|“Australians will remember him, first, as the World Youth Day Pope, joining the young people of the world in Sydney in 2008.”|
Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Mass for the Pope on the Occasion of the Announcement of the Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Tuesday 12 February 2013
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The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI for reasons of health is a cause of great sadness for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, but also of heartfelt thanksgiving: for this Pope has given his all.
In 2005 Pope Benedict succeeded one of the greatest popes of all time. Pope John Paul II, or ‘John Paul the Great’ as many have called him, was his close friend. Benedict succeeded him in the task of unpacking the documents of the Second Vatican Council and articulating the Church’s faith for today’s world.
Benedict was the third pope to visit Australia. Australians will remember him, first, as the World Youth Day Pope, joining the young people of the world in Sydney in 2008. He began his time in Australia by spending a few days resting in our Diocese at Kenthurst. The word ‘Pope’ comes from the word ‘papa’, father or Daddy. When Benedict XVI engaged with the young people here in Sydney it was as their spiritual Daddy or even their spiritual Granddad, a grandfather to half a million, who recognised he truly loved them and in whom they encountered the love of God.
He also made his historic apology to victims of clergy child abuse while he was here in Sydney – an apology that the Bishops of New South Wales will repeat in their pastoral letter on Ash Wednesday tomorrow.
Secondly, Australians will remember him as the Pope who canonised St Mary of the Cross, and Parramattans as the one who gave her to us as our diocesan patron. Papas are supposed not just to give us words but to give us an example, a living word. Benedict XVI is undoubtedly a holy man himself and therefore readily recognised in Mary MacKillop, a woman of great faith who helped to build this country through education for the poor.
Thirdly, he is one of the great theologians of our time. After nearly eight years the Church and the world have come to see that he is not just a towering intellect but also a great communicator of the Faith – a Teacher-Pope, a true papa in this third sense that parents nurture their children in the faith. His unique command of the truths of Christian doctrine and his singular ability to make those truths come alive catechetically and homiletically have been a great gift to the Church in troubled times. As a great lover of the Sacred Liturgy his profound theology has been developed not in his desk chair so much as on his knees.
Again and again he has called us back to the foundations of our faith in the Holy Scriptures and Tradition, the Word of God alive and active in our day, ever ancient and ever new. He has been convinced that Catholic truth speaks volumes to our times and hundreds of those volumes have been his own.
The world still waits with bated breath to hear the words of the Christ and these they hear through His Vicar. God and the world still wait to hear Peter’s answer on behalf of all the Church to the question: who do you say Jesus is? Peter still answers, in the voice of his German successor, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
Christ responds, now as then: And you are Peter, the rock upon which I will build my irrepressible Church, the one to whom I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the one who must bind and loose definitively. Wherever you travel, even as far as Australia, you will be watched as I was watched, greeted as I was greeted, loved and hated as I was loved and hated.
From the earliest times the role of the papacy has been this: to be the authentic witness to Jesus Christ “the Son of the Living God” and to His Gospel of life and love, of truth and goodness, of beauty and glory; to be, as binder and looser, the teacher and guarantor that what we receive we receive from Christ; to be also chief shepherd of the flock of Christ, a pastor who tends faithful in needs, feeding as much binding and loosing; to be a principle of continuity-in-change and on unity-in-diversity; to be servant of the servants of God.
We thank Pope Benedict for giving himself heart and soul to the task of being Successor of Peter despite declining health. We offer this Mass in thanksgiving for him as our Holy Father, our Papa, these past eight years, and as the Church’s good servant for many years before that. We pray for him in his remaining two weeks as Pope and in his retirement. We also pray at this time for Australia’s elector, Cardinal George Pell, and the other cardinals who must choose a new Pope, that they will be inspired by the Holy Spirit to find us another great spiritual leader.