Students, faculty remember the lasting legacy of Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict waves to croud in Terreiro do Paso, Portugal during a visit in 2010

Courtesy / M.Mazue Flickr

Pope Benedict waves to croud in Terreiro do Paso, Portugal during a visit in 2010

Tom Canuel, Crier Staff

While students were home for winter break, Catholics around the world mourned the passing of Pope Benedict XVI, the former pope emeritus who is perhaps best known for being the first pope to resign from the position in over six hundred years. Now, students and faculty are looking back on his complicated yet extraordinary legacy in their lives and for the Catholic Church. 

Cardinal Ratzinger, later known as Benedict XVI, came into the picture during the Second Vatican Council in 1962-1965, serving as a peritus, or theological consultant, for Cardinal Frings of Cologne. Throughout his life, Ratzinger showcased his academic work of theology through his writings which would help contribute to his apostolic exhortations and encyclicals as pope. Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. He served as pope for eight years before resigning in 2013. For the next ten years, Benedict lived in a monastery in Vatican City until his death on December 31.  

Around the globe, Masses were celebrated to pray for the soul of Benedict XVI shortly after his death. At Saint Anselm Abbey, Benedict was added to the prayers of the faithful for about a month. However, no formal Mass was celebrated on-campus according to Kat O’Loughlin, the director of Campus Ministry. 

The legacy of Benedict XVI has touched many students, faculty, and monks at Saint Anselm. Fr. Jerome Day, O.S.B., had a particularly special connection to Benedict XVI. As a former pastor of Saint Raphael parish in Manchester, Day had the privilege of leading a pilgrimage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II in 2012.

Day remembered, “It was a special moment for the Church, and he was just as moved as anybody there. It was quite a thing to be there, and it was an experience that I continue to treasure.” 

Dr. Eric Bermani, the director of the college choir, viewed Benedict’s legacy as an important supporter of sacred music in the Catholic liturgy. “Pope Benedict XVI was one of the greatest theologians of the modern era. He has written more to support, encourage, and sculpt the direction of sacred music than any other cleric, let alone pope, of recent memory. His leadership will help guide sacred musicians for generations to come.” 

For others like junior Brendan Fedrizzi, Benedict serves as a role model of leadership and faith. As Fedrizzi noted, “He wasn’t just pope for himself, but became the pope because he was called to it. I was inspired by his example because he always spoke truth in love. I think he contributed a lot to the Church and faith at a time of confusion when people are looking for answers about faith and doctrine.” 

Day felt similarly. “He had a brilliant mind and a very gentle heart. As they say, he has the heart of a pastor.” 

Even with significant praise, Benedict’s papacy was still filled with some controversy, particularly with the clergy sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Catholic Church throughout his papacy. After a mishandlings report came out January 2022 that was commissioned by the Catholic Church, it was found that Benedict mishandled four cases during his tenure as Archbishop in Germany. Benedict would later acknowledge the “abuses and errors” and asked for forgiveness.   

Benedict XVI’s story would also be adapted by Hollywood. Benedict XVI’s interactions with Pope Francis after his retirement was adapted into a popular Netflix film called “The Two Popes.” Benedict XVI’s funeral Mass was livestreamed globally on January 5, and his body now lays in the Vatican grotto under Saint Peter’s Basilica, in the former tomb of St. John Paul II, his predecessor.