Many hundreds gathered in St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday 29 January 2023 in celebration of the life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, otherwise known as Josef Ratzinger. The memorial Mass took place approximately one month after his death, providing an opportunity for the people of God in Melbourne to gather together and to remember and pray for Pope Benedict.

In his homily, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli observed that Pope Benedict’s important legacy is one we will be reflecting on for many years to come. ‘In three hundred years from now,’ he said, ‘long after just about every other pope has been forgotten, people of faith will still be reading and learning from the teachings of Pope Benedict.’

Benedict sat among the ‘unusually high number of good and saintly popes’ the church has been given over the last century. Aside from being a gifted theologian, he was also a ‘naturally introverted and genuinely humble man, who liked a good German beer and who personally cared for the “strays” of Rome, both human and feline’.

More importantly, he was a man whose charism spoke to the needs of our times, both in and out of the Church.

‘There has been in recent times a tendency in the membership of the Church to take sides, to take a political, ecclesial stance,’ Archbishop Comensoli said. ‘For those of us engaged in the life of the Church, we have—collectively—become a bit like the Corinthians, who were boasting of their positions over and against one another and forgetting Christ.

Conservative, progressive; left, right; trad, liberal. These are all slogans, and none of them helpful in coming to Christ. As we heard in the gospel today, those who are blessed in God’s eyes are the poor in spirit, the gentle, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. Pope Benedict was particularly good in reminding us of this—to turn to Christ, and to find in him the light by which to live.

Pope Benedict often argued that the worlds of faith and reason are not opposed but actually depend on one another, and his reflections on faith and reason in the public square are a ‘distinctive legacy’, Archbishop Comensoli said.

‘The path of faith cannot be taken without the accompaniment of reason,’ Archbishop Comensoli explained, ‘and social institutions need faith for their fulfilment and good ordering.’

This is especially important if religion is going to be a contributor to the national conversation and not seen as an antagonist, as Pope Benedict would frequently point out.

‘May Christ welcome Pope Benedict into the feast of eternal life,’ the Archbishop concluded, ‘removing the worn garment of human weakness and sin and presenting him with the wedding garment he so desired to wear.’

The memorial Mass was celebrated at 6.30 pm on Sunday 29 January at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Since his death on 31 December last year, parishes around the Archdiocese have been celebrating masses for the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.