Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Pope emeritus remembered locally for focus on relationship

Jan. 11, 2023

By Darcy Fargo

"The faithful of the Diocese of Ogdensburg mourn the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,” said Bishop Terry R. LaValley.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s death was announced Dec. 31.

Bishop LaValley noted he met Benedict XVI and admired his life and ministry.

“He possessed a brilliant intellect, strong faith, a humble heart, and deep love for the Church,” Bishop LaValley said. “I was greatly honored to meet him during his pontificate on the occasions of my participation at New Bishops’ school and at an ad limina visit in Rome.”

After that ad limina visit, Bishop LaValley reflected on his encounter with then Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop LaValley said he told the pontiff of the strong faith of the people of the North Country, as well as the challenges facing the diocese, including the culture of death, clergy sexual abuse, secularization, a decrease in participation in the sacraments and a decrease in vocations.

“I felt that the Holy Father heard, felt and understood the struggles I shared,” Bishop LaValley wrote. “He inquired about our diocesan efforts to promote the family. He said that so much of the challenges before us stem from the breakdown of the family. He concluded our meeting by reminding us that Jesus Christ is the answer to life’s struggles. He reiterated the point several times: we must have a relationship with Jesus Christ. It begins in our families.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s emphasis on having a relationship with Christ stood out to Marika Donders, diocesan director of the New Evangelization, as well. Donders said it was that emphasis and other factors that drew her to his writing.

“I think at first, I was drawn to his writing because it seemed so much easier to read that John Paul II’s writing,” she said. “You could read and see the points he was making as if you had his outline in front of you – very systematic and you could follow his line of thought. I think one of the first books of his that I read was God is Near Us, which is a collection of homilies and talks on the Eucharist as being the heart of the Church. What I find in his writing is the centrality of the love of God for us and how He wants to draw near to us. His writing is all about the relationship with Jesus as a person, His presence to us drawing us into communion with Him and with each other. I think this comes out in all of his writing: Christ is at the center. In Him we find everything we are looking for: Truth, Love, Hope.”

Donders had the opportunity to see and hear the then pope at World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, in 2011. She noted that Benedict XVI was willing to weather a literal storm to be with the crowd and celebrate Mass.

“When the storm came up the people around the Pope wanted him to take shelter, but he decided to stay, since the million and half young people couldn’t go anywhere,” Donders said. “I was in the first section and could clearly see him. Despite all the people around him trying to shield him from the wind and rain with big white umbrellas, he got soaked like the rest of us and even lost his zucchetto to the wind. The rain was actually welcome by the pilgrims because it cooled down the temperatures, but it seemed like the entire Quatro Vientos airport was surrounded by lightning which lit up the night. It was kind of scary. At one point, Pope Benedict told everyone to quiet down and pray. Everyone knelt down, and a million and a half pilgrims were quiet. All you could hear was the storm. Within minutes, it stopped, and everything was quiet for a second. And then a white dove flew up from somewhere in front of the crowd and everyone cheered: The Holy Spirit is in the House! The Holy Father started his talk with something along the lines of thanking us for the joy and that we were stronger than the rain.”

Donders encouraged others to read the works of the pope emeritus.

“I think that people should read his writings to get a first-hand glimpse of this pope, rather than the image you would get from listening to mainstream media,” she said. “I think they would be surprised at his gentleness, his humor and how unlike the caricatures that we see in the secular – and some Catholic – media.”

Both Donders and Bishop LaValley encouraged prayers for the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“With profound gratitude to Almighty God for the gift of his life and ministry, we pray that this selfless servant of the Lord be soon numbered among the saints in heaven,” Bishop LaValley said. “May he rest in peace."

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.