U.S. lay Catholic organizations mourn the loss of Pope Emeritus Benedict

kelly and benedict The future Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly greeting Pope Benedict XVI, April 5, 2008. | L’Osservatore Romano

Following the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Saturday at age 95, major U.S.-based lay Catholic groups expressed their gratitude for the late pope’s life and legacy, and for his support for their organizations’ missions. 

Benedict died on Saturday at the age of 95. He served as pontiff from 2005 until 2013 when he became the first pope in nearly six centuries to resign.

Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly, leader of the Connecticut-based Knights of Columbus, recalled on Saturday Benedict’s “profound testimony to Jesus Christ” in his writing and teachings. The leader of the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, Kelly also thanked Benedict for his support of the sainthood cause of the Knights’ founder, Blessed Michael McGiveny. 

“Today, with over 2 million brother Knights of Columbus around the world, I join Pope Francis and the whole Church in mourning the loss of a great and holy priest and teacher — our pope emeritus, Benedict XVI,” Kelly said in a statement.

“As we continue to be confirmed and strengthened by Pope Benedict’s teachings about the eternal truths of our faith, Knights of Columbus throughout the world join in prayer for the repose of his soul.”

In March 2008, Benedict approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael McGivney, who founded the Knights of Columbus at a New Haven, Connecticut, parish in 1882. Last year, the Knights’ members worked nearly 48 million service hours and gave $145 million to charitable causes. 

The Knights of Columbus, Kelly said, were “grateful beneficiaries of the wisdom and teaching of the late pontiff” both during Benedict XVI’s papacy and during his previous role as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, “remains a guiding light for the world,” Kelly said. It is a guiding light for the Knights of Columbus specifically, he said, because “one of our founding principles is charity, and our global charitable work is at the heart of our activity as Knights.”  

“Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals, books, homilies, and other writings form a theological treasury and profound testimony to Jesus Christ and his Church, which he served with such humility and fidelity,” Kelly continued.

In addition to advancing McGivney’s sainthood cause and publicly praising the priest, Benedict delivered interventions at several symposia and other gatherings sponsored by the Knights, Kelly said. 

The Catholic Association, which aims to defend Catholic teaching through mass media, similarly praised Benedict for his written teachings, particularly his encyclical Deus Caritas Est

“Primary among his many towering intellectual contributions is his articulation of the unity between faith and reason. May he rest in peace, and intercede for the needs of the Church and the world,” said Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association. 

The Papal Foundation, based in Pennsylvania, which since 1988 has supported the charitable works of the pope, mourned Benedict as a “simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.” 

“Pope Benedict was a scholar and servant, whose profound love for the Church was evident throughout his life,” a statement from the organization reads. 

“From 2005 to 2013, Pope Benedict demonstrated this love through his involvement in The Papal Foundation’s work, meeting the needs of the Holy See by serving the poorest of the poor in developing nations around the world. During his Papacy, the Foundation made more than 700 grants to build churches, hospitals, and schools, serving the faithful all over the globe, and awarded nearly 500 scholarships that enabled lay and religious leaders to study in Rome.”

Human Life International, a Virginia-based group that provides resources and education on life issues from a Catholic perspective, thanked Benedict for his support of their mission, specifically his contributions to the pro-life movement. 

“The pro-life movement owes tremendous gratitude to Benedict XVI for his unwavering defense of the sacredness of human life, the integrity of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, and the Christian teaching on sexual morality,” a statement from Human Life International reads. 

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HLI also noted Benedict’s ​​third encyclical letter, Caritas in veritate, as being of “fundamental importance to the pro-life movement in its advancement of authentic human development and flourishing.” In that letter, the organization notes, Benedict warned about the proliferation of nongovernmental organizations active in the developing world that promote anti-life policies, such as abortion.

“He advanced, instead, a vision for authentic human development, which begins with the dignity of the human person and the respect for life,” the statement continues. 

“Benedict XVI walked with us in our service of the Gospel of Life, and we owe him our gratitude.”

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