Publish date: Monday, March 4, 2013
Auxiliary Bishop Doug Deshotel of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas delivered the homily for the Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Benedict XVI on Benedict's last day as Sovereign Pontiff, February 28th, 2013.
Today at 1pm Dallas time Pope Benedict XVI will retire after eight years serving the Church as Pope, the successor of St. Peter who lived and walked with the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. We join with Catholics all over the world and with all people of good will in this Mass to offer thanks for the gift of his ministry these last eight years. In a most humble way and with complete love for the Church, Pope Benedict acknowledged that in the world we live in today, the ministry of the successor of St. Peter requires great physical stamina and mental acuteness. At eighty-five years of age, Pope Benedict acknowledges that he could now best serve the Church by a life of prayer for the Church he so loves.
It is, as I am sure you have heard, a rare thing for a pope to retire. Most popes have simply died in office. The fact is that people, even popes, live longer than in times past. Also, in modern times, a major part of the ministry of the successor of St. Peter is a ministry of presence of “being there”. The Pope today is expected to jump on an airplane and visit his worldwide flock, and do that many times. Instant communication, world wide access to television, the twenty-four hour news cycles, the expectation of instant answers for world-wide questions have, for good or bad, altered the way the ministry of the Pope is carried out. Pope Benedict acknowledged this and believes, after prayer, that a physically stronger and younger person would best benefit the Church.
And so today we thank Almighty God for the gift that he has given of Benedict the XVI, of Benedict to the Church during this time of history. The benefits of his great intellect, his many writings and his teachings will only be fully appreciated and understood in the years to come. His legacy of calling the Church to renewal with his proclamation of the Year of Faith, his work on the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, his revision of the Roman Missal in the liturgy, his contribution to the Second Vatican Council are just a few of his accomplishments in service to the Church. From the very first letter, the very first encyclical that he wrote, “God is Love”, to his books on Jesus of Nazareth, his looking for ways to welcome other faiths into the communion of the Church, he has faithfully fulfilled the ministry of Peter who was told by the Lord Jesus, “Feed my Sheep”. We thank Almighty God for Benedict and we thank Benedict for having spent himself in service to the Church.
Soon the Cardinals of the Church will meet in conclave under the giant frescoes of Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam and his depiction of the last judgment. They will process into the Sistine chapel clothed in red robes signifying the blood of the holy martyrs and they will choose the next successor of Peter, Peter who was a personal friend of Jesus. A few days will be spent with the cardinals getting to know each other and discussions about major challenges around the world and then the Holy Spirit will eventually guide them to that person who can best carry out the ministry of Peter to our world today.
I know there is much speculation about who may be the next pope, what country he should be from or whether he is conservative or liberal. As we pray that the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, promised by the mouth of Jesus to his church, guide the cardinals, let us remember that the main job of the pope is the ministry of Peter. He is to strengthen the faith of the believers, feed the sheep of the Lord and point out in season and out of season that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
That’s the job of the pope. For this Saint Peter was declared rock and on this rock the Church was built.