Churches throughout the Archdiocese of Prince Albert will pay their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI through special masses in the coming weeks.
The Vatican announced Benedict’s passing on New Year’s Eve. Prince Albert Bishop Stephen Hero said the Pope Emeritus’ health had been on everyone’s mind for some time.
“Pope Francis was very public that he was concerned about the health (of the Pope Emeritus),” Hero said. “I think everybody was put on alert a little bit at the end of December to keep praying for Pope Benedict, so everyone was doing that.”
Hero said there isn’t a lot of time to make preparations when someone passes away, but he requested all parishes hold a memorial mass.
“Parishes will be organizing that as soon as they can,” he explained. “I have sent out information to help them, resources to help them to do that, so hopefully each community will be offering and having a celebration in their own Parish church.”
Some parishes chose to hold their memorial mass on Thursday—the same day as Benedict’s funeral at the Vatican.
Bishop Stephen Hero also had a personal relationship with the former Pope dating back to his own time in Rome. Pope Benedict ordained Hero and his entire Deacon’s class when they were in Rome as studying as seminarians.
“I have some very nice memories of him as a gracious and simple man,” Hero said. “He had a reputation for being a very strong person, but in my experience with him he was very good with us. He was going to be ordaining us in October, so some months earlier—because we had requested he do that—he invites us to come to his office, a whole group of 38 seminarians.
“We came with our Rector of the Seminary and we all sat around the table … and we got to ask him some questions. He wanted us to have a bit of a personal rapport with him before we saw him at our ordination as Deacons, which was very kind. He didn’t have to do that. He could have just shown up.”
Hero said Benedict gave some interesting answers to their questions, and treated them all with respect.
“We didn’t expect that kind of kindness,” Hero remembered. “He was soft spoken and that generosity to me and to my classmates was certainly much appreciated. It also made the experience of our ordination that much better and meaningful, so I have a bit of a connection with him.
“Normally you are ordained by your own bishop but this was a special case. We were all studying over there so the custom was to be ordained a Deacon there.”
Hero said Benedict would be remembered as a great theologian and teacher.
“All of the Popes have their own gifts, but in terms of a theologian in his own right, certainly a very articulate and good teacher (who) left us many good resources to continue to deepen our reflection on Christ’s mystery, like the series on Jesus of Nazareth,” Hero said. “The three book series is just extremely helpful for anybody to read. He left some very important works.”