Faithful gather at Cathedral Shrine of Virgin of Guadalupe to remember pope emeritus
By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
As the tolling of bells echoed throughout the downtown Dallas area, hundreds gathered inside the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe to honor the memory of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 95, who passed away on New Year’s Eve and was buried in Rome on Jan. 5.
“He taught the truth, and he did it well,” said Bishop Edward J. Burns in recalling Pope Benedict XVI. “He served the Lord, and he shepherded the Church. He ministered to the faithful. He preached the Gospel. And he proclaimed the truth. For all of this, we give thanks to almighty God for the life of Pope Benedict XVI.”
Bishop Burns presided as the main celebrant for the memorial Mass, concelebrating with Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly and several priests from throughout the Diocese of Dallas.
Honoring the life of a man of faith and charity was a personal experience for Bishop Burns, who was first appointed a bishop for the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska by Pope Benedict XVI in January 2009.
“I will forever be grateful for his paternal love and kindness and will always consider him one of the great thinkers and shepherds in the history of the Catholic Church,” said Bishop Burns, who was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Dallas in February 2017.
Bishop Burns had the opportunity to meet Pope Benedict XVI twice in person. Once shortly after being installed bishop of Juneau and then later during an ad limina visit. He recalled from that first meeting how much the late pope emeritus cared for people.
“He told me, ‘I want you to know of my support and give my prayers to the faithful of Juneau, Alaska,’” Bishop Burns said. “I always appreciated that he was a shepherd. He had care and concern for the faithful. That was definitely evident in his life and in that conversation.”
The bishop also praised Pope Benedict XVI’s ability to shepherd the faithful, noting that he had a “bright mind” and spoke with “such clarity.”
“It was always wonderful to listen to him speak and read his writings,” Bishop Burns explained. “We’re blessed that Pope Benedict XVI in his intellect and in his scholarly manner was able to bring forth such powerful encyclicals that for us remain lighthouses — lighthouses through which we navigate the turbulent waters of the future.”
While history may remember Pope Benedict XVI as the first pope in 600 years to retire, Bishop Burns said the gravity of that decision highlights the former pontiff’s love for the Church.
“People can take from it that he had such a caring concern for the Church…that in his old age, he felt that there needed to be ways for the Church to keep up with a society that was changing so fast,” the bishop explained. “I think it was a very selfless offering for him to step aside for the strength and future of the Church.”
In his homily, Bishop Burns stressed the significance of the apostolic succession, starting with the apostle Peter and carrying on through today.
“There was Peter, and then Linus, and Cletus, and then Clement…all the way down through the ages was there a succession of popes to our modern age of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis,” the bishop said. “This apostolic succession is our lord, Jesus Christ, establishing his church – his one holy, Catholic and apostolic church.”
Bishop Burns explained that apostolic succession allows the faithful to understand the connectiveness of the Church and it’s need to stay connected to the successor of St. Peter.
“Because this Church is built on rock,” he said. “And as we commend our holy father, Benedict, to our God in heaven, we understand that he exercised an authority – an authority that was given to Peter.”
Hundreds gathered to celebrate the life of the late pope emeritus, whose image was prominently on display with a large portrait near the altar. Adjacent to the portrait, red vestments worn during a 1991 visit to Dallas by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as he was known before being elected pope, were displayed.
Before and after the celebration of the memorial Mass and at a vigil rosary held at the cathedral the prior night, the faithful had the opportunity to sign a book of condolences to be sent to Pope Francis, Benedict’s successor.
William Hollon, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Plano, attended the Jan. 5 memorial Mass to honor the memory of Pope Benedict XVI, whom he praised for upholding the Catholic faith despite challenges to it over the last few decades.
“We are here in respect of Pope Benedict, what he meant to our church and what his discipleship meant in terms of upholding the faith and those parts of the faith that are so important to us,” said Hollon, who was a part of a pilgrimage in June 2022 that visited Pope Benedict’s home parish in Germany. “We were able to attend Mass in the church where he was a pastor. That was a very beautiful experience.”
Ennis resident Stephanie Robie, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana, brought her two children, 15-year-old Bennett and 11-year-old Charlotte, to witness the Mass as well as to honor her son’s namesake.
“It’s a special occasion, and it’s a memorable time,” Robie said. “We chose the name Bennett because Pope Benedict was pope when our son was born. That’s his namesake, and we wanted this to be a special day.”
Robie recalled Pope Benedict XVI as “peaceful, pensive and thoughtful.” She praised Bishop Burns’ homily of the day that highlighted the apostolic succession and its importance to the Catholic faith while celebrating the life of the late pope.
“It’s a time to celebrate Pope Benedict’s life, but to also remember our legacy of faith and where it all comes from,” she said. “As the bishop said in his homily, there’s this legacy that has been passed along and we are called to carry on throughout our lives.”
It’s that legacy of faith that Bishop Burns celebrated with the memorial Mass for Pope Benedict XVI.
“Pope Benedict XVI was a blessing for the Church,” Bishop Burns said. “We mourn his death and give thanks for his life.”