As of February 28, 2013 at 2 pm EST, Pope Benedict XVI will be known as Pope Emeritus, or His Holiness Benedict XVI. On this solemn occasion, the beloved spiritual father of nearly 1.2 million Catholics will step down and go into seclusion. The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a prolific spiritual author, leaves behind a profound legacy which, during the years of his pontificate, gained an incredible momentum: the new evangelization.
In Verbum Domini (2010) Pope Benedict stressed that “We cannot keep to ourselves the words of eternal life given to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ: they are meant for everyone, for every man and woman. ... It is our responsibility to pass on what, by God's grace, we ourselves have received.”
While in Genoa, Italy in 2008, Pope Benedict is quoted as saying, “Help each other to live and to grow in the Christian faith so as to be valiant witnesses of the Lord. Be united, but not closed. Be humble, but not fearful. Be simple, but not naive. Be thoughtful, but not complicated. Enter into dialogue with others, but be yourselves.”
In 2007, Pope Benedict specified that, “The proclamation of the Gospel remains the primary service that the Church owes to humanity, to offer the salvation of Christ to the man of our time, who is in many ways humiliated and oppressed, and to orientate in a Christian way cultural, social, and ethical transformations that are unfolding in the world.”
When addressing the 4th Italian Ecclesial Conference in 2006, Pope Benedict had this to say, “Our faith is well founded; but it is necessary that this faith become part of our lives. A great effort must therefore be made in order for all Christians to transform themselves into 'witnesses,' ready and able to shoulder the commitment of testifying - always and to everyone - to the hope that animates them.”
Since that time, the Catholic church, once embroiled in putting out fires of its own scandalous making, has been lighting the right fires infused with the energy of the Holy Spirit, the passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the grace of our Heavenly Father. Pope Benedict XVI has served us well – he has rejuvenated our enthusiasm to learn more about the gospels, and to share the good news with others. For those who would like to focus primarily on the Catholics who leave the church because of personal preferences, they would do well to acknowledge the burgeoning RCIA classes, adult catechism renewal, as well as the conversion of entire congregations of Anglican churches to the Roman Catholic church, most recently, St. Timothy’s Church of Catonsville, MD., who, on February 10, 2013, voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and join a Roman Catholic Ordinariate. Has Pope Benedict’s presence in the Chair of St. Peter had an impact? It most certainly has. Pope Benedict XVI rekindled the fire of our faith but now it’s up to us to keep it going.
Catholics across the globe offer a fond farewell to our beloved Pope Benedict XVI. We are grateful for his loving guidance and service, for the legacy and devotion to the Body of Christ. We sincerely pray for you and for your successor, and wish you many years of peace in Christ Jesus.
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