People attending Benedict XVI’s funeral recall their personal memories of a ‘humble pope’
Vatican City, Jan 5, 2023 / 08:36 am
Catholics from Germany, France, Ghana, India, Australia, Uganda, and many more countries who attended the funeral Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Thursday have shared their favorite memories of the late pope and why some decided to join in the chants of “santo subito” at the end of the ceremony.
More than 50,000 people attended the Jan. 5 funeral for the pope emeritus, who died at the age of 95 last Saturday.
Among those in the crowd for the funeral was Arthur Escamila, who got to know Benedict XVI personally during the 2008 World Youth Day in Australia.
“It was emotional seeing the coffin coming out of the basilica,” he told CNA.
Escamila, a numerary from Opus Dei, recalled how Benedict XVI rested for a few days in the Opus Dei center in Sydney where he was living at the time.
“I had the privilege of living together with him for three days in Sydney in 2008 just before World Youth Day. We spent three days together. I attended his Mass. I ate with him. I listened to music with him,” he said.
Benedict XVI was “very humble” and “approachable,” Escamila remembered. “From the beginning he learned my name. He addressed me by my first name and I was very impressed by that.”
“My father had recently died. He was interested in that and asked me questions about my father, my family. He wanted to know about his illness. So I was personally touched,” he said.
“So his death meant a lot because it was closing a chapter where I knew the pope emeritus personally and had a connection with him that was personal.”
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay, also spoke about his personal memories of Benedict XVI.
The cardinal, who traveled from India for the funeral, told CNA that he found the funeral “very moving” and a “fitting farewell for the Holy Father Emeritus.”
“He was a great theologian, the greatest of the 20th century I think. I personally … I told him that whenever I read any article, any book, any homily of his I always got a new insight into theology or spirituality. His was a great contribution for the Church,” Gracias said.
The Indian cardinal also expressed gratitude for the many ways that the former pope touched his life: “He created me cardinal. He appointed me archbishop of Bombay … and we met often. I was on the committee for the translation of liturgical texts and so we discussed much there.”
Father Albert Musinguzi from Uganda said that he felt “deep spiritual joy” at the funeral, especially because it was the first Mass he had ever concelebrated at the Vatican.
“Although we have lost a great man, we are not mourning. We are celebrating a spiritual giant, a great man, a gift to the Church and to the entire world because Pope Benedict was a man not only for the Church but for the entire world,” he said.
The priest from Uganda’s Archdiocese of Mbarara, currently studying in Rome, said that he believes that the late pope emeritus is a saint.
“Pope Benedict was a humble pope, but a great theologian. We have learned from his humility to approach God from the Word of God. But what I like most from his preaching is that God and science are not opposed to each other … And what touched me most recently in the life of Pope Benedict XVI were his last words,” Musinguzi said.
“As we know Pope Benedict was 95 years old, so for 71 years he has given homilies and innumerable essays. He has written 66 books, three encyclicals, four exhortations, and he has summarized all of them in four words, which were his last four words: ‘Jesus, I love you.’”
Tabea Schneider traveled 20 hours by bus from Cologne, Germany, with many other enthusiastic German pilgrims who spontaneously decided to come to Rome for the funeral. She said that she was very moved when Pope Francis touched the coffin of Benedict XVI.
“It was a very emotional moment,” she said.
A group of approximately 65 people from all across France traveled together to Rome for Benedict’s funeral.
The Famille Missionnaire de Notre-Dame, a men and women’s religious community, organized two buses.
After the funeral, the group prayed the Liturgy of the Hours outside St. Peter’s Square for the repose of the soul of Benedict XVI.
Sister Maksymiliana Domini, originally from Poland, told CNA the group arrived on Tuesday evening and will depart the night of the funeral.
“We love Pope Benedict,” she said, adding that they wanted to honor him and his legacy.
The Famille Missionnarie de Notre-Dame, she said, feels very close to Benedict because of their shared love for the Church’s liturgy and for an interpretation of the Second Vatican Council in the hermeneutic of continuity.
“We are 100% aligned with him spiritually,” Domini said.
Father Anthony Agnes Adu Mensah from Accra, Ghana, said that he enthusiastically joined in the chants of “santo spirito” at the end of the Mass.
“I feel in my heart that Pope Benedict is a saint,” the priest said.