Thousands of Catholics in Lagos yesterday attended Requiem Masses in their parishes and at the Holy Cross Cathedral to pray for the happy repose of the soul of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who died last Saturday, 31st December 2022.
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins led the celebration with many other priests at the Cathedral to the life of a man regarded as a pragmatic leader of the church in modern times.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was a leading theologian of the 20th century and the first pope to resign from office in nearly 600 years, died at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican at the age of 95.
His funeral Mass, to be presided over by Pope Francis, will be held this Thursday, 5th January 2023, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican where he reigned as Pope for 8 years.
Benedict XVI’s body has been laid in state in St. Peter’s Basilica since yesterday and pilgrims have filed past to pay their last respect.
Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, he was elected Pope to the papacy in April 2005, succeeding Pope St. John Paul II, and taking the name Benedict XVI, and he was the 6th Pope I knew as a Catholic before the election of his successor, Pope Francis in 2013, who thus became the 7th Pope in my lifetime.
In their succession line, the Popes in my life since I was born in 1954 have been:
- Venerable Pius XII (Pope 1939-58)
- John XXIII (Pope 1958-63)
- Paul VI (Pope 1963-78)
- Venerable John Paul I (Pope 1978)
- John Paul II (Pope 1978-2005)
- Benedict XVI (2005-2013)
- Francis I (2013 – )
There have been 266 Popes of the Roman Catholic Church, starting with the Apostle Peter, the first Pope in 32 AD and leading up to the newly elected Pope Francis.
So, since I was born 68 years ago, seven Popes have piloted the affairs of the Universal Church. The Pope in the saddle when I was born in 1954 was Venerable Pius XII who reigned from 1939 to 1958 as the 260th Pope. He was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli on March 2, 1876 in Rome and died on October 9, 1958.
I did not visit the Vatican during Benedict XVI’s papacy as the 265th Pope, according to the official lists, so I had no opportunity to meet or be close to him physically, and he also did not travel much to visit Nigeria, but he it was who signed the papal message to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary in 2009, when some of our priest friends put in a request to the Vatican for his Apostolic Blessing on my wife Helen and I.
On February 11, 2013, the then 85-year-old Benedict shocked the world by announcing his retirement, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so. He cited his advanced age and his lack of strength as unsuitable to the exercise of his office.
Recall that in 2005 at 78 years old, he became the oldest man to have been elected Pope in almost 300 years; Pope Clement XII (1730–40) was also 78 years old at the time of his election. Benedict XVI was the first German Pope in almost 500 years; the last was German was Adrian VI (1522–23).
Born Joseph Ratzinger on Saturday, April 16, 1927, in Marktlam Inn, Bavaria, Germany, he began his seminary studies as a teenager, during World War II. Drafted into the German army during the war, he deserted his post. In November 1945, after the war ended, he and his older brother Georg re-entered the seminary and both were ordained on the same day – June 29, 1951, in Munich.
On November 25, 1981, Pope John Paul II named Cardinal Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office charged with safeguarding the doctrine of the Church. He remained in this office until his election as the 265th Pope on April 19, 2005, in a papal conclave held after the death of John Paul II on April 2. He was installed as Pope on April 24, 2005.
Pope Benedict said that he chose his papal name to honour Saint Benedict, the Patron Saint of Europe and Pope Benedict XV, who, as Pope during World War I, worked tirelessly to end the war. Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI has been a great voice for peace in the conflicts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
Widely recognized as one of the Catholic Church’s top theologians, Benedict’s pontificate was marked by a profound understanding of the challenges to the Church in the face of growing ideological aggression, not least from an increasingly secular Western mindset, both within and outside the Church. He famously warned about the “dictatorship of relativism” in a homily just before the conclave in 2005 that elected him Pope.
He had lived quietly and peacefully in the Monastery since his retirement but his successor has always paid visits to him that were always publicised to show the close bind and relationship between the two.
IMAGE CREDIT: Lumen Christi TV, Vatican News Agency