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Sydney offers Requiem Mass for “most gentle” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The shock of the death of Cardinal George Pell was impossible to ignore at the Requiem Mass for former Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney

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A portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stands in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, for the Mass for the repose of his soul on 12 January, 2022. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s life and teaching contributed to both the Church and wider society but above all he was a man who deeply loved Jesus and sought to bring Christ’s love to all, said Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in his homily for the Solemn Pontifical Requiem Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St Mary’s Cathedral on 12 January.

“A fearless yet subtle proclaimer” of the Gospel and Catholic doctrine, the former pope’s thought “influenced generations of bishops, priests, scholars and lay faithful and will be an enduring sign for centuries to come, and may well contribute to his ultimately being recognised as a Doctor of the Church,” the archbishop said, adding that he had been “undoubtably one of the greatest minds to ever occupy the Chair of Peter”.

Yet “for many decades as a theologian and then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith this most charming, gentle, reasoned, humble man was characterised as a doctrinal Rottweiler by those out of sorts with Church tradition.

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“Then at an age when he was reasonably expected to be relieved of these pressures and be retired to writing, music and contemplation, he was called to the papacy for a decade of unrelenting scrutiny and criticism of the church’s pastors. Yet he accepted this martyrdom, this living witness to Christ through thick and thin, until he believed he had no more to give.”

Clergy process into St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney at the start of a Solemn Pontifical Requiem Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop Fisher also paid tribute to the German pontiff for visiting Sydney for World Youth Day in 2008 and being an “extraordinary teacher and spiritual grandpa” to young people at that time.

“The German pontiff will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Australians,” he said.

Welcoming people to the Mass, Archbishop Fisher invited those present to also pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal George Pell after his unexpected death in Rome two days earlier.

He told them that he had met with the Cardinal several times when recently in Rome for Pope Emeritus Benedict’s funeral.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP greets the Governor of NSW Margaret Beazley. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“He was in sparkling form, witty and wise. I didn’t dream it would be the last time I would see him in this life,” he said.

“As we pray for Pope Benedict and his eternal repose we add a prayer for his friend George that they might meet merrily in heaven.”

Concelebrating the Mass were Bishops Columba Macbeth-Green, Richard Umbers and Daniel Meagher, Bishops Emeritus Peter Ingham and Terence Brady and Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Monsignor Carl Reid and dozens of priests from across Sydney and beyond.

Also present were many who contributed to organising World Youth Day 2008, heads of Catholic agencies, and civic and religious leaders including Bishop Bartholomew of Charioupolis, representing the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, the Governor of NSW Margaret Beazley, and former Governor General of Australia General Sir Peter Cosgrove, former Premier of NSW Barry Unsworth and a number of diplomatic and consular representatives.

“We Orthodox have a lot of respect towards the late Pope Emeritus,” Bishop Bartholomew told The Catholic Weekly following the Mass, describing him as “a man of prayer, a man of the heart who knew how to love”.

“In November of 2006 he visited His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew and since that moment our ties have continued to strengthen.”

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