Community gathers in honor of Pope Emeritus Benedict

Dec. 31—Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the papacy, died Saturday at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican. He was 95.

Nearly 100 people gathered at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville at noon for a mass to pray for the repose of his soul conducted by Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brownsville.

During the homily, Bishop Flores addressed the assembled crowd and those watching at home over the service's live stream in English and Spanish about the loss of the Pope Emeritus.

"We are here to pray for the soul, but also to keep in mind, to be thankful to God for the gift of Pope Emeritus' life and his service to the church," Flores said.

Formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his ascension to the office of the papacy, Benedict never wanted to be pope, planning at age 78 to spend his final years in Germany writing as he was a respected academic and theologian.

However, elected to the office following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Benedict dedicated himself to his purpose, describing himself as: "[a] simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

Benedict announced his resignation from the papacy on Feb. 11, 2013, becoming the first pope to do so since Gregory XII in 1415.

Evingelina Alcala, attending the Brownsville mass, describes his choice to leave his position as an example to the faithful.

"He had his reasons for leaving — and there was nothing wrong with that. This is what he has taught us. You have to stand your ground. If you feel that is what you have to do. I appreciate the fact that he did that," Alcala said.

"He had a beautiful life, and he is an example to us," she said.

Bishop Flores, who was named bishop in 2006 when appointed as an auxiliary bishop to the Archdiocese of Detroit, followed three years later with an appointment as bishop of the Archdiocese of Brownsville by Pope Benedict, describes the late Pope Emeritus as a man of enduring calm and a "kind and gentle teacher."

As 2023 begins, Flores ruminates on a message to carry forward into the new year with the loss of Benedict.

"To ask God to give us a sense of purpose, hope and of love in the new year. I think that would have been Pope Benedict's message because he wrote so beautifully about the love of God," Flores said.

The Pope Emeritus' body will be on public display in St. Peter's Basilica starting Monday for the mourners to pay their final respects. Pope Francis will conduct the funeral mass Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in St. Peter's Square.

The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville will announce a schedule of masses for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI over the coming days. For more information, visit www.cdob.org/ or Facebook or Twitter at @CatholicRGV.