‘DEUS CARITAS EST’ – God is Love.
Homily at Requiem Mass for Pope Benedict XVI at St Cuthbert Mayne Church by Canon John Deeny.
(This Mass was celebrated last Thursday, at the same time as the Pope’s Funeral Mass in Rome.)
The Funeral Mass of Pope Benedict is happening right now in Rome at 8.30 am our time, and we join our prayers with those gathered at St Peter’s for the Funeral, and the many millions who will be watching on screens.
Any one of us could stand here and share their memories of him.
Three of the things that I remember about Pope Benedict:
One: that I mentioned last Sunday. He wrote a wonderful encyclical called Deus Caritas Est, God is Love. One of the things he strongly encouraged was that every diocese in fact, every parish, should have a Caritas presence in it. From that moment wheels started to move in our own diocese. I was appointed Chair of a newly formed Caritas Committee for Plymouth Diocese, a manager was appointed, and it is now well established and doing good work in supporting Catholic and other charities, and initiating projects, and inspiring works; all to aid the isolated and lonely, refugees and migrants, the homeless, and children and families.
While Caritas had already existed in many countries and dioceses, Pope Benedict’s message gave a very welcome impetus for this arm of the Church’s work to grow. God is love, and the desire in Benedict for the Church to show that love in action, was great.
Second: Pope Benedict was the author of many books, including a series of three on Jesus of Nazareth. Although Benedict was an academic and a very learned man, his books were very readable, and clearly came from a heart that knew and loved Jesus Christ. A young person’s Catechism, YouCat, was published in his time, which is an excellent resource on the Catholic faith for young people and adults alike. Benedict was a person of great holiness and prayer, whose knowledge and love of God showed itself in many ways, including his writings, his catechesis, and his teaching.
Thirdly: Remembering his visit to Britain in 2010. There was constant criticism of him and the Church in the media at the time. It was at the height of the abuse scandal in the church. I remember thinking that there may be very few who would turn out to see him. In fact, hundreds of thousands gathered in the various places to see him, hear him speak, receive his blessing. You may have gone to one of the places yourselves. It is a once in a lifetime chance to have a Pope visit our own nation.
My greatest memory of that visit, as for many, is when he went to Hyde Park where hundreds of thousands of people were gathered, many of them young. There was something of a carnival feel about it. At one point the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, and the huge crowd fell completely silent. There then followed a period of quiet adoration and devotion before the Lord. I couldn’t think of any other circumstance where something like that would happen.
It was perfectly appropriate and seemed to capture what the ministry of Pope Benedict was all about: a holy pastor who led us to the person of Jesus Christ.
He was already an elderly man when he was elected Pope and, apparently, took on this ministry of leadership of the Church with some reluctance. Even that itself was an expression of his humility.
Of course, he had his faults and failings.
Today we ask God’s mercy for any sins he committed through human frailty. And we give thanks for this servant of God and servant of the Church. A holy and humble Pastor, a great teacher of the faith, a man with a profound love for God and for His people.
May he be supported by the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by the prayers of the whole Church.
And may he rest in peace and rise in glory.