By George P. Matysek Jr.
Expressing his appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI following the Feb. 11 announcement of the pope’s upcoming resignation, Archbishop William E. Lori remembered the pontiff as a loving man whose lasting legacy will be his commitment to the new evangelization.
“He exercised his papacy to ensure that the church in the future would be dedicated to a fresh, vigorous, confident proclamation of the faith,” Archbishop Lori said during a Feb. 11 press conference at the Catholic Center in Baltimore.
The pope sought to reach not only those who haven’t heard the Gospel, Archbishop Lori said, but also those whose faith and devotion have cooled.
“His Holiness is a profound and loving teacher of the faith, a courageous defender of human rights and dignity, and a man of prayer, humility and wisdom,” Archbishop Lori said.
Noting that he met with the pope in Rome approximately seven weeks ago, Archbishop Lori said the pope seemed mentally alert. The pope “expressed his affection for the Archdiocese of Baltimore and he expressed his appreciation for its history as the first and oldest archdiocese in these United States,” Archbishop Lori said.
The archbishop called on Catholics to pray for the pope, “as he concludes his long and loving service to the church,” and for the cardinals who will soon gather in Rome to elect a successor.
“It’s not simply an electoral process like we are used to,” Archbishop Lori said. “It really begins with an act of worship and prayer.”
Joking that it’s “beyond his pay grade” to speculate on the man who will become pope, Archbishop Lori said whoever is elected “must be a faithful and loving teacher of the faith,” whether he comes from a developed country or a developing one.
“(The next pope) must be someone who has a pastor’s heart, capable of embracing one billion people from every culture and every language on earth,” Archbishop Lori said. “Imagine what a job description that is.”
Archbishop Lori emphasized the pope’s humility in stepping down, noting that it takes a “marvelous, holy and strong person,” to make that decision. Soon to turn 86, the pope cited his advanced age and a lack of stamina as reasons for his decision to become the first to resign the papacy in six centuries. He will step down Feb. 28.
“(Pope Benedict) is a gentle, almost courtly man,” Archbishop Lori said. “(He’s) very gracious, with a ready smile and a good sense of humor.
The archbishop reflected on the copious writings of the pope, noting that “the person of Christ” shines through in everything the pope has written.
“He has a way of writing and reflecting about Christ – whether it’s officially or unofficially – that plucks Christ out of the pages of history and brings him into the present – and in a way that is real and palpable and made to address the issues of our day,” Archbishop Lori said.
The pope’s writings transcend being liberal or conservative, the archbishop said.
“I think the word that comes to mind is profound – profoundly true,” he said.
Archbishop Lori noted that he spoke with Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, former archbishop of Baltimore and a member of the College of Cardinals that will elect the new pope. Asked by a reporter whether Cardinal O’Brien might become the next pope, Archbishop Lori reiterated that he would not speculate on who might succeed Pope Benedict.
“If he does (become pope),” Archbishop Lori joked, “I hope he’ll have me over for dinner.”
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Copyright (c) Feb. 11, 2013 CatholicReview.org