Pope Benedict’s spiritual testament: ‘Stand firm in the faith’; His funeral to be simple.


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By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Retired Pope Benedict XVI’s final message to Catholics around the world was: “Stand firm in the faith! Do not let yourselves be confused!”

Less than 10 hours after informing the world that the 95-year-old pope had died Dec. 31, the Vatican press office released his spiritual testament, a statement of faith and of thanksgiving.

Unlike St. John Paul II’s spiritual testament, Pope Benedict’s included no instructions for his funeral or burial and made no mention of what should happen to his belongings.*

“To all those whom I have wronged in any way, I ask forgiveness from my heart,” Pope Benedict wrote.

Written in German and dated Aug. 29, 2006 — in the second year of his almost eight-year pontificate — Pope Benedict wrote with great affection of his parents, his sister and his brother, the beauty of Bavaria and his faith in God.

“If at this late hour of my life I look back over the decades I have been living, I first see how many reasons I have to give thanks,” he wrote in the document when he was 79 years old.

“First of all, I thank God himself, the giver of every good gift, who gave me life and guided me through various moments of confusion; always picking me up whenever I began to slip and always giving me the light of his countenance again,” he said. “In retrospect I see and understand that even the dark and tiring stretches of this path were for my salvation and that it was in them that he guided me well.”

Born in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger was raised in a Germany struggling to recover from the first World War; Adolf Hitler came to power when the future pope was only 7.

In his testament, he offered thanks to his parents, “who gave me life in a difficult time and who, at the cost of great sacrifices, with their love prepared a magnificent home that like a clear light still enlightens my days.”

“My father’s lucid faith taught us children to believe, and as a signpost it has always stood firm in the midst of all my academic achievements,” he said. “My mother’s profound devotion and great goodness are a legacy for which I cannot thank her enough.”

Pope Benedict thanked God for the many friends, both men and women, he had had by his side, and for his teachers and students — many of whom he continued to meet with late in his life.

A pope known for his concern for the environment, he thanked God for the beauty of his Bavarian homeland, “in which I always saw the splendor of the Creator himself shining through.”

“I pray that our land remains a land of faith,” he wrote before pleading with his fellow Germans to let nothing draw them from the faith.

“And, finally,” he wrote, “I thank God for all the beauty I experienced at every stage of my journey, especially in Rome and in Italy, which became my second homeland.”

Addressing the whole church, Pope Benedict urged Catholics to hold fast to their faith and to not let science or research shake the foundations of their belief.

“It often seems as if science — the natural sciences on the one hand and historical research, like the exegesis of Sacred Scripture, on the other — are able to offer irrefutable results at odds with the Catholic faith,” he said.

But he assured those reading the document that throughout his life he had seen science offer “apparent certainties against the faith” only to see them vanish, “proving not to be science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently pertaining to science.”

At the same time, he said, “it is in dialogue with the natural sciences that faith too has learned to better understand the limit of the scope of its claims, and thus its specificity.”

In 60 years of theological study and observation, he said, he had seen “unshakable” theses collapse, including those offered by the “Marxist generation” of theologians.

“The reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging again,” he wrote. “Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth and the life — and the church, with all its inadequacies, is truly his body.”

In the end, Pope Benedict wrote, “I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord, despite all my sins and inadequacies, may receive me into his eternal dwelling.”

Pope Benedict’s funeral will respect his wishes to be simple

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In accordance with Pope Benedict XVI’s wishes, his funeral and moments of prayer surrounding it will be simple, according to the Vatican press office.

The 95-year-old pope’s body will stay at his private residence, where he passed away Dec. 31, until early Jan. 2, during which time “no official visits or public prayers are planned,” the press office said in a statement Dec. 31.

His remains will then be brought to St. Peter’s Basilica, where, starting at 9 a.m., people will be able to pay their last respects and offer their prayers from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4, it said.

The funeral Mass, presided over by Pope Francis, will be in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 5 starting at 9:30 a.m. Rome time. And the only official delegations to be present will be from Germany and Italy, the Vatican said.

After the funeral Mass, the coffin will be taken to St. Peter’s Basilica and then to the Vatican grotto for burial.

Just a few hours after Pope Benedict died at 9:34 a.m. Dec. 31, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, spoke to reporters.

While he did not offer precise details as to what the funeral Mass of a retired pope will look like, Bruni said that Pope Benedict wanted his funeral and related events to be carried out “in a sign of simplicity.”

Bruni also said the retired pope received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick Dec. 28, the day Pope Francis told people Pope Benedict was “very sick” and in need of prayers.

“Ask the Lord to console him and sustain him in his witness of love for the church until the very end,” Pope Francis had said at the end of his general audience.

Before the funeral, Bruni added, all scheduled events at the Vatican were to continue as planned, such as Pope Francis’ evening celebration of vespers and the recitation of the Te Deum Dec. 31.

Pope Francis embraces a child as he arrives to lead a traditional evening prayer service on New Year’s Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 31, 2022. Retired Pope Benedict XVI died in the morning Dec. 31 at his residence at the Vatican. He was 95. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope pays tribute to the late Pope Benedict, highlighting his gentleness

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Keeping his appointment to celebrate vespers as 2022 was ending, Pope Francis also paid tribute to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who died early Dec. 31.

“At this moment, our thoughts go spontaneously to our dearest Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who left us this morning,” Pope Francis told thousands of people joining him in St. Peter’s Basilica for the evening prayer service.

“With emotion we remember him as such a noble, such a gentle person,” the pope said. “And we feel so much gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the church and to the world; gratitude to him, for all the good he accomplished, particularly for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his retired life.”

“Only God knows the value and strength of his intercession and his sacrifices offered for the good of the church,” Pope Francis said of the 95-year-old Pope Benedict, who had spent almost 10 years in retirement in a monastery in the Vatican Gardens.

The prayers of the faithful also included special mention of the deceased Pope Benedict, asking God to allow him to see Jesus face to face.

In the main section of his homily, Pope Francis focused on kindness and gentleness as both a religious and a civic virtue.

With the Christmas season still underway and the basilica’s Christmas decorations still in place, Pope Francis said that Jesus “did not come into the world swooping down from heaven; he was born of Mary.”

Jesus became human “with her consent; in freedom, in gratuitousness, in respect, in love,” the pope said.

Focusing specifically on the Diocese of Rome, his diocese, Pope Francis urged citizens to cultivate kindness in their relationships with each other.

“Kindness is an important factor in the culture of dialogue,” he said, “and dialogue is indispensable if we are to live in peace, as brothers and sisters, who do not always get along — that is normal — but who nevertheless talk to each other, listen to each other and try to understand and meet each other.”

Kindness is not just politeness, he said, it is a virtue that can “humanize our societies.”

“Kindness is an antidote against some of the pathologies of our societies: against cruelty, which unfortunately can creep in like a poison in the heart and intoxicate relationships,” he said, and also “against distracted anxiety and frenzy that make us focus on ourselves and close us off to others.”

Too often, the pope said, people get caught up in their own lives and do not realize how aggressive they are and how they stop asking “please,” or saying “sorry” or “thank you.”

“Peace progresses with those three words,” he said. “It would be good for us to think about using ‘please,’ ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ often.”

Pope Francis said his wish for the new year would be that everyone try harder to be kind.

“Experience teaches us that if it becomes a way of life, it can create healthy coexistence,” he said, and “it can humanize social relationships by dissolving aggression and indifference.”

After the service, Pope Francis joined thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square to admire, and stop to pray, in front of the Nativity scene.


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