Priests from around the diocese concelebrate the Jan. 5 Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Stephen Cathedral. RILEY GREIF | WKC
Firm in faith, constant in love
Diocese remembers Pope Benedict XVI
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Serving as homilist for the Diocese of Owensboro’s Jan. 5 Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Fr. Richard Meredith quoted the spiritual testament of the retired pope, who had died on Dec. 31, 2022.
Fr. Meredith said the testament, written while Benedict reigned as pope but only released upon his death, included the declaration that, “I say to all who have been entrusted to my service: stand firm in faith.”
The Mass, which was attended by many faithful of the diocese, was held at St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro and presided over by Bishop William F. Medley. Multiple priests from across western Kentucky came to concelebrate the liturgy as well, including Fr. Meredith, who is the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in Hopkinsville.
A framed portrait of the late pope was displayed in the cathedral sanctuary, and Bishop Medley wore a red chasuble, per the Church’s tradition that red is worn at papal funerals in reference to St. Peter, the first pope and a martyr.
Continuing to quote Benedict’s spiritual testament, Fr. Meredith read the following, “I saw and see how out of the tangled assumptions, the reasonableness of faith emerged and emerges again. Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth and the life. And the Church, with all its insufficiencies, is truly his body.”
Fr. Meredith told the faithful that Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, issued Christmas 2005, was “unexpectedly about love.” It was titled “Deus caritas est,” that is, “God is love.”
“According to those attending him when he died, Benedict’s last distinct words were – in Italian – ‘Lord, I love you,’” said Fr. Meredith. “I think we all need to practice that,” he said.
Bishop Medley offered a few words of reflection at the end of Mass.
Pointing out that this has been an historic papacy, in that for the first time in 600 years a pope resigned while in office, Bishop Medley said Pope Benedict had lived longer as a retired pope at almost 10 years, than he did as a reigning pope, at seven years.
“I suspect that there is probably a lot yet to be published because he was a scholar to the end,” said Bishop Medley. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we came to recognize that his greatest service to the Church was in these last 10 years of almost a monastic life of prayer for the Church. And that’s as inspiring as all the wonderful things and all the wonderful writings he did before he was pope, and during his papacy.”
Originally printed in the February 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.