Special Mass in thanksgiving for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI in Maynooth

28 Feb 2013

Special Mass in thanksgiving for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI in Maynooth

The staff of the councils, agencies and offices of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth today participated in a special Mass in thanksgiving for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI on the final day of his Pontificate.  The Holy Father will depart from the Vatican this afternoon and the Sede vacante (Vacant See) will begin from 7.00pm Irish time.

The Mass in Maynooth was attended by staff representing the pastoral services of: ACCORD, Catechetics, Catholic Communications Office, Catholic Schools Partnership, CURA, Education, Emigrants, Finance and General Purposes, Immigrants, Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative, Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, Justice and Peace, Liturgy, Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, Marriage and the Family, Research and Development, Secretariat, Trócaire and Vocations.

Celebrants at the Mass were Monsignor Jim Cassin, Executive Secretary of the Bishops’ Council for Education who preached the homily; Monsignor Gearóid Dullea, Executive Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference; and, Father Peter Murphy, National Chaplain to ACCORD.  Please find below the text of Monsignor Cassin’s homily:


I am delighted that we are gathered today to give thanks for the pontificate of Benedict XVI.  It is a sad and happy time for us occasioned by his resignation.  We admire this unique Churchman who made an extraordinary contribution to the Catholic Church, who is at this moment the Pope chosen by God.  He is also a great theologian and a highly cultured human being.  We give thanks for him, we pray for him in his retirement and we pray for the future of the Church that we will be blessed with the leadership of his successor.


When Pope Benedict chose to resign, the city of Rome and the world was shocked. It was a brave and unprecedented move. It was an act of great humility. We recall his first words to the world as Pope:

“After the great Pope John Paul II the Cardinals have elected me – a simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.”

… a humble servant had been chosen to lead the people of God. The resignation was a first in history and the parallels with earlier times did not work. Nobody had ever resigned because of ill health and old age. This was the main reason given by Benedict.

It was described as a bolt out of the blue. But was it really? Pope Benedict had given signals in an interview three years earlier to a German journalist when he said: “a pope when he becomes clearly aware that he is not able to fulfil the role of his office not only might resign but would have the duty to resign.”  He had the courage to do this and this is a sign of the man. He faces many future imponderables despite all the advisors. Yet he serenely decided to resign.  After the major decision was announced he went on retreat given by Cardinal Ravasi and the theme was ‘praying the psalms’. This is surely the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope as today’s first reading tells us. This is the one who listens to Moses and the prophets as Abraham suggests in the Gospel.

Listen to Pope Benedict yesterday:

“When, on April 19 almost eight years ago, I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I felt this certainty firmly, and it has always accompanied me. At that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, why are you asking this of me and what are you asking of me? It is a great weight you are placing on my shoulders, but if this is what You ask, at your word I will let down the nets, confident that You will guide me, even with my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has truly guided me.”

What will Benedict be remembered for?

Unquestioningly Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation sets a powerful precedent. His resignation will mark history into the future.

He will certainly be remembered for an eight year papacy which was intense in its ministry and activity.

I have been deeply moved by his teaching and preaching. You know it was said: people came to see John Paul II and people came to hear Pope Benedict XVI. There is a quality to his homilies and talks. They are deep and very helpful at a theological and religious level.

Pope Benedict is a significant academic.  He is aware of the complexity of the world and that was part of his resigning speech: “In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary.” There is so much complexity that he did not feel able to continue due to his advanced age.

We thank God for this great Pope.  He is a kindly, cultured and mild mannered man.  People warmed to him when they heard him speak carefully, intelligently and movingly.  He diffused many of the fears that arose following his election.  He worked to hold together the Church that he loves. May he be blessed now in his retirement.

As the cardinal-electors prepare to vote for the man God would want to lead the Church, may they be blessed by the example and ministry of Benedict XVI and as they face the awesome task of reading the mind of God may they have his courage and humility.

Fe bhrat Mhuire cuirimis ar bPápa Benedict agus guimis rath Dé air I gconai).  May Pope Benedict be placed under the mantle of Mary, and may God protect him always

Notes to Editors

  • The secretariat of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is based in the Columba Centre of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, County Kildare.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444