In response to the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on 31 December 2022, the Bishops of Ireland prayed for the repose of the soul of the late Pope, as well as opening Books of Condolences for the faithful in their own cathedrals, as well as online on catholicbishops.ie, and on all major social media platforms. Archbishops Eamon Martin and Dermot Farrell attended the Funeral Mass of Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, on behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, on 5 January 2023.
Hours after the death of the Pope Emeritus, Archbishop Eamon Martin hosted a media briefing in the Synod Hall of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, in which he spoke of the late Pope’s links to Ireland. The Primate of All Ireland said, “Pope Benedict XVI’s interest in Ireland goes back to his friendship with the late Archbishop Kevin McNamara of Dublin when both were young theology professors. Former students of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, also remember fondly his visit there as cardinal. He often admired the huge contribution of generations of Irish men and women to the Church, and to humanity, and he took a special interest in the work of early Celtic missionaries like Saint Columbanus to the spread the Gospel in Europe and to Europe’s spiritual identity. He followed closely, and prayerfully, the Peace Process as it matured. Although unable to travel to Ireland for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in 2012, he delivered the key televised address to participating pilgrims. His message then, about the Church as communion, recalled his remarkable 2007 Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis in which he speaks of the Holy Eucharist as a mystery to be simultaneously believed, celebrated and lived.”
In his own tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin emphasised the depth of the late Pope’s intellect, and said, “The prowess and clarity of his theological thinking, his power of judgement, and his personal interaction with many people set Pope Benedict apart. Many of his writings are characterised by a depth of content and the simplicity of language which only comes from a profound appreciation of the mysteries of the faith. As he himself said in his classic work, Introduction to Christianity, “I come from theology and I knew that my strength, if I have one, is to announce the faith in a positive form. That is why I wanted above all to teach from the fullness of Sacred Scripture and Tradition,” and still, “there is a need for renewal, and I have tried to guide the Church forward on the basis of a modern interpretation of the faith.
“In this moment of mourning, we remember his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland (19th March 2010) on clerical sexual abuse, especially of minors. This letter, at such a painful time for the Church in our land had value not only for Ireland but for the Universal Church. Over a decade later, there is still need to do as he did in the wake of a parallel controversy in the Archdiocese of Munich, he asked for forgiveness from those affected. The Church may not shy away from the questions that remain unanswered.”
In his tribute, Archbishop Noel Treanor, Apostolic Administrator of Down & Connor said, “for all who live in the Diocese of Down and Connor, Pope Benedict’s address at the Wednesday audience of 11th June 2008 on the figure of St. Columbanus was memorable. On that occasion he remarked: “The Irish Saint [Columbanus] truly incarnated these words in his own life. A man of great culture – he also wrote poetry in Latin and a grammar book – he proved rich in gifts of grace. He was a tireless builder of monasteries as well as an intransigent penitential preacher who spent every ounce of his energy on nurturing the Christian roots of Europe which was coming into existence. With his spiritual energy, with his faith, with his love for God and neighbour, he truly became one of the Fathers of Europe. He shows us even today the roots from which our Europe can be reborn.”
Bishop Michael Duignan, Bishop of the Diocese of Galway and of Clonfert, also paid tribute to the late Pope, and said, “As Pope, he faced the joys and sorrows that such a weighty office brings with it. I join with so many in giving thanks to God for his leadership at a time of great transition. His historic decision to resign on health grounds in 2013 will forever frame the insightful humility and unshakeable trust in God that marked his life.”
On 19 April 2005 Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich and Freisling, Germany, was elected as the 265th Pope of the Catholic Church, and took the name Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy on 11 February 2013, effective on 28 February 2013. Pope Benedict XVI was succeeded by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, following the vote of the papal conclave on 13 March 2013, taking the pontifical name Francis.