PROVIDENCE — On January 5, hours after Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Square and the casket containing his body brought down to the crypt below the basilica’s altar, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin celebrated a Memorial Mass at noon in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul for the peaceful repose of the late pontiff’s immortal soul.
The Mass was well attended, despite it being held on a Thursday.
“We come in sorrow at his loss, but also with a sense of peace and joy that Pope Benedict will receive the reward which he so richly deserves,” Bishop Tobin said in his homily, thanking God for Benedict’s long and fruitful service to the Church.
The bishop noted that God has always raised up shepherds throughout history to take care of his people, with the work of a shepherd being to teach, to govern and to sanctify, whether the shepherd is a local priest, a local bishop, or the Bishop of Rome, the pope.
“In Pope Benedict we had such a good and holy shepherd. He sacrificed his life in service of Christ and his Church,” Bishop Tobin said, adding that the pope was a pastor at heart.
“He was a pilgrim who traveled to the corners of the earth to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, whether it was welcome or unwelcome. He fulfilled the great commission to go forward and teach and to preach.”
Bishop Tobin said that Pope Benedict was a prophet who received God’s word, took it to heart and taught God’s word and challenged us, and the whole world to live according to that sacred word.
“Pope Benedict was truly a pontiff, a bridge builder who reached out to not just our own Catholic community but to people around the world, believers and non-believers alike and to members of various faith communities, especially as we know to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community, who have such great affection for and remembrance of Pope Benedict,” he said.
He noted that perhaps one of the reasons that the world mourned his loss so much was because he was “Il Papa,” the Holy Father of our Catholic family.
The bishop called to mind Pope Benedict’s encyclical on Christian hope, “Spe Salve,” in which he wrote: “Here too we see a distinguishing mark of Christians in the fact that they have a future. It is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know that their life will not end in emptiness. Because of the Gospel, the dark door of time, the future, has been thrown open. Those who have hope live differently. The one who hopes has been granted the gift of new life.”
He said that reflection summarizes Pope Benedict’s life, ministry and death.
“Pope Benedict taught us the value of hope and that gives us new life. It gives us every purpose and meaning and fulfillment to our life here and now as we carry on the work of Jesus,” Bishop Tobin said.
“As we come to this Holy Eucharist we thank God, solemnly and profoundly, for the life and ministry of Pope Benedict. We pray that he will share that gift of new life of which he spoke so eloquently. May our blessed mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, accompany him on his heavenly pilgrimage and may he rest in peace. Amen.”
Paul LeBon, a Rhode Islander who said he worked with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the former Archbishop of Havana, to help plan Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island nation in 2012, was one of the many in attendance at the Mass.
He said he had the honor of meeting Benedict at the apostolic nunciature during the visit after being led to a room where, unbeknownst to him, the pontiff was meeting with Cardinal Ortega.
“I literally just fell to my knees,” he said, upon seeing both Pope Benedict seated in front of him, with Cardinal Ortega seated just to the side.
He said he started crying before the pope anointed his hands.
“He made the sign of the cross on my hands, then on my forehead, then he put his hands on my shoulders and in his broken English and German he said, ‘The peace of Christ be with you. God bless you.’”
“I was sobbing, it was just so emotional,” LeBon said.
Maria Batista, a parishioner from St. Michael’s and St. Patrick Parish in Providence, felt it was a privilege for her to attend the Memorial Mass.
“To me, it’s a privilege to have an opportunity to pray for the pope. It’s a blessing to be here,” Batista said.
Marie Desilets, a parishioner at St. Paul’s in Cranston, appreciated Pope Benedict’s adherence to Church traditions.
“He was a wonderful pope and he really enforced the traditions of the Church and we need that today more than ever. We need that enforcement of tradition, especially for the younger generation,” she said.
Bill Holmes, a parishioner from St. Mary’s in Bristol, said the service was befitting the late pontiff.
“It was like what Pope Benedict wanted. It was simple and well done and very reverent,” Holmes said.
Sabina Hogan, a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Church in Cumberland
“It was beautifully done. I’m surprised at how many people showed up. It shows that he was loved,” she said.
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