Local faithful saddened by death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Jan. 1—Local Catholics were saddened by the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

The German theologian, who was the first pope in 600 years to resign the papacy, died Saturday at age 95, the Vatican announced.

"I was really heartbroken" to hear the news, Frances Thompson, 66, of Moscow, said before entering St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton for a 4 p.m. Mass on Saturday.

Thompson also noted how Benedict's stepping down for health reasons, instead of serving as pope until death, was unprecedented in modern times.

"To have two popes at one time, it was so groundbreaking to begin with," Thompson said. "The way he stepped down and he was ill and we've never seen that. I never realized it was something that could happen. I was surprised. I would have thought he would have served a lot longer."

Michele Langan, 66, of Scranton, who attended the same Mass at the cathedral on Saturday, was surprised to hear the news of Benedict's passing. While she had been aware he was gravely ill, she recalled hearing in the news Friday that his condition was reported to have improved.

"It's a shame. I'm sad to hear that," Langan said.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, bishop of Scranton, issued a statement reflecting on Pope Emeritus Benedict's writings, support for the Catholic Church in the United States and efforts to unify Christians.

"Pope Emeritus Benedict will always be remembered as a great theologian-pope, not just because of the three encyclicals he wrote, but because of the intellectual precision he brought to all of his work, helping us to encounter God's love and truth," Bambera said. "For example, in Spe Salvi, (In hope we were saved), he beautifully stated that God is our foundation of hope, and it is his love alone that gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day."

Bambera continued: "In addition to being a strong supporter of the church in America, Benedict truly believed in fostering Christian unity as a fundamental priority of the worldwide church. From dialoging with Lutherans to his work with Anglicans, he made many efforts to see Christians fully united."

Regarding Benedict stepping down because of health reasons, Bambera said, "While much has been written about his historic renunciation, Benedict's actions showed great humility, selflessness and courage as he determined he no longer had the physical strength for the demands of the papacy."

Bambera also expressed gratitude to Benedict for having appointed him as bishop of Scranton.

"On a personal level, I thank Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for the trust and confidence he had in me when appointing me the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Scranton in February 2010. I will always treasure the opportunity to witness his humanity and devotion to Christ the following year during my first ad limina visit to the Vatican," Bambera said.

"I ask the people of the Diocese of Scranton to offer prayers for the peaceful repose of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's soul. May God grant him the gift of eternal life and bring comfort to those who mourn his passing," Bambera said.

The Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., president of the University of Scranton, also cited Benedict's writing and teaching as inspirational.

"As a true pastor and scholar, his writings and teachings will continue to inspire theologians for generations to come," Marina said in a statement. "More than that, as a great pastoral leader, he called us all to a deeper relationship with God, one grounded in love and fidelity. As he said so well in his beautiful work, "God is Love: Deus Caritas Est," 'Love is the light — and in the end, the only light — that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working.' "

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