WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
The bishops of Western Canada and priests of the Edmonton Archdiocese and the Ukrainian Eparchy were among those who joined to celebrate the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Pope Benedict XVI was one of history's greatest cooperators of the truth, Archbishop Richard Smith said Feb. 28 at a Mass of Thanksgiving for the gift of the retired pope.
"In the face of what he once famously and memorably labelled the 'dictatorship of relativism,' the Holy Father dedicated his papacy, as he had consecrated the entirety of his theological and priestly work, to the elucidation of the truth, the truth who is Jesus Christ, for the edification and guidance of the people of God."
Twenty bishops from across Western Canada joined in the celebration, along with priests from the archdiocese and the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton and more than 1,200 faithful who filled the basilica to capacity. The noon Mass was held at the same hour as the pope's resignation took effect in Rome.
In his homily, Smith called Pope Benedict an extraordinarily gifted teacher, who in every letter, speech, message and homily has explained the faith in a manner at once intelligible and attractive.
"This wonderful servant of the truth has taught us, time and again, that the truth is beautiful, and that we must allow ourselves to be embraced by it if we are to be truly free."
The Western bishops, who were in Edmonton for their annual meeting, gathered for a luncheon in one of the basilica's halls following the Mass. A large portrait of the retiring pope faced them.
"I think we will remember the clarity of his teaching and his quality as a teacher of the faith," said Bishop Paul Terrio, who Pope Benedict recently named bishop of St. Paul.
"I think we'll also remember how biblically grounded all his teaching was. He always started with the Word of God and would return to the Word of God."
Terrio said Pope Benedict's departure from the papacy is not a sad event but perhaps somewhat nostalgic "because we have become very fond of him and affectionate with him.
"At the same time, it is a time of great hope and affirmation that the Church is Jesus Christ's Church and that he works always his miracles through our freedom."
Terrio said the pope had freely discerned that his retirement was what is best for the Church today. "To a certain extent he has somewhat de-mystified the function of the pope; he's reminded us of the human dimension. It's rather a prophetic gesture on his part."
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard MacLennan described Pope Benedict as a reconciler, a pontiff that built many bridges to reconcile peoples to one another. "He wanted to reconcile different elements in the Church and in society with the Church."
What the pope leaves as a legacy are his writings, Pettipas said. "I was very struck by the tone of his writing; it was very easily read by the ordinary person. You didn't have to be a theologian to read Pope Benedict's encyclicals and his books about Jesus."
By his books and his reflections on the faith, "he wanted to introduce people to Jesus," the archbishop said. "That's another legacy he leaves."
Pettipas last met the pope in October. "I could not believe how aged he looked; his face looked very, very tired," he said. "His retirement surprised all of us but the cause of it didn't surprise me because I saw it in his face last October."
The archbishop said he is happy for Benedict, "that he recognized the time to retire. Some people do not recognize that in themselves. To me this is a sign of his wisdom."
Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, who has met Benedict at least a dozen times over the years, said he always saw the pope as a big brother. "He was somebody who treated you with dignity and respect, somebody who was interested in your thoughts, your opinions, your advice and who was quite prepared to share very honestly and very candidly when you met him one on one."
"I always felt he was one of the most cultured, the most gentlemanly cardinals I ever met in my life and that carried of course into his pontificate."
Pope Benedict left several legacies, one of which is his bridge building. "I look upon his constant attempts to reach out, to heal and to restore whether we are talking about the Orthodox or the Anglicans or any particular group; he always seemed to want to pull people together."
Henry also praised Benedict's clarity of teaching. "I've never met anybody who could explain the faith as consistently and coherently and as boldly as he did. He is a wonderful example for all of us, someone who stands for the truth and is quite prepared to proclaim it in any context."
Asked about the pope's retirement, Henry said, "I think it's a good thing for all of us. You can hang on too long. But he recognized it was time for him to step aside. I think that's one of the wonderful lessons he's left us with."