Cardinal De Donatis presides over special Mass for Benedict XVI

In his homily pronounced on Friday evening in St. John’s Basilica in the Lateran, the Cardinal Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome expresses the prayerful “affection” and “gratitude” of the entire Church of Rome to the Pope Emeritus, whose health conditions remain stable .

By Lisa Zengarini

As cardinals, bishops, bishops’ conferences and faithful around the world continue to offer prayers for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Cardinal Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, on Friday presided over a special evening Mass for him in St. John’s Basilica in the Lateran.

Although critical, the director of the Vatican Press Office, Matteo Bruni, has confirmed that Benedict XVI’s health conditions remain stable.

Affection and gratitude

Cardinal De Donatis introduced his homily by expressing the prayerful “affection” and “gratitude” of the entire Church of Rome to the Pope Emeritus, who – he noted – loved his Diocese “so much and served (it) with unselfish love.”

Reflecting on today’s Gospel of the Solemnity of the Holy Family, the Archpriest St. John’s Basilica highlighted the similarity between the “trusting abandonment” to God of Benedict XVI whose baptismal name is Joseph, to that of St. Joseph when fleeing Herod with Mary and Baby Jesus.

A humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard

“We like to think – he said – that our Bishop Emeritus is now held by the hand of St. Joseph who helps him to always keep alive God’s invitation not to fear”.

Underscoring the need for families to restore this loving and trusting relationship with God as they face many worldly challenges today, Cardinal De Donatis recalled Benedict XVI’s words at the World Meeting of Families in Milan, when he said: “I often think of the wedding- feast of Cana. The first wine is very fine: this is falling in love. But it does not last until the end: a second wine has to come later, it has to ferment and grow, to mature. The definitive love that can truly become this ‘second wine’ is more wonderful still, it is better than the first wine”.

The Cardinal Vicar further insisted on Benedict XVI’s “great trust in Providence”: “As a priest, a theologian, a bishop, and as a pope, he expressed, at the same time, the strength and sweetness of faith, the essentiality and simplicity of someone who knows that, when you dream with God, dreams come true”.

Moreover, Cardinal De Donatis noted that like Saint Joseph, the Pope Emeritus “has always underlined the primacy of the Word of God over our human words recalling the great value of silence and listening” and during his pontificate “made us taste the new and good wine of love”.

He cited his first words of the Encyclical “Deus Caritas est”, in which Benedict XVI said that being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but “the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”

“Benedict XVI, a humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard, is a witness of this encounter, a collaborator of truth and joy, of love for Christ and for the Church.”

A “man of the Word”

A “man of the Word Benedict”, Benedict XVI is also “a man of his word”, showing us right now, as he has done over the past ten years, that “whoever believes is never alone”. With his “tenderness, goodness, humility, meekness, in deep communion with Pope Francis, the Pope Emeritus is a sign of the beautiful face of the Church which reflects the light of Christ’s face”, Cardinal De Donatis stressed.

“Our prayer today is a sign of vitality and communion in the Church. In a change of epoch, full of hardships and historical facts that have shocked us, we want to testify, as Benedict repeated several times at the beginning of his pontificate, that the Church is alive, she is alive because Christ is alive, he is truly risen.”

Preparing for death

The Cardinal Vicar concluded his homily by citing Benedict XVI’s answer to a journalist who asked him how he was preparing for death. The Pope Emeritus replied: “Meditating. Always thinking that the end is approaching. Trying to prepare myself for that moment and above all always keeping it in mind. The important thing is not to imagine it, but to live in the awareness that all life tends to this meeting” – which as we can read in his Encyclical Letter ‘Spe Salvi’ will be “like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy”.

“When God wants, He will approach this brother of ours in the sleep of death, and will say to him: ‘Joseph, get up; Joseph, rise again’. And it will be Christ and His Mother who will take him with them and lead him to Paradise, where the dream of a life will become the reality of eternity.”

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