Utah Catholics Recall Encounters With Pope Benedict XVI
Friday, Jan 13, 2023
“In October 2008, the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors was received in a private audience with Pope Benedict. This very busy man took time out for us and his smile showed the true joy within him. We also attended the opening Synod of Bishops Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. My wife Linda, daughter Holly, son Paul and I were honored and overjoyed by the pope’s holiness and his presence. The picture shows his effect on everyone there. A life-changing event.” – John Wainscott, Utah Knights of Columbus past state deputy and former supreme director with the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council
The Intermountain Catholic asked local Catholics about their memories of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. Their responses follow.
“It was during my ad limina visit with Pope Benedict, when I was Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, when I met him in person. He had an aura of intelligence, yet there was a spirit of gentleness as well. He’ll be remembered as an intellectual giant, an erudite theologian, a teacher and a staunch defender of Catholic teaching, but there was no sense of pride, but simplicity. And when he resigned from his sacred office—that took a lot of humility, to recognize that he was no longer suited to exercise his sacred office due to age and poor health. Even with his last breath, he left us inspiring words to reflect, guide and empower us in living our faith: ‘Jesus, I love you.’” — Bishop Oscar A. Solis
“Pope Benedict was a brilliant theologian who will be remembered for his theological scholarship and ecumenism. I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t named a ‘Doctor of the Church’ in years to come. But in all of this, he was above all a humble and holy priest and servant, reluctant to take on any honors, but generous in service.” – Mons. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general
“Between Christmas of 2012 and Easter of 2013 I had the opportunity to accompany both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis in the papal Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a marvelous experience! In these cases, I was the cantor deacon – the deacon tasked with chanting the gospel and other parts of the liturgy.
“Deaconing for Pope Benedict was truly a special experience. After the Midnight Mass for Christmas, the Holy Father spent ample time with me asking about my studies and was very interested in talking about the Church in Utah. His warmth and his interest in me were truly edifying, and I was excited to bring his greetings home when I returned to Salt Lake City for my presbyteral ordination. I was able to serve again as a papal cantor deacon for Epiphany, and in this case had a special opportunity to help Pope Benedict vest for Mass, which occurred at the altar of Michelangelo’s Pietà. His humility and prayerfulness continued to impress me. I have treasured these moments in my heart.” — Br. Christopher Gray, pastor, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Park City
“I went to pay my respects on Tuesday afternoon as he was lying in state. The line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica was long, but it was moving fast. I was impressed to see so many pilgrims and clergy fill the square and the basilica. Even our seminary was filled with bishops and cardinals from the United States coming for the funeral. As soon as I got to the front in front of Benedict XVI’s body, I said a quick prayer and felt sad that he was no longer with us. I stayed for Mass, and all the Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica were being said for Benedict. The day of the funeral I watched on TV with a small group, and as Mass ended and I was walking back to my room, I could hear the bells tolling in from St. Peter’s in the hallway.” – Oscar Marquina, diocesan seminarian
“In 1995, while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he approved the use of low-gluten hosts as valid for Eucharistic celebrations. I’m grateful that then-Cardinal Ratzinger recognized the needs of Catholics with Celiac disease to participate in the Eucharist. The Congregation’s approval of low-gluten hosts opened the door for the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (Clyde, Mo.) to produce low-gluten hosts, which were subsequently approved by the USCCB as valid for Holy Communion, so that I and others with Celiac disease are now able to receive the Body of Christ.” — Carol Ruddell, St. Thomas More Parish, Cottonwood Heights
“The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 16, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI was engaged in an Apostolic Journey to the USA. I was fortunate to be part of a small group of people associated with the basilica who were present in the main church. He was there for a brief walk through before celebrating Vespers with the bishops of the United States of America. He was moving slowly through the basilica, acknowledging people and smiling. It felt like he was looking directly at me … with such kind eyes!” – Anne Boyer, parishioner, St. Peter Parish, American Fork
“My memories of Pope Benedict were in 2008 when my husband and I went to Rome for our 25th wedding anniversary. As we were experiencing and admiring the beauty of the sacred sites in Rome, our tour guide grabbed me and asked if I wanted to see the pope closer at the papal audience. He said I needed to be near the fence because the pope was riding in the popemobile and if I were close enough, he would shake my hand. As Pope Benedict drove near us, we had eye-to-eye contact, and the first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘O my Lord and my God.’ I saw the Lord Jesus in his eyes, and that moment I knew Pope Benedict is truly a servant of God. I also saw as his popemobile moved a spot light so bright following him. With tears in my eyes, I screamed, saying, ‘Viva Papa, viva Papa Benedict.’ It was a life-changing moment for me, and my faith has gotten stronger because of him. I would not doubt that he will be named a Doctor of the Church because of his knowledge in theology and his eloquent writings. It was God’s providence for me to see this humble man. Hey is my pope. Rest in peace, Pope Benedict XVI. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant; welcome to my father’s house.’” – Nelda Troyer, Holy Family Parish, Ogden
“We will always remember Pope Benedict’s Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 22, 2010. We were there on pilgrimage with Fr. Martin Diaz and others. It was the only ‘live’ mass by a pope we’ll likely ever attend. He seemed warm, the audience’s love in return was palpable. – Denise and Tim Richards, Christ the King Parish, Cedar City
“In October 2008, the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors was received in a private audience with Pope Benedict. This very busy man took time out for us and his smile showed the true joy within him. We also attended the opening of the Synod of Bishops Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. My wife Linda, daughter Holly, son Paul and I were honored and overjoyed by the pope’s holiness and his presence. The picture shows its effect on everyone there. A life changing event.” – John Wainscott, Utah Knights of Columbus past state deputy and former supreme director with the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council