Archive of February 28, 2013

Obama officials, Republican group advocate 'gay marriage'

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2013 (CNA) - Both President Barack Obama’s administration and a group of Republican officials have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court calling for marriage to be redefined to include same-sex partners.

“Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress,” said former U.S. Representative Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio).

On Feb. 25, a group of over 70 Republican leaders and public figures filed a “friend of the court” brief on the upcoming Supreme Court case regarding California’s Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage within California.

The brief’s position contradicts the official Republican Party platform, which reaffirmed its stance that marriage is “a union of one man and one woman” in Aug. 2012.

The brief was organized by Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and will be filed on March 1.

The Obama administration also voiced its support of same-sex “marriage” through a brief opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that affirmed marriage as a union between a man and a woman for purposes of federal grants, benefits and tax information.

Oral arguments in both cases will be heard before the Supreme Court in March 2013 following challenges to their constitutionality. The court cases are expected to be “landmark” decisions that will define the way marriage is understood within the United States.

The Department of Justice, the branch of the president’s administration filing the brief, claimed that the Defense of Marriage Act was “discriminatory” against a “discrete minority class of homosexuals.” The department claimed that homosexual individuals have been historically discriminated against, that they are “a minority group with limited political power.”

In addition, it asserted that an “expert consensus” exists saying that children of same-sex parents do not differ from biological and opposite-sex parents. This claim contradicts a study published by University of Texas-Austin researcher Mark Regnerus in 2012 noting various disadvantages faced by children raised by same-sex parents.

The department added that the federal government does not have an interest in promoting traditional marriage, even if it does value the traditional institution.

Quoting decisions by other courts, the brief stated that the “ancient lineage of a legal concept does not give a law immunity from attack” and claimed that the federal interest in protecting a traditional view of marriage cannot be achieved through the Defense of Marriage Act “because the decision of whether same-sex couples can marry is left to the states.”

Those who oppose a redefinition of marriage argue that governments have traditionally been involved in regulating marriage as the union of one man and one woman because this is the only type of union that can produce children.

They say that government has an interest in promoting the well-being of society’s future generations by encouraging stable households in which children are raised by their biological parents whenever possible.

In May 2012, President Obama announced that his positions on “gay marriage” had “evolved” and that he supported the recognition of same-sex partnerships as marriage, contradicting his statements during the 2008 election.

Republicans who signed the brief opposing Proposition 8 referenced a shift in popular opinion as a motivating factor for their change in position, despite recent moves in numerous states to reaffirm marriage as the union of man and woman.

Steve Schmidt, a signer of the brief and former senior advisor to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, argued that the “die is cast on this issue.”

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Catholic college students honor Pope Benedict's last days

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Students at American Catholic universities are observing the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy with special Masses, prayers and acts of charity.

At Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, “Christ the King Chapel was filled to overflowing” during a holy hour on Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, said Tom Sofio, a public relations official.

Sofio told CNA that hundreds of students attended the holy hour – which was held “in thanksgiving for Pope Benedict's papacy and to pray for the new pope” – as well as the subsequent Mass celebrated by Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey Monforton.

In addition, he said, almost 130 students enrolled in the university’s study abroad program in Austria re-arranged their schedules and traveled by buses on a 16-hour overnight trip to Rome for the Pope’s final audience on Feb. 27.

Franciscan University was one of several Catholic colleges that had special Masses, prayers and other events to honor the final days of Pope Benedict’s papacy. The Holy Father is stepping down at the end of February due to failing strength and advanced age.

The University of Notre Dame celebrated two Feb. 27 Masses at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for Pope Benedict and in thanksgiving for his service to the Church.

Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., hosted a multi-day celebration in thanksgiving for Pope Benedict’s ministry.

Events included several Masses, a faculty lecture, Eucharistic holy hour, student-organized panel on the Holy Father’s contributions to the Church and student service project to prepare meals for the poor, in the spirit of Pope Benedict’s 2005 encyclical on love, “Deus Caritas Est.”

In New Jersey, Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary held a Feb. 27 colloquium on Pope Benedict’s legacy.

The event featured speakers from the School of Theology who specialize in Sacred Scripture and Systematic Theology.

Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., will celebrate Mass and then ring the bells at St. Benedict’s Abbey, adjacent to campus, at 1:00 p.m., which is 8:00 p.m. in Rome, the time at which the Holy Father will officially step down.

Students in the University of Dallas’ Rome program attended the Pope’s final public Mass on Ash Wednesday at St. Peter’s Basilica, the university said.

University of Dallas student Ada Thomas said it was “bittersweet” to be there.

“I was definitely struck by the Pope's humility. He wasn't giving a final performance, so to speak, but he was celebrating a Mass surrounded by those he loves: Catholics from all over the world and every walk of life.”

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Theologian says cultural renewal starts with Catechism

Merrimack, N.H., Feb 28, 2013 (CNA) - A U.S. theology professor's new book seeks to revitalize society through the “integrated whole of the Catholic vision,” found in the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Dr. Ryan Topping of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H., said that the task of evangelizing formerly Christian societies “requires effort on all fronts.”

“Bishops have their part, as do religious, as do politicians; but it is in the field of the family that most of us need to begin our work,” he told CNA Feb. 26.

Topping's new publication, “Rebuilding Catholic Culture,” was released in January by Sophia Institute Press.

It outlines his belief is that Catholic tradition, as it is found in the Creed and in the Church's liturgy, moral teachings, and mystical practice, must be recovered if Western culture is to be shaped by Catholicism again.

The book concludes that the four practical measures which need to be taken so that Western culture can be evangelized are an end to abortion; having more children; teaching them Latin; and building beautiful churches.

The first three all concern the rearing of children and family life – the first school of prayer – to which much of Topping's thought is directed.

“The first vocation crisis is in the family,” he said. Recognizing that grace builds on nature, he pointed out that prayer before meals only makes sense when families bother to eat together. But “in many homes basic civilities – like eating together – are no longer habitual.”

Small natural acts like eating as a family are the first steps toward sanctity, and towards evangelization, he said. He highlighted the the link between culture and cult – worship. “For Catholic family life, this means that all our routines must, somehow, be ordered to or flow from the Mass,” he said.

“Each Sunday for us is to be a 'little Easter'...We need desperately to relearn the joy of leisure. After Mass, have a feast. Put away the computer. Invite someone over from church. Read to your kids. Walk with your wife. Play the piano,” offered Topping, who is a father of five.

“Since our house is full of young children, our family has grown particularly fond of the Feast of St. John Bosco,” he shared.

“Whenever his day roles around, we invite other children, tell the story of his life, then turn our house into a carnival with jumping competitions, shoot-outs, and musical chairs.”

Topping believes the recovery of Latin is important because – as mid-20th century pope John XXIII said – it unifies, stabilizes, and elevates.

“Most of the contemporary educational establishment is terrified of the classics because they breed in students a kind of independence of spirit that massive state funded institutions cannot manage,” he said.

“Places like Christendom College, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, and Thomas More College – where I happen to teach – have become islands of sanctity in part because they put students in touch with the great works of Christian civilization.”

Topping also touches on sacred architecture in his book, writing that “the recovery of beauty as a theological category has been one of the singular gains in Catholic thought in more recent reflection.”

He hopes that Catholic churches, and liturgies, will become beautiful, enchanting places and events that have an evangelizing power.

“Liturgy must seek first to show the glory of the Lord...revive cult, and culture will eventually follow,” Topping writes.

In his remarks to CNA, he noted that “enchanted in the first instance liturgy faithfully rendered,” adding that participants at Mass must first of all be prayerful.

“As Pope Benedict XVI has taken great pains to make clear, active participation refers primarily to an interior motion,” Topping said. “We are active at Mass not so much when we are busy, as when we are attentive.”

“If the Eucharist is the summit of the faith, then our music, posture, and dress ought to communicate devotion.”

Topping discussed how reason can reach objective artistic judgments about sacred music and art, and that such judgments are not “merely a matter of taste.”

“A long tradition of philosophical thinking – beginning with Plato – concludes that each kind of music contains its own distinct ethos, or moral character...Liturgy requires the right setting too, the right mood or feeling, which is why not any form of music will fit,” he explained.

“Rebuilding Catholic Culture” includes a foreword by Dominican theologian Father Aidan Nichols, who praises the book's compelling yet easily accessible approach.

Reflecting Topping's recognition of beauty's power to evangelize, the book includes a prominent use of poetry and visual art.

“The images in Rebuilding Catholic Culture are drawn from various countries, themes, and times, including our own,” Topping said.

“In a modest way I hope that the images and poetry can add vigor to the claim that Catholicism not only transformed our culture in the past, but can do so again.”

He is concerned to show that “Catholicism is not only true. it is beautiful.” The presentation of the faith, he added, “must not only be logically compelling, but aesthetically, and morally convincing” as well.

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Cardinals bid Pope farewell with hearts full of thanks

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Echoing the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, Cardinal Angelo Sodano told Pope Benedict that the cardinals’ hearts “burned when walking with you in the past eight years.”

“Yes, Holy Father, I know that our hearts that burned when walking with you in the past eight years. Today we want to once again express our gratitude. We repeat in chorus a typical expression of his dear native land ‘Vergelt's Gott,’ which means? God reward you!” Cardinal Sodano said on behalf of the cardinals.

Pope Benedict met with all the cardinals who were present in Rome on Feb. 28, his last day as pontiff. Around 144 cardinals and numerous members of the Roman Curia gathered in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace for a final farewell and to thank the Pope for his eight years leading the Church.

“With great trepidation,” Cardinal Sodano began, “the cardinals present in Rome huddle around you today, to once again express their deep affection and our heartfelt gratitude for your selfless witness of apostolic service, for the good of the Church of Christ and humanity as a whole.”

He recalled how Pope Benedict thanked the cardinals last Saturday for their assistance during his papacy, and remarked, “it is we who must thank you for the example you gave us in the past eight years of your pontificate.”

Perhaps in a reference to the difficulties that experienced by Pope Benedict, Cardinal Sodano said, “with deep love we tried to accompany you in your journey, reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus who, after walking with Jesus for a good stretch of road, they said to one another: ‘Do not perhaps it was burning our heart, when we talked on the way?’”

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Vatican Post Office issues stamp for Pope's resignation

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s post office is issuing a special cancelation stamp to mark the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy.

A Feb. 28 communiqué from the post office reproduces the special postmark, which shows Pope Benedict in the foreground with his arms raised in a greeting.

In the background is the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and along the bottom in Latin are the words: “Pope Benedict XVI Renounces the Petrine Ministry. Vatican Post, 28.2.2013.”

Anyone who wants to have the postmark on their mail must send it by April 3, 2013.

The cancelation stamp is paid for by the person who sends the post card, letter or package.  

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Benedict XVI pledges respect, obedience to future Pope

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI surprised the cardinals and organizers of a Feb. 28 farewell ceremony by saying the future Pope is present and that he already pledges his “unconditional respect and obedience” to him.

“Before I personally greet you I desire to tell you that I will continue to remain close to you with prayer, especially in these next days, that you may be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope.

“That the Lord will show you what he wants from you,” Benedict XVI told the 144 cardinals gathered in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at 11:00 a.m. to bid him farewell.

“Among you, between the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom I already pledge my unconditional respect and obedience,” he declared.

The cardinals of the Church usually promise their obedience to the new Pope in the Sistine Chapel after he is elected, making Benedict XVI’s words all the more powerful.

Pope Benedict was not expected to deliver any remarks, so organizers were surprised by his speech.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, also offered words on behalf of all the cardinals in which he said their hearts burned within them during the Pope’s eight years of ministry.


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Church bells ring out as Pope travels to Castel Gandolfo

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Thursday, Feb. 28, church bells in Rome and Albano rang out during the helicopter flight that took Pope Benedict XVI from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo on the day of his resignation.

The Pope departed the Vatican at 5 p.m. local time to travel to Albano, where the papal summer residence is located and where he was welcomed by the faithful. Numerous Catholic communities organized a pilgrimage to Castel Gandolfo to begin at 4 p.m. local time.

Officials of the Papal Household told Vatican Radio in advance that the Holy Father would greet the faithful and bid farewell from the balcony of the Papal Residence.

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano told Vatican Radio that it is a “truly a great privilege” for his diocese to welcome the Pope during his transition to retirement.

Benedict XVI will officially resign from the papacy at 8 p.m. Rome time. The faithful in Albano plan to surround the papal residence at that moment in silence and prayer as an expression of love and support.

Bsihop Semeraro also explained that prior to and after the Pope’s arrival at Castel Gandolfo, all parishes in the region will hold days of prayer for Benedict XVI in thanksgiving for his presence and for his magisterium.

“We will pray for the Pope, we will thank the Lord for the gift of his presence, for the gift of his word, for the gift of his service,” he added.

A date has not yet been set for Benedict XVI’s move from Castel Gandolfo to his permanent residence at a former monastery on the Vatican grounds.

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Pope leaves Vatican for Castel Gandolfo

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has left the Vatican by helicopter and will soon arrive in the town of Castel Gandolfo where he will live for two months.

Staff from the pontifical household, senior cardinals, senior members of the Secretariat of State, and all the Swiss guards lined up in front of the St. Damaso courtyard for their final goodbye.

He was then driven from the courtyard to the heliport where he boarded the helicopter, which left at 5:05 p.m. Rome time.

The helicopter carries the logo “Reppublica Italiana” because the Italian airforce helps support state trips made by the Pope.

He traveled on the helicopter with his personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, his second secretary Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, the papal doctor Patrizio Polisca and the papal valet Sandro Mariotti.

They are flying 15 miles southeast of Rome, where he will be received by the town’s mayor, Maurizio Colacchi.

He will also be received by the local parish priest, the director of the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, Cardinal Bertello, and Bishops Sciacca and Semeraro.

Hundreds of pilgrims gathered at St. Peter’s Square at 4:00 p.m., before Pope Benedict XVI’s departure to pray for him and for his new successor.

This morning he met with 144 cardinals, heads of the Curia and members of the Holy See’s liturgy office in a formal meeting with them this morning.

At around 5:30 p.m. Pope Benedict will greet pilgrims from the balcony of his villa in Castel Gandolfo, making his last public appearance as Pope.

The Catholic Church will have no Pope as of 8 p.m. local time today.

At that time the Swiss guards, who symbolically protect the Pope, will leave their stations at the villa gate.

Cardinals from around the world have been arriving to Rome this week, and it is expected they will meet in the New Synod Hall sometime early next week to begin discussing the Church’s affairs and the selection of a new Pope.

Their first meeting could result in fixing the date of the conclave.

There are 115 cardinals who will vote, but the ones who are over the voting age of 80 can also participate in the meetings before the conclave.

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Pope's last words: Thank you for your friendship and love

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the 15-minute helicopter trip to Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI offered a word of thanks to the thousands of people who traveled there to support him in has last hours as Pope.
“I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your sympathy that does so much good for me. Thank you for your friendship and love,” the Pope said at around 5:30 p.m. from the balcony of his villa.
“You know that today is different than previous ones. I’m no longer the Pope. Until 8:00 p.m. I am, but then afterwards I am no longer Pope of the Catholic Church,” he said.
Pope Benedict then offered a window into how he sees this stage of his life.
“I’m simply a pilgrim that is starting the last stage of his pilgrimage on Earth,” he remarked, “but I would still like with my heart, with my love, with my prayer, with my reflection, with all my inner strength to work for the common good of the Church and of humanity, and I feel very supported by your sympathy.
“Let’s go ahead together with the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world,” he said as he finished his brief greeting.
Pope Benedict XVI then gave his last papal blessing to the crowd.
“Thank you. And now I impart to you the Lord’s blessing with my whole heart. May God bless you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thank you and good night. Thanks to all of you.”

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Pope Benedict's kiss goodbye

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA) - The infant son of a Catholic News Agency editor received a farewell kiss on his forehead from Pope Benedict yesterday, at the plaza of St. Peter's Basilica before his final General Audience.

“To see him today in the final hours of his papacy and to have him hold my son in his arms was a special kind of blessing, and a consolation from the Lord,” Jenny Uebbing, the mother of the fortunate infant, John Paul, told CNA Feb. 27.

“I asked the Lord to help me truly experience this morning, this last event with Pope Benedict, and to not be anxious about whether we would get a good spot or be able to see him drive by.”

“I had so much peace while we were waiting for the audience to begin, and I just prayed that if we were meant to get close to His Holiness, the Lord would arrange the details. And He did.”

Uebbing had come to the plaza at 7:30 in the morning with her sister and her two sons, John Paul and Joey. On her blog, “Mama needs coffee,” she described three hours of “pressing crowds and stalwartly holding our position against the barricade, hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of our beloved Holy Father.”

Dave Uebbing, John Paul's father and office head of CNA's Rome bureau, described how “a security guard offered to pass him to Archbishop Ganswein when the popemobile came by.”

Archbishop Georg Gänswein is head of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, and was in the Pope mobile along with Pope Benedict. He supported John Paul while the Pope embraced him and gave a him a fatherly kiss.

Jenny told that after John Paul was passed back to her, the Roman Pontiff passed by their spot in the crowd.

“We locked eyes for a moment and I was able to tell him 'thank you.' That was all I could have asked for, to personally thank him not only for the moment of grace when he kissed my little son, but for his total gift of self to the Church,” she said to CNA.

Her sister Christina also described her own experience of sharing a glance with the Holy Father.

“It felt like I was looking at Jesus, in a way. When I looked into his eyes, I didn't see only the man, the Pope, but also the One he serves. There was so much love and kindness in his eyes.”

Pope Benedict holds a special place in Jenny's heart, as “the Holy Father who invited me home to the Faith of my childhood. In a sense, he held open the door of the Church and welcomed me inside again.”

Dave told CNA that “my wife and I were overjoyed at the Pope's kindness and the gentle love you could see on his face when he kissed John Paul.”

The Uebbings moved to Rome in early January. “Before today we would have already said that Pope Benedict made our lives a lot more exciting than we thought he would, but when our youngest son was kissed by him today we were speechless,” Dave said.

For a child of only ten months, John Paul already has quite the papal connections. Aside from being kissed on the forehead by the vicar of Christ, he was named for Pope Benedict's predecessor. Also, he was born on April 19, 2012, the seventh anniversary of Pope Benedict's accession as Bishop of Rome.

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Swiss Guards seal gates, leave service of Pope Emeritus

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday evening, the Swiss Guards have left their posts and sealed the gates of the former pontiff's temporary residence of Castel Gandolfo.

A crowd of Catholic faithful gathered Feb. 28 outside the papal vacation spot. At 8 p.m. Roman time, a loud bell rang eight times as they shouted “Viva il Papa!” or “Long live the Pope!”

The Swiss Guards entered Castel Gandolfo and hung up their ceremonial weapons – called halberds – on the inner walls as there is no longer a sitting Pope for them to protect.

Vatican gendarmes dressed in black uniforms have relieved the guards. The doors of Castel Gandolfo have been sealed, symbolizing the vacancy of the See of Peter and the lights of the papal residence in Vatican City are dark.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has exchanged his red papal shoes for simple brown ones given to him on his recent trip to Leon in Mexico. He now wears a simple white cassock without the mozzetta – the short cape that covers his shoulders.

Benedict XVI traveled to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter and car two hours before his resignation took effect. Hundreds of Catholic faithful greeted his arrival to hear his final words as pontiff.

“I’m simply a pilgrim that is starting the last stage of his pilgrimage on Earth,” he remarked, “but I would still like with my heart, with my love, with my prayer, with my reflection, with all my inner strength to work for the common good of the Church and of humanity, and I feel very supported by your sympathy.”

“Let’s go ahead together with the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world,” he said before making his final apostolic blessing.

“Thank you and good night. Thanks to all of you,” Pope Benedict said before departing from the Castel Gandolfo balcony.

Now that he has resigned, the former Pope will live at Castel Gandolfo for two months before moving to a monastery inside Vatican City. In the upcoming days, 115 cardinals will gather at the Vatican to elect his successor.

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US leaders voice thanks, support for Pope Emeritus

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - American Catholic political officials and commentators have solemnly expressed their appreciation and prayers for Pope Benedict XVI as his resignation goes into effect.

“The United States sends its best wishes to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as he leaves the Vatican after years of service and dedication to God, the Catholic Church, and world peace,” said newly-instated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

In a statement released on the eve of the Holy Father’s retirement, Kerry added that he anticipates further cooperation with the Holy See.

“As the papal conclave assembles, I look forward to continuing our important relationship with the Vatican and working with the new pope to foster dialogue and promote human rights and human dignity throughout the world,” he said.

“On this day, I keep Pope Benedict in my prayers and wish him well as he enters into retirement.”

On Feb. 28, at 8 p.m. in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from the papacy. He had announced his intended resignation on Feb. 11, citing his advanced age and declining strength.

The Chair of Peter will be vacant until the cardinals elect a new pope in a gathering set to begin in early March.

Former ambassador Johnny Young, who currently serves as executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Migration and Refugee Services, also commented on the Pope’s retirement.

From the beginning of his papacy, Young said in a Feb. 28 post on the U.S bishops’ blog, “Pope Benedict XVI has called on the church and the world to do what the bible has commanded for over two millennia, to welcome the stranger.”

“What has mattered most in this outreach,” he added of the Pope’s legacy, “has been the consistency, resolve, clarity and unwavering moral authority with which the Pope has spoken out on this issue through statements, speeches and private audiences.”

“He continually reminds his followers and the world to give dignity and respect” in welcoming strangers in their midst, Young said.

The former ambassador added that these words “have been helpful in supporting the work done by the Church in so many ways,” particularly because “his pronouncements on them have been clear, consistent and inspirational.” 

“His continued leadership on this is needed and will not be forgotten.”

Public advocacy group the Catholic Association also released a Feb. 28 statement expressing gratitude for the former pontiff's service.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor for the organization, thanked Pope Benedict XVI for leading the church with “great love and courage,” adding that it is “with the same love and courage” that the Pontiff now “steps down from the Church's highest office.”

“Thank you Holy Father, and our prayers are with you,” Ferguson concluded.

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