Vicar General celebrates Mass of thanksgiving for pope emeritus

SOUTH END -- Vicar general and moderator of the curia Bishop Robert P. Deeley celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Feb. 28, expressing the gratitude of the Archdiocese of Boston for the eight-year ministry concluded that day by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

In his homily, the vicar general thanked the faithful, thanked Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, and thanked the pope emeritus, as he described what the first pope to retire in nearly 600 years means now and in the future.

Bishop Deeley said he had spoken recently with Cardinal O'Malley, who said he assured the pope emeritus of the prayers of the archdiocese.

"So, your presence here this evening, and your presence with us on CatholicTV, and the presence of so many people in the archdiocese today in so many different ways of prayer are an assurance to the Holy Father, as he goes into retirement that we are with him in prayer," Bishop Deeley said.

He described the scene, as he envisioned it, in Rome in the moments as he delivered his homily in Boston.

"In fact it is the middle of the night. But it is a different night tonight, as the windows over St. Peter's square in the apostolic palace not only have the lights out, but the shutters are closed. The apartment which has been home for the pope for the last eight years is empty," Bishop Deeley said.

He said the faithful gathered not in a state of disruption created by the unprecedented-in-modern-history retirement, but in a state of peaceful and prayerful contemplation.

"Why? Why would we gather so calmly in prayer? I believe that we recognize that this is a spiritual time. The words of the Gospel sound in our ears and guide our prayer and reflections," he said.

He said even in this time of "sede vacante," the period without a pontiff, the Church anticipates guidance from the Holy Spirit.

"Pope Benedict is now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He has laid down his arduous ministry, but the Church is not alone. The Church is not lost. Jesus promised to be with the Church," the vicar general said.

"In that confidence of faith and trust in the Lord, we are calmly able to gather this evening to give thanks for the years of Pope Emeritus Benedict's ministry, to pray for the discernment process which is about to unfold, as the cardinals of the Church gather to carry out their tremendous duty," he said.

He also addressed the current atmosphere of speculation and argument concerning the election of the next pope.

"It seems that many people as well have their own ideas about what should happen in the Church moving toward the future. The election of a new pope gives them the chance to weigh in. We should be careful to see this process for what it is -- the election of a successor to St. Peter who is charged with transmitting the message of the Gospel as it has been received from Jesus Christ by the Church transmitted back to the faithful. The solutions to many of the problems we encounter are found in that sacred message. We need a leader who can help us to understand that," he said.

"Pope Benedict has given us clear teaching about the continuing importance of the Second Vatican Council and its continuity within the ongoing tradition of the Church. He has spoken on the importance of religion in society, of the complementarity of faith and reason. His addresses in Berlin to the Bundestag, and in Westminster Hall to the political, academic and business leaders of Great Britain, are scholarly exercises enjoining serious questions regarding the future of our society," Bishop Deeley said.

As he finished his homily, he quoted the pope emeritus not from one of his scholarly or catechetical works, but from a message the pope sent directly to the world, his final tweet.

"May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives," Bishop Deeley quoted the pope emeritus' Twitter account @pontifex - which had tweets removed and the "sede vacante" coat of arms inserted as the photo earlier in the day.

Faithful at the cathedral expressed a sense of hopeful resolve in anticipation of the next papacy as they spoke with The Pilot.

"We do know that the new pope that will be elected will be one that will bring the Catholic community within the world together once again," said Frank Guerrios, 44, a parishioner of Holy Family Parish in Dorchester.

He said his father -- who served as a deacon at Holy Family Parish -- recently passed away, so the image of the closed shutters on the papal apartment struck a chord with him.

"It is closed momentarily, but it will soon be reopened, very soon," he said.

A missionary to the Archdiocese of Boston with the Neocatechumenal Way expressed a similar sentiment.

"During these times, I know that the Church has gone through some troubles, but I trust that the Holy Spirit is going to do the work, and it is going to bring another holy pope like the Lord has provided in the last two reigns with John Paul II and with Pope Benedict XVI. That is how I feel," said Alicia Burgos, 42.