As a seminarian in Rome, Paul Carlson never met or shook hands with Pope Benedict XVI — “My elbows were never sharp enough to go to the front” — but the pontiff made a lasting impression nonetheless.
The Reverend Paul Carlson, now pastor of Holy Family Church in Oglesby, emerged from those papal audiences impressed by the pontiff’s scholarly remarks and taken by the pope’s tireless personal habits.
“In the evenings we would take a break from our studies, walk down to St. Peter’s Square and see the lights on inside the papal apartments,” Carlson recalled. “It was always encouraging to see that the pope hadn’t gone to bed – that he was working hard late at night.
“I wish we had it a little longer.”
Catholics in the Illinois Valley mourn the former pontiff (2005-13), who died Saturday at age 95 – and just two months from the 10th anniversary of his abdication.
Although Benedict XVI’s decision to renounce the papacy overshadows all his other accomplishments, he is remembered locally as a distinguished author and theologian who left his mark on the Church during his brief pontificate.
“His legacy is a remarkable testimony to the teaching and preaching of the truth of Jesus Christ,” Bishop of Peoria Louis Tylka said in a statement, calling for prayers of thanksgiving for the legacy. of Benoît as well as for his rest.
“We are grateful for her testimony of faith, placing her life entirely in the hands of God. Confident that he now enjoys the reward of his good work and the gift of eternal life won by Christ, we commend his soul to our merciful and loving Father.
Under Benedict, the church made a radical update to the English liturgy – the peace response changed from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit” – and Benedict raised more than a dozen from American churches to basilicas, including Holy Hill near Milwaukee.
The former pontiff canonized dozens of saints, including several who ministered in North America. These included André Bessette, Marianne Cope, Damien de Molokai and Kateri Tekakwitha.
Peter Suarez, from Peru, recalled that Benedict XVI had launched a revolutionary outreach effort with other Christian denominations, such as the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States.
“He was a unifying pope,” Suarez said. “We will remember him as a pope of unity and truth.”
Benedict also encouraged the celebration of the Mass in Latin. Many La Salle parishioners have taken notice and adopted the traditional rite – “It has been a great blessing to our family,” Suarez said – and the Reverend William Gardner celebrates a weekly Latin Mass at the Queen’s Shrine of the Holy Rosary.
“I wish to express my gratitude for Pope Benedict XVI’s support of the Traditional Latin Mass,” Gardner said, “and I pray with Bishop Tylka that he may now rest in peace.”
Benedict ascended the throne of Peter with many challenges ahead. Former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected days before his 78th birthday and with a difficult act to follow. His predecessor, Pope Saint John Paul II, had reigned for 27 eventful years and was called “John Paul the Great” long before his canonization nine years later.
At the time of Jean-Paul’s death, Ratzinger was considering retirement and had no plans for the papacy. At the conclave, he backed down as votes poured in to make him pope and admitted to praying, “Please God, not me.”
Nonetheless, Benedict drew impressive crowds to his papal audiences even though, as Carlson said, “he was not the papal rock star that John Paul II was.” Word quickly circulated in Rome that the humble pontiff always kept his cool despite the pressures of work.
“Popes also get angry, but Benedict was known for never getting carried away,” Carlson recalls. “When meetings got tense, he kept quiet and chose his words very carefully.”