In his almost eight years as Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI travelled to some 25 countries around the globe and to more than 30 places in Italy outside of Rome to strengthen the faith of those whom he met and to raise our eyes to stronger visions of Church in service around the world.
The Holy Father was known throughout his life as a person with an extremely high work ethic. This reality was demonstrated in a special way on his trips, as the media narrated every hour of his day from early morning to late at night. There were no breaks in his daily schedule. When one looked at them carefully it was hard to imagine how anyone of any age, from 25 and up, could manage them. He accomplished all of this not merely on trips, but on every day lived in the Vatican.
With sadness, then, we heard the Pope say on February 11th, “In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
We recognize here his tremendous love for the Church and his transparent humility to bring him to this point. He who as a young altar boy had seen a priest beaten by the Nazis before the celebration of Mass and as the Pope had fortified nations of people oppressed by dictators around the world recognized that the Petrine ministry must be relayed now to someone of greater strength and vigor. Stories of his poor health provided background for his increasing frailty which we noticed on television in recent months.
The Holy Father has told us that he will now turn to a life of greater prayer, study, and reflection. We trust that he will thank God for the magnificent gifts with which he has been blessed and for the generous heart he has demonstrated in using those gifts.
For decades he has been renowned as a world class scholar. We saw those talents carried forward in the Papacy as he gave us three historic encyclicals: Deus Caritas Est, (God’s Love); Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope); and Caritas in Veritate, (Charity in Truth). The titles of major addresses he delivered fill ten pages of single-spaced type. He completed three books on Jesus of Nazareth.
People came to hear him in huge numbers throughout his journeys. In Rome they had to move beyond the capacity of the Audience Hall to accommodate the pilgrims. The content of his speeches was enhanced by his evident affection for the people who were listening in rapt attention.
He demonstrated enormous ability in bringing together faith, reason, and science. His addresses brought people of every caliber to recognize our foundations. We are called to hold fast, maintain, be rooted, dig deep wells.
He was especially welcoming to Bishops. As Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and later as Pope he obviously enjoyed talking theology. In a recent meeting with him his reaction to the problem of religious liberty in our country was immediate. Is it not strange, he said, that the country that forwarded religious liberty for so long a period is now posing major problems in that regard.
It is edifying to note the continuing themes in his work. In his first encyclical he noted the close relationship between the theological virtues of faith and charity. He observed that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but the encounter with an event, a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” In his message to us for Lent this year, he reminds us that there is a need for faith, for “that encounter with God in Christ that awakens our love and opens our spirits to others.”
He tells us that the principal distinguishing mark of Christians is precisely “love grounded in and shaped by faith.” It happens that our theme for this year’s Archbishop's Annual Appeal is “Charity: Our Witness to Faith.” It is encouraging to note that our theme follows precisely the call of Pope Benedict XVI. In this theme the Holy Father reminds us that “Evangelization is the highest and most integral promotion of the human person.” We are called to share the good news of the Gospel with our neighbors.
Faith is genuine, we are told, only if crowned by charity, which remains as the fulfillment of all the virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).
We now voice once again our profound sentiments of gratitude, appreciation, respect, esteem, and admiration for Pope Benedict XVI and his outstanding leadership as Holy Father since April 19, 2005. Our prayers are with him as they are with those electing a new Pope fortified by strength, love, and wisdom for the years ahead.
Archbishop's Annual Appeal 2013
It is clear that you thoroughly understand our theme, “Charity: Our Witness to Faith.” As I write this, our total currently is $1,659,309. That amount is $656,958 higher than the same day and week of the Appeal last year. I am profoundly grateful to you for your wonderful response so early in the year. Again it is important to note that every dollar given goes out directly in service for those in need. My heartfelt appreciation goes to you for your dedicated faith and your impressive charity.