Dedicated to God, Served Humanity | Daily News

Dedicated to God, Served Humanity

Pope Francis, with his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis, with his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.

“Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies
Heaven's morning breaks and earth's vain shadows flee
In life, in death,
o Lord, abide with me”

- Hymn by Henry Lyte

The Holy See Press Office announced that the Pope Emeritus died at 9.34 a.m. on Saturday morning in his residence at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, which the 95-year-old Pope emeritus had chosen as his residence after resigning from the Petrine ministry. Among the many saints in the Catholic Church, the one who powerfully influenced me was Saint Francis of Assisi. He lived by the beautiful creed stated in Latin ‘Deus Meus- Et Omnia’- meaning ‘My God- My All’. Although I never met the late Pope Benedict, his humble and sincere life certainly reflects that he too believed and served God by this ancient creed of Saint Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis in his first public comments after the death of former Pope Benedict XVI called him a ‘noble person’ and hailed his predecessor’s ‘sacrifices for the good of the church.’ His Holiness Pope Benedict surprised the Catholic faithful and religious clergy around the world on February 11, 2013, when he announced plans to step down from his position as Pope, citing his advanced age.

For it is only Gods love that can inspire a human to take to the fully ordained life, giving up all worldly attachments and spending ones entire life diligently serving others. As we know the supreme title of the Pope is not only confined to the global Christian Community but is a holy office which can wield a positive influence on the entire world. Previous Popes prudently used their office to bring change in globally debated issues and earnestly intervened to prevent escalating wars. Pope John Paul 11 was affectionately venerated by many Sri Lankans.

Dignitaries and religious leaders have been paying tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died Saturday in a monastery in the Vatican at the age of 95. If life is a book, then this Pope’s life has many chapters, laden with life’s tragedies and triumphs. Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born on April 16, Holy Saturday, in 1927. He was the son of a policeman. Who would think this boy would become the Pope decades later? In the Bible we learn that when the Prophet Samuel saw young David with his robust brothers, he saw ‘beyond the present’ and realized the young shepherd David would become King of Israel. God sees with his divine eyes, beyond the limited vision of men.

In November 1945 Joseph Ratzinger, and his brother Georg, entered a seminary to train for the priesthood and were ordained together in 1951. Ratzinger’s doctoral dissertation was on St Augustine of Hippo. Rev. Fr. Ratzinger spent a few years in Parish ministry before becoming a professor in 1958 at Freising College. He taught later in 1959, at the University of Bonn and in 1963 at the University of Münster. In 1977 Pope Paul VI appointed Ratzinger Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Four years later the new pope, John Paul II, appointed Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – the Vatican’s doctrinal guardian. In accordance to Gods will Ratzinger, was elected Pope in 2005 taking the regnal name Benedict XVI. The Dalai Lama congratulated Benedict XVI upon his election and visited him in October 2006 in the Vatican City.

Joseph Ratzinger chose the papal name Benedict, which comes from the Latin word meaning ‘the blessed’, in honour of both Benedict XV and Benedict of Nursia. Benedict XV was pope during the First World War, during which time he earnestly pursued peace between the warring nations. St. Benedict of Nursia was the founder of the Benedictine monasteries and the author of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which is still the most influential writing regarding the monastic life of Western Christianity.

In this May 28, 2006 photo, then-Pope Benedict XVI walks through the gate of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland.

Joseph Ratzinger was ordained as a priest in 1951, made a cardinal in 1977, and later served as chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II. He was elected Pope in April 2005, following Pope John Paul II’s death. Subsequently Pope Benedict took the courageous and humble step to resign the papacy, the first Pope to do so since the fifteenth century. In making this choice freely he acknowledged the human frailty that affects us. He also reminded us that power is temporary in every realm.

The late Pope Benedict was a polymath – his collected writings cover 16 volumes, averaging some 1,000 pages each - on every conceivable topic in theology, philosophy, science, literature, and politics. His writings were prolific and prudently defended traditional Catholic doctrine, values, and liturgy. Pope Benedict was known to be deeply interested in classical music. He was an accomplished pianist. His favourite composer was Wolfgang Mozart. Pope Benedict has stated that Mozart's music affected him greatly as a young man and deeply penetrated his soul. Pope Benedict's favourite works of music were Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet.

‘Friendship with Jesus Christ’ was a frequent theme of his preaching. He stressed that on this intimate friendship, ‘everything depends’. The departed Pope said: “We are all called to open ourselves to this friendship with God”. During his Pontificate, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI canonized 45 people. Pope Benedict travelled extensively during the first three years of his papacy. In addition to his travels within Italy, Benedict XVI made two visits to his homeland, Germany, one for World Youth Day.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said the late Pope was a scholar, pastor and a man of God who would be remembered for “his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met”. Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, said Pope Benedict was “one of the greatest theologians of his age”.

I remember reading in a book, the phrase ‘Life’s race well run- Life’s crown now won’. Pope Benedict fought the good fight and completed Gods given task on earth. What we are is our gift from God, what we become is our gift to God. Pope Benedicts ministry impacted millions. His life was a radiant beacon to this world. I conclude with another hymn- “My hope is built on nothing less/ Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness/ I dare not trust the sweetest frame/ But wholly lean on Jesus’ name/ On Christ the solid rock I stand/ All other ground is sinking sand” - Edward Mote

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