“Now Pope Benedict XVI goes toward that event, to that horizon,” Fernandes said.
“His life always had a decisive direction, but a newness comes, and we commend him to the Lord, to Mary the Mother of Mercy. And yet, this is what he always wanted, this encounter, which is not an end but a new beginning.”
Paul J. Kim, a Catholic speaker, musician, and comedian who spoke at SEEK, told CNA that after the lengthy and joyful pontificate of St. John Paul II, when “Pope Benedict stepped out onto the balcony there at St. Peter’s, it was a great consolation.”
“One, because I knew he was just a solid Catholic cardinal who dedicated his life to upholding the truth of Christ and not mincing it, not watering it down. And for me, that was a great comfort,” Kim told CNA.
Kim, who gave a talk at SEEK23 offering tips for a happy Catholic marriage, said he saw Pope Benedict at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005 and in Madrid, Spain, in 2011.
“He was just a very gentle, humble man, but a spiritual and theological giant. And I think the Church is going to be unpacking his stuff for a while. But yeah, rest in peace. Grateful for his example, his life of holiness, his total focus on Christ,” Kim said.
Lisa Cotter, another well-known Catholic speaker who has been involved in FOCUS for more than 20 years, said a letter Benedict wrote while a cardinal, “On Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World,” is her favorite of his many writings.
“It was something that spoke so directly to my heart as a woman, who’s a lay woman who’s married with children.
“Just the way that he explained and gave us this beautiful teaching on how men and women work together. It’s like taking John Paul II’s ‘Feminine Genius’ and giving it more depth. He really expanded, I think, on a lot of things that John Paul II brought up, but then he also had this beautiful Scripture academic side,” Cotter said.
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“There’s so much I could say about him and how he’s impacted the Church. And, I think we all got a little starstruck with JPII that we didn’t recognize the gift of Benedict. But I think his legacy is really going to start to come out. And as much good as he was doing here on Earth, I’m really excited because I know he’s going to do infinitely more good work in heaven.”
Keynote speaker Chika Anyanwu told CNA that her first World Youth Day experience was in 2008 in Australia with Pope Benedict.
She said she remembers waving to Pope Benedict while he drove by a mostly empty side street, and how that felt to her like a “personal little moment with Pope Benedict,” whom she described as “like a grandfather.”
Anyanwu said she is praying for Benedict and also praying that those within the Church who are critical of Benedict’s legacy will seek unity with those with whom they disagree.
“I’m praying for his soul, praying for all the faithful departed, and praying for our Church, that we are not one of division. Whether it’s Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, John Paul, so on and so forth — they were not so different,” Anyanwu said.