prayerfully revealed to the conclave. May he lead the flock to stronger faith, and greater courage in the wake of worldly evils. ~ Karen
We were on our trip in Rome, Stacey and I were standing by the fence that surrounds the seating area and a lady came up to us and said she had two extra tickets to get into the seating area and that we could see the Pope even better. The crazy thing is that she was talking to me in Spanish and nobody around us understood her except me. At this point in my life I sill had traces of my protestant upbringing in my heart about the Pope. I loved John Paul II, but only because he was so sweet looking and really I don’t know what it was about him, but he tugged at my heart. But Benedict was not like that for me. I thought that he was “just a man”. I had read a lot of secular news about the sex abuse scandal, and they did not do Pope Benedict any favors. So, as I stood there waiting for him to come out in his popemobile, I was thinking that I would not care. It would be cool to say I saw the pope,but other than that, it was no big deal. Then he came out. And this voice in my heart said “You are Peter”. Later that voice would tell me the same thing as I stood in front of the tomb of St. Peter. As the Pope passed by me, I was trying to take pictures. I had a great view of him, but you can’t tell because I was sobbing and couldn’t take good pictures of the moment. I just stood there sobbing. I was Home. I was were God wanted me. I had a Pope. I was a Papist. I had a ROCK. For someone who lived the unstable life that I had lived up until that point, that was exactly what I needed. ~ Leti
You know how people say they knew what they were doing and where they were when JFK got shot? I can tell you just the same when the announcement came in the Josef Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope. i was standing with my huge pregnancy belly in the 8th grade classroom at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish School, I had the TV on, awaiting the news with my Language Arts class and I literally jumped up and down when it came. See when the the last conclave started, my husband and I were rooting for him as we knew what an intellectual he was, how much he knew the liturgy, and we were hopeful for what was ahead should he be elected. I made a promise to God while pregnant with my baby boy that we would name him Josef, after the saint and the cardinal, and offered him to Him to the Holy Priesthood as well. When our little Josef walked up to me at the age of three and told me Jesus told him he would be able to offer Mass when he grew up but that he would were red and that I needed to pray for him because people would not like what he would tell them, I was not surprised! I will always remember Pope Benedict not only for his love of the liturgy and desire to reform it but also because when I see my little boy, I will always remember him! ~ Alessandra
I watched all of the coverage of his election live on TV and celebrated with my family when he was elected. I knew I would see another Pope after him in my lifetime, I just didn’t think it would be this soon, or these circumstances. Both JPII and Pope Benedict XVII have been wonderful examples of how to serve. I will pray both for our current Pope, and the one who will fill the Chair of Peter after him. ~ Lisa
I held my first born child, a newborn, as I watched Cardinal Ratzinger greet us as Pope Benedict XVI. I knew that what I was watching was historic, but I didn’t really know enough beyond that. Eight years later, as I delve into the books of Cardinal Ratzinger, I am supremely thankful for the humble theologian the Lord blessed us with. His writings are a gift to Christianity, and the work he has done to bring unity to the Body of Christ has been remarkable. Since I have only ever known two popes in my life, and they have both been remarkable (Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI), I can only have high hopes for the next Holy See. Blessed be Pope Benedict XVI, and many prayers for our next pope, that he may be a strong man, faithful to God and a strong opponent of the enemy. ~ Adrienne
My heart felt heavy as I read the news of Papa Benedict’s resignation this morning, but also full of gratitude and peace. Our Church has been so blessed in the years that we’ve had Pope Benedict at her helm. I am grateful for his gentle and faithfulleadership. His many speeches and writings have blessed me in an immense and personal way as well. As they move forward in selecting a new leader for us, my every hope and prayer is with our dear Pope Benedict and all of the Cardinals. God bless him! ~ Brittany
Papa, I thank God for your service. I know we have all been blessed that you took on the heavy yoke of leading us all to heaven, and I trust that you are following God’s direction in stepping down. You will continue to be in my prayers, as I know we will always be in yours. As confusing as this is to our human minds, I know God has a plan and that this is a part of his plan. I pray that God give our wonderful Pope Benedict a peaceful and blessed rest of his life here on earth, and I know he will be busy in heaven when the time comes, interceding for his children. I also pray for the man who will become our next Pope, that he be given God’s strength, wisdom, faithfulness, and humility. I feel certain he will need it, along with all our prayers. ~ Mary S.
Please add your sentiments in the combox.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.