With ‘sorrow and gratitude,’ USCCB president reflects on the death and legacy of Benedict XVI

Archbishop Timothy Broglio Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA praised Servant of God Vincent Capodanno at a memorial Mass marking the 55th anniversary of the death of the heroic chaplain Sept. 6, 2022. | Courtesy of Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI helped lead the Church to “a more profound love of truth and the mystery of God,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Saturday in reaction to the former pontiff’s death.

“While we grieve that he is no longer with us here, I join Catholics everywhere in offering my profound gratitude to the Lord for the gift of Pope Benedict XVI and his ministry,” said Broglio, who heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services. “Together we beg Our Lord to grant him eternal rest.”

Benedict XVI served as pope from 2005 to 2013. He was the first pontiff to resign from the papacy in nearly six centuries.

He was born Joseph Ratzinger on April 16, 1927, in the German region of Bavaria. He grew up in a family staunchly opposed to the Nazis and was conscripted into the German military’s auxiliary anti-aircraft service near the end of World War II. Both he and his brother were ordained to the priesthood in June 1951.

“The passing from this life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sounds contrasting notes of sorrow and gratitude in my heart,” Broglio continued.

“The Church gives thanks for the treasured ministry of Pope Benedict XVI,” the archbishop said, calling him “an effective teacher of the faith.”

Broglio praised Benedict as “a superb theologian” who gave his talents to the Church as an expert, called a “peritus,” at the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. He noted Benedict’s roles as a priest, university professor, archbishop, and cardinal.

Ratzinger authored many books in his life about theological topics and the relationship between faith and reason. He also proclaimed the Gospel and reflected on the person of Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Munich and Freising in early 1977 and named him a cardinal the same year.

“Generations will continue to be enriched by his books, discourses, and homilies,” Broglio commented. “They all reveal a depth of learning and reflection that is essential both in our time and in the future.” Benedict XVI’s voice, he added, helped deepen Catholics’ understanding and “led us all to a more profound love of truth and the mystery of God.”

“It will take many years for us to delve more deeply into the wealth of learning that he has left us,” Broglio said.

In 1981, Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and to several other influential Vatican bodies. In his role as prefect, he played a key part in preparing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and clarifying and defending Catholic teaching against erroneous theologians and dissenting activist groups.

After the death of John Paul II, Ratzinger was elected pope in a 2005 conclave. He took the papal name Benedict because of the example of Benedict XV, who steered the world through the turmoil of the First World War and sought to build reconciliation and harmony among the peoples of the world. Pope Benedict XVI also drew inspiration from St. Benedict of Nursia, a key founder of western monasticism and a patron saint of Europe. He called St. Benedict “a powerful reminder of the indispensable Christian roots of his culture and civilization.”

Broglio noted the impact of Benedict XVI’s resignation from the papacy.

“We all remember how he shocked the world in 2013 by announcing his plan to resign from his responsibilities as the bishop of Rome,” Broglio said. The archbishop characterized this as a teaching act that showed “courage, humility, and love for the Church.”

“He recognized the great demands made of him as the chief shepherd of the universal Church of a billion Catholics worldwide, and his physical limitations for such a monumental task. Even in retirement, retreating to live out a life in quiet prayer and study, he continued to teach us how to be a true disciple of Christ, while still contributing to his legacy.”

Broglio cited his many personal encounters with Benedict before his election to the papacy in 2005. From 1990 to 2001, Broglio served as a personal secretary to Pope John Paul II’s former secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. It was during this time that then Cardinal Ratzinger served under John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“I will never forget his greeting to me at the first general audience I attended some weeks after his election to the Chair of Peter. ‘Ci conosciamo’ (we know each other) were his warm words of welcome as he took my hand between his,” the archbishop said.

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