We learnt with sadness from the Apostolic Nuncio in Southern Africa this morning about the passing on of Pope Benedict the XVI. While he was inactive as Pope by the time of his death, his silent and prayerful
support for the Church was a source of strength for Pope Francis and the Church as a whole. It was always
heart-warming to see him on significant ecclesial events like the canonisation of saints and the creation of
new Cardinals. We will miss his fatherly presence and his companionship in the life of the Church as a
We remember him with a fondness for his humility. We recall his first words in Italian when he was elected
Pope. “The Revs. Cardinals have elected me, humble servant of God”. Throughout his leadership as Pope, he lived according to this sentiment, always wanting to be obedient to the truth that he believed was above him and to which he must submit. In a gentle voice, he always extended the invitation to the truth that beckons us to higher levels of being and knowledge that come from the Revelation of God through Christ and the tradition of the Church. When he realised that he was no longer effective as a leader, he was humble enough to tender his resignation instead of staying on for his own status.
We also remember him for his clarity of thought in articulating the message of revelation and relating it to the situations of our time. Pope Benedict was a significant point of reference in understanding the major doctrines of the Church and how they link with the modern world. As a true Patristic, (expert on Church Fathers), he was able to decipher the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and to make them relevant for our time. While he is regarded as an intellectual, his writings and teachings had practical implications for spirituality and daily life.
The most relevant of his encyclicals for our time is Deus Caritas Est, in which he explains the nature of God as love, and how charity forms the basis of justice and which in turn addresses contemporary social
problems. In this way, Pope Benedict reclaimed the relevance of faith for our time.
In Africa, we remember him for pursuing the idea of the second Synod for Africa conceived by his
predecessor, St. John Paul II. In his Encyclical (Africae Munus), Pope Benedict invited Africans to embark
on the mission of reconciliation, justice, and peace, the lack of which accounts for the ills that pervade the
continent. He further proposed practical suggestions of what needs to be done towards this end. Like Pope Francis’ inclusive invitation to engage in the journey of synodality, Pope Benedict invited all members of the Church at all levels to contribute to communion and peace in the Church and in society.
This lack of peace is not something that is true for the African continent only but also for the whole world if the present global instability is anything to go by. Benedict was truly the Pope of our time, and we are poorer without his live continued inspiration. Nevertheless, we thank God for the person of Pope Benedict for the example of his faith and commitment to the practical application of the truths of faith for the common good. As he viewed himself as a simple servant of God, now that this side of his life has reached its end, we pray that he may enjoy eternal happiness with his Master and may his soul rest in peace.
+ Sithembele Sipuka
31 December 2022