God is love. Those were the opening words written by Pope Benedict XVI in his first papal encyclical. For a man of unparalleled theological talents, the phrase might seem quite simple for someone of his immense scholarship. However, it was right on character.
I awoke on New Year’s Eve morning to the expected news that Pope Benedict XVI had passed. Although I knew it was coming, his death still made me pause for a moment. Pope Benedict XVI is a central figure in my faith journey. I entered adulthood with Pope John Paul II the only pontiff I had lived under. When he died, I consumed all the funeral coverage that I possibly could and then followed closely the conclave that would elect then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
When Pope Benedict XVI appeared on the Vatican balcony, it was a profound moment for me. It was the first time I had ever seen a new pope elected and the abundant joy exhibited in Vatican Square was not lost on me. How special it was!
Pope Benedict XVI served the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics with humility and effectiveness. He was a champion of our faith and protected the Church to the absolute best of his ability. The way he continued to live his life after his resignation and co-exist with Pope Francis was nothing short of honorable.
As I mentioned, despite Pope Benedict’s prowess as a theologian and his ability to produce extremely thorough writings on complicated matters of faith, he was simple at heart. If the opening to his encyclical wasn’t enough evidence of that, perhaps his last words are. As he slipped into eternity, Pope Benedict XVI said Lord, I love you. Eternal rest grant unto Benedict, O Lord, and let Your perpetual light shine upon him. Don’t Blink.