Statement of Bishop Douglas J. Lucia

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Diocese of Syracuse

Death of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI

December 31, 2022

Statement of Bishop Douglas J. Lucia of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse on the death of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI:

This morning, in the final hours of 2022, Catholics throughout the world have learned of the death of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. Along with Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, our Bishop-emeritus, I join the Catholic community in mourning the passing of the 265th Successor of St. Peter whose only desire was to be a “humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.” His service in the Church spanned decades both as theologian and pastor and he had a key role to play in the Second Vatican Council as theological advisor to the bishops. Yet, the heart of his ministry would focus on being a true icon of Christ, the deacon – Christ, the servant.

It would be summarized in the three encyclicals of his eight-year pontificate: Deus caritas est – God is Love (2005); Spe Salvi – “In Hope We are Saved” (2007); and Caritas in Veritate – “Charity in Truth” (2009). He was very much aware of his own mission to point out Jesus Christ to others, but like John the Baptist he knew he was not the Christ, and like John knew that he must decrease so that Christ would increase in people’s lives (cf. Jn 3:27-36). This awareness would lead Benedict XVI to resign his office as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff because he recognized his own frailty and inability to continue in that role in 2013.

The years of his pontificate were troublesome ones in the life of the Roman Catholic Church, but what I greatly admired was the Holy Father’s humility and gentleness – something I witnessed personally when I met him as Cardinal Ratzinger. Even at World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, I recognized someone who never wanted limelight for himself, but poured himself out in service of all God’s people encouraging them to discover Jesus Christ for themselves and the difference He makes for one’s life.

In speaking of this approaching moment in his life, the Pope-emeritus stated: “Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life. Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling. I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate, my ‘Paraclete.’”

I invite you now to join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI – that despite the sinful human condition we all share in – he will now come to know firsthand the meaning of the Christmas season we are in – God saves! Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace! Amen.