Mass of Funeral for Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral

Mass of Funeral for Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, 5/1/2023, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I.A. Kaigama

Readings: Is 29:16-19, Ps 23 (1); I Pt 1:3-9; Lk 23:39-46,8,9.

I welcome you my dear brothers and sisters representing your parishes, chaplaincies and pastoral areas, gathered together with our Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, our Cardinal, Auxiliary Bishop, representative of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Members of the National Assembly and the Judiciary, Ministers, Members of the Diplomatic Corp and other distinguished Nigerians. We gather in a sober mood to pray for the happy repose of our beloved Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. While we mourn his physical departure from us and pay our last respects as his mortal remains are committed to mother earth today in the Vatican City, we are comforted by the fact that he lived a long and productive life. We organized this Mass as the family of God in Abuja Archdiocese to correspond with the funeral Mass being held at this same time in St. Peter’s Square, led by Pope Francis, for a man who made profound theological contributions to the Catholic Church and the world; one who was a theological advisor during the Second Vatican Council and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but above all, a man of prayer.

There comes a time when we all must surrender to the will of the Creator to return to Him. Isaiah 29:16 says the clay does not question the potter and the work produced does not say to its maker you did not make me, or you have no understanding. Only the Lord, who has power to give life, has power to take it. The Lord who gave the world Pope Benedict XVI has decided to take him back after 95 years of earthly sojourn. We are confident that he will be granted admission into one of those dwelling places Jesus speaks about in His Father’s house (cf. Jn 14:2). Pope Benedict XVI fits the criteria for heaven provided in the second reading (1 Pt 1:3-9): love of God, suffering various trials, a faith tested like gold is tested by fire and yet rejoicing with an indescribable and glorious joy. A man like the late Pope with such faith will gain the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven.

We in Africa know that Pope Benedict XVI gave our continent a special consideration, with his visits to Angola, Cameroon (where he promulgated the working document of the 2nd African Synod) and the Republic of Benin (where he presented the post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the same synod – Africae Munus), all aimed at fostering evangelization, dialogue, reconciliation, solidarity, justice and peace in Africa.

At a first Vespers liturgy for the vigil of the January 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 31, His Holiness, Pope Francis said, “We feel in our hearts so much gratitude: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world; gratitude to him, for all the good he accomplished, and especially for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his retired life.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s first brief words as Pontiff gave an idea of his person and his ministry: “After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.”

For more than 70 years, as a priest, theologian, Bishop, Cardinal, Pope and finally Pope-Emeritus, he selflessly served Christ and His Church, and tried to make the faith understandable and reliable for modern man. Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was elected on 19 April 2005, as the 265th Pope, choosing the name “Benedict XVI.” On Feb. 11, 2013, he became the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign as Pope, for reasons of advanced age and lack of strength to properly exercise his Petrine office; a great example for our sit-tight political leaders, especially in Africa.

If you ask me how one should face death, I would refer you to Pope Benedict XVI’s statement: “Soon I will stand before the ultimate judge of my life. Although in looking back on my long life I may have much cause for fear and dread, I have nevertheless a joyful spirit because I firmly trust that the Lord is not only the righteous judge, but, at the same time, the friend and brother who has already suffered my inadequacies himself and therefore, as judge, is at the same time my advocate. Looking at the hour of judgment, the grace of being a Christian thus becomes clear to me. Being a Christian gives me knowledge and, moreover, friendship with the judge of my life and enables me to cross the dark door of death with confidence….”.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away at 9:34 am on Dec. 31, 2022, in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican. We pray that as Jesus said to the one dying on the cross with Him, Jesus will also say to Pope Benedict, “Amen I say to you this day you shall be with me in Paradise.”

Lessons to learn from the life and ministry of Pope Benedict XVI:

=>He focused on the goal of bringing “God back to the centre in a world where “the faith is in danger of dying out” (Letter to the Bishops of the whole world – 10 March 2009) and where the dictatorship of relativism is strong.

=>He often stressed the need to purify the Church.

=>A recurring theme in his many talks and writings was the link between faith and reason: “faith presupposes reason and perfects it,” he says that faith remains a journey that should not become an ideology that can be manipulated. It should be transmitted by attraction and not by proselytism or imposition and not reduced into a philosophical “system,” into an architecture of ideas, into a list of moral norms, ending up forgetting that the Christian faith is the encounter with a Person [Jesus]

=>Pope Benedict faced up to the issues of sex abuse with clarity and determination, listening to the victims and establishing appropriate norms and procedures, as a response to stop the abuse.

=>Pope Benedict taught with clarity the Church’s traditional positions on issues like abortion, contraception, homosexuality, euthanasia and the priesthood.

=>His first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), stresses the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, and he worked to build bridges between Christian and other faiths, especially Islam. He was also very committed to Ecumenical dialogue and Church unity.

=>After his surprise resignation Pope Benedict XVI was only known to have left the Vatican briefly and was rarely seen in public. He kept himself busy praying in the monastery. He pledged obedience to Pope Francis and he kept that promise and avoided the lime light. He and Pope Francis had a very warm relationship. Pope Francis said having Pope Benedict in the Vatican was like having a wise old grandfather in the house.

=>What I consider is the Pope’s greatest strength is what his former spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, said that “Benedict spent his life seeking the face of Jesus”.

May our respected Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI see Jesus face to face in the company of our Blessed Mother, the Angels and the Saints.

May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.


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