January 13, 2023

Archdiocesan Catholics gather to pray and show gratitude for the life of Pope Benedict XVI

Yosef Estifanos, left, Jennifer Cazares and Charles Hutt, all students at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, kneel in prayer on Jan. 5 during a Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Yosef Estifanos, left, Jennifer Cazares and Charles Hutt, all students at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, kneel in prayer on Jan. 5 during a Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher and John Shaughnessy

As Pope Benedict XVI was laid to rest in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 5, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson praised him as “a great teacher” for the Church and the world during a Mass for the Dead at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (See a photo gallery from the Mass)

“If Pope Francis is the great evangelizer, Pope Benedict was the great catechist, the great teacher,” the archbishop said during the Mass that was attended by several hundred people, including priests, deacons, religious and lay people from the archdiocese.

Among those praying and giving thanks for Pope Benedict were 14 students from Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis.

“The cathedral is just so beautiful, and the Mass was beautiful, so it was fitting to be here,” said Samuel Duncan, a sophomore and a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield. “Just hearing people speak of Pope Benedict is really telling of how he was in life—a man of a lot of faith and love.”

Anthony Basso, a theology teacher at Ritter, brought the students to the Mass. The teacher has long admired Pope Benedict.

“Over the years, I’ve read many of his books, homilies, encyclicals and other writings, and his thought has shaped not only my faith but my career and vocation,” Basso said.

“Without succumbing to the temptation to prematurely canonize those we admire, I truly think of him as a doctor of the Church. Archbishop Thompson expressed this well at the memorial Mass when he said, “If Pope Francis is the great evangelizer, Pope Benedict was the great catechist, the great teacher.”

Earlier in the morning, an all-school Mass commemorating Pope Benedict was celebrated at Cardinal Ritter High School, but Basso also wanted to give a group of student leaders the opportunity to celebrate the pope’s life as part of the broader, larger Church.

“It was a blessing to see so many people, so many people of different religious orders,” Basso said after the Mass at the cathedral. “It struck right to the heart of wanting them to feel connected to the universal Church.”

That sentiment was echoed by Abi Villarias, a senior at Cardinal Ritter and a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.

“The Mass was very beautiful and very moving,” she said. “I don’t know too much about him, but I know that he was a very kind soul. And I’m sorry that he passed away.”

Stella Campbell, a senior at Cardinal Ritter and a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis, was also thankful for the chance to come to the Mass for Pope Benedict.

“It’s just so cool to come here and worship with everyone,” said Stella. “Just how Pope Benedict lived his life, it was so cool to be part of this celebration. He was always pointing people toward Christ.”

That perspective on Pope Benedict was shared by Archbishop Thompson after the Mass in an interview with The Criterion.

“His primary focus was on the person of Jesus Christ,” said the archbishop. “He sought to bring others to a personal encounter with the Lord through all his efforts as priest, bishop, cardinal and pope. Like St. John the Baptist, he never lost sight that he was a mere voice to the living Word of God.

“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has provided the Church, indeed the whole world, with a great witness of courage, humility and generosity of service.”

Brian Burns, who attended the Mass, is being led to a closer encounter with Christ as he prepares to be received into the full communion of the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish.

“I’m just reading up on him now,” Burns said about Pope Benedict. “I’m sorry to lose such a great soul.”

Dick Gallamore, a longtime religion teacher at St. Roch School in Indianapolis, shared in that sorrow.

“I wanted to be here to be respectful of the pope,” Gallamore said. “Since he had the title of pope, he’s important to me and many other Catholics.”

Although Pope Benedict’s long and fruitful life of ministry and service to the Gospel has come to an end, Archbishop Thompson is convinced that his witness to Christ will continue to shape the life of the Church well into the future.

“The Church will bear the fruits of his great intellect, writings and witness for decades to come,” Archbishop Thompson said. “For that, whether we realize it or not at this point, Catholics and people of all faith are indebted to his incredible fidelity to Jesus Christ and the Church.”

 

See all our coverage of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!