Pope Francis: ‘May Benedict XVI bless us and accompany us’

In his greetings during the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis recalled our affection, gratitude, and admiration for Benedict XVI who died one year ago, praying that he may bless us and accompany us from Heaven.

By Tiziana Campisi and Thaddeus Jones

“A year ago, Pope Benedict XVI ended his early journey, after having lovingly and wisely served the Church. We feel so much affection, gratitude and admiration for him. May he bless us and accompany us from Heaven. A round of applause for Benedict XVI!”

Pope Francis offered those words at the Sunday Angelus when remembering Pope Benedict XVI,  the 265th Pope, who died one year ago on this day of 31 December in 2022.

A Mass of suffrage was celebrated earlier in the morning at the Vatican, in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Altar of the Chair. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Joseph Ratzinger’s secretary from 2003 until the final days of his life, presided over the celebration. In his homily, Archbishop Gänswein described Benedict XVI’s “shining example,” and he expressed gratitude to God “for the gift of his life, the richness of his magisterium, the depth of his theology” of this “‘simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.'” 

Homily of Archbishop Ganswein

In his homily, Archbishop Ganswein recalled how just one year ago Benedict XVI called “Christmas, the most beautiful day of the year!” with a sense of wonder and celebrated with deep faith, joy and prayer. “Today, the Feast of the Holy Family marks the first anniversary of his return to the Father’s house, where – as we hope and pray – he may forever contemplate the great mystery of Christmas.” 

His life of prayer and meditation following his resignation marked years of profound service to the Lord and His Church, Archbishop Ganswein recalled, as the Pope Emeritus promised it himself shortly before stepping down. In the final years of his life, Benedict XVI’s prayer life was distinguished by increasing intensity and interiority in his deep “contemplation of the one Lord who, in the power of the Holy Spirit, continues to guide his Church,” Archbishop Ganswein said in his homily. 

Remembering the Holy Family we celebrate in a special way on this day, Archbishop Ganswein said Benedict XVI sought to follow the example of his Patron, Saint Joseph, “especially with his deep love for Jesus and Mary and his fidelity to a daily life punctuated by prayer and work. The heart of each day was for him the Eucharist, a source of light, strength and consolation,” as well as the liturgy of the hours, the rosary, “prayers that gave the day its structure.” He remembered as well how this intimate relationship with the Lord could be seen in his relationships with the people around him marked “by great cordiality, humility and simplicity and also in his theological and pastoral work, always oriented toward the primacy of God and the edification of the Church.”

In conclusion, Archbishop Ganswein underscored the unity we share, explaining that  “in the Eucharist, the mystery of Christmas remains present” with the Church built up as the family of God, and how “we are united with all the faithful, including the saints and our deceased loved ones.” He prayed that in the Eucharist “we also remain united with Benedict XVI, sincerely grateful to God for the gift of his life, the richness of his magisterium, the depth of his theology and the shining example of this ‘simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.'” 

31 December 2022

Serving as Pope from 19 April 2005 to 28 February 2013, Benedict XVI died at the age of 95 at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, where he had chosen to reside after stepping down from his ministry as Bishop of Rome announced on 11 February 2013. News of his death, given by the Holy See Press Office on the morning of the last day of 2022, as the Church prepared to celebrate First Vespers on the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, immediately went around the world. 

Countless messages of condolences came in from around the world from bishops’ conferences, religious leaders, and heads of state and government who wished to remember various traits of the “humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.” In the afternoon of that day in his homily given during the Te Deum at Saint Peter’s, Pope Francis remembered the “dear Pope emeritus Benedict XVI”  saying “We are moved as we recall him as such a noble person, so kind. And we feel such gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world; gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his recollected life. Only God knows the value and the power of his intercession, of the sacrifices he offered for the good of the Church.”

Prayers for the Pope Emeritus

Pope Francis was the first to pay his respects to Benedict XVI shortly after his death. A few days earlier, after the 28 December 2022 General Audience, he informed the faithful of his predecessor’s deteriorating health, saying, “I would like to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who is supporting the Church in silence. Remember him – he is very ill – and he asked the Lord to console him and to sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end.” On that same day, Benedict XVI received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

Final farewell

After the news of his death, thousands wished to pay their final respects to the Pope Emeritus, first in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery for those closest to him. Then, from 2 to 4 January, the tribute moved to Saint Peter’s Basilica, which was visited by more than 200,000 faithful. The funeral took place on 5 January in Saint Peter’s Square with 50 thousand people attending. Together with Pope Francis, some 130 cardinals, 400 bishops and nearly 3,700 priests concelebrated. 1,600 accredited journalists to the Holy See Press Office came to report on the funeral, while 200 media broadcast the ceremony. Pope Benedict XVI’s body was then interred in the Vatican Grottoes, in the same place where John Paul II was buried until his tomb was moved to the Basilica in 2011.