Mike Ekern / University of St. Thomas

Remembering Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The University of St Thomas joins the faithful around the world in prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Vatican announced that the 95-year-old passed away on Saturday, Dec. 31, at 9:34 a.m. in his residence at the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.

On Saturday, University of St. Thomas President Rob Vischer tweeted: "The @UofStThomasMN mourns the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and expresses gratitude for his life and ministry reminding the world of 'the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.'"

Benedict was born Joseph Ratzinger. In his younger days, he was one of the most influential theologians at the Second Vatican Council and "one of the great Catholic scholars of the 20th century, helping to recover the biblical and liturgical sources of theology thereby renewing an emphasis, as he once put it to 'speak more in the language of shepherds than of scholars' for the renewal of faith," said St. Thomas' Vice President for Mission, Father Chris Collins '93, SJ, who contributed to the scholarly effort to make the theology of the pope emeritus known by writing his doctoral thesis on the thought of Benedict. The thesis, published by Liturgical Press, is titled The Word Made Love: The Dialogical Theology of Joseph Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict XVI (2013).

On Feb. 12, 1984, Monsignor Terrence Murphy, then St. Thomas chancellor, presented then-Cardinal Ratzinger with an honorary doctorate during a ceremony on the University of St. Thomas campus. Ratzinger came to the University of St. Thomas to preside at the dedication of the new Saint John Vianney College Seminary building. There were a number of other events associated with that visit, including a Mass for the campus and an open conversation with faculty from the philosophy and theology departments. 

Retired Bishop Richard Pates recounted that years later, when he met with Ratzinger, he still remembered fondly that occasion and the enthusiasm of our students as the honorary degree was conferred on him.

He placed a strong emphasis on addressing the amnesia of European culture about its Christian roots ... and insisted that faith could not be reduced to a private principle and excluded from civic life," wrote Don Briel in 2013, who at the time was director of Catholic Studies at St. Thomas. "He forged unexpected relations with atheistic and agnostic public intellectuals like Marcello Pera and Jürgen Habermas."

Pope Francis will preside over the funeral of Benedict on Jan. 5 at 9.30 CET in St. Peter's Square. May he rest in peace and pray for us all.