Massachusetts

Local Catholic Community Reacts to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Death

Benedict will be remembered as the first pope to voluntarily resign in nearly six hundred years.

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The local Catholic community is waking up to some devastating news out of the Vatican this morning as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died, as the Vatican informed.

The archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley released a statement:

“In all of my personal interactions with Pope Benedict (the sixteenth) XVI, I found him to be an engaged leader, thoughtful in his decisions and always committed to the mission of the Church.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s statement also highlighted the former pope’s decades of service. Benedict will be remembered as the first pope to voluntarily resign in nearly six hundred years. He stepped down in 2013, citing his advanced age and ebbing strength amid the clergy sex abuse scandal.

The former Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, has died at the age of 95.

The Vatican did not say what caused the 95-year-old’s death in an announcement this morning. But it comes after warning signs from Pope Francis, who asked people to pray for his predecessor’s health earlier this week.

Benedict’s remains will be on display at the Vatican starting Monday for people to pay their final respects. A funeral service will follow Thursday in Saint Peter’s Square, with Pope Francis presiding.

Former Boston College theology professor James Bretzke met the former pope multiple times and even gave him communion at the Vatican.

“What in old Christian theology we call, Latin for the good death we pray for the grace of a happy death and I think that’s what he’s experiencing.” said Bretzke.

In the wake of the former pope's passing, some scholars have begun to ask what his legacy will look like.

"The thing he'd be most remembered for is the fact that he resigned," said Thomas Groome, a professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College. "He was the first pope in some 600 years to resign from the office. And the previous pope who resigned really didn't resign. He was forced out of office and in fact was imprisoned by his successor."

When discussing his life, Groome offers the thought that Pope Benedict XVI's beliefs were far more nuanced than he was given credit for.

"He was a very progressive young theologian, and kept company with more progressive theologians in the Church in his later years. He was very concerned with relativism and the truth being compromised."

And as for his conduct in managing the clergy sex abuse scandal...

"Benedict was an improvement over Pope John Paul II. John didn't do much at all by way of addressing the dreadful clergy sex abuse, and especially continued to allow Bishops in the local Diocese to handle accusations. And Benedict said 'No,' and they took the issue out of the hands of local Bishops and put it in Rome."

"We tend to think of the papacy as some kind of ontological being that was definitive and lasting, and could never be otherwise. And he saw it for what it is: Which is a function of service in the life of the church.

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross will hold Mass Saturday evening at 11:30 p.m. in honor of the former pope.

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