By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — The Diocese of Lake Charles joined thousands around the world in honoring the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on January 5, 2023, the same day he was laid to rest in the grottos of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The former pontiff died at the age of 95 on December 31, 2022.
His Excellency, Bishop Glen John Provost celebrated a Solemn Memorial Mass of the Dead in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to pray for the repose of Pope Benedict’s soul. Ahead of the 5:30 p.m. Mass, the Cathedral bell tolled for 45 minutes.
Bishop Provost said he still remembers hearing the news when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the successor of Pope John Paul II in 2005.
“How excited I was and surprised, too! The media had painted such a negative picture of him as “God’s rottweiler” and all that foolishness that I concluded the College of Cardinals would not elect him,” the bishop said at the beginning of his homily. “But somewhere deep down, I hoped."
He continued, “Like a child of seven on Christmas morning opening his gifts, I heard his name announced and became exhilarated. The unexpected had happened.”
It was two years later when Pope Benedict XVI appointed then-Rev. Monsignor Provost from the Diocese of Lafayette as the third bishop of Lake Charles in 2007.
In a statement on December 31 about the late pontiff’s death, Bishop Provost recalled receiving a personally signed letter when Pope Benedict appointed him as Bishop.
“Much to my surprise and unlike many of his predecessors, he personally signed letters of appointment for bishops,” he said. “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI took his vocation as Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome very seriously.”
In his homily, Bishop Provost noted several of the pope’s writings over the years.
“For me, one of the greatest contributions Pope Benedict XVI made was to help us, poor sinners, me included, regain an appreciation for the Sacred Scriptures,” Bishop Provost said.
“In Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict XVI approached the Bible as an object of faith. He reminded us that the Bible is a record of God’s Revelation in the life of His Word made Flesh,” he continued.
The bishop remarked that Pope Benedict realized Christianity’s longevity. For him, the Church would be diminished in size but with a more vibrant faith lived in smaller communities dedicated to the Lord.
“For this reason, Pope Benedict left behind works such as The Spirit of the Liturgy, Truth and Tolerance, and God is Near Us,” said Bishop Provost.
In the book, Last Testament in His Own Words (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016), Pope Benedict wrote: “To be loved and to love another are things I have increasingly recognized as fundamental, so that one can live; so that one can say yes to oneself, so that one can say yes to another. Finally, it has become increasingly clear to me that God is not, let’s say, a ruling power, a distant force; rather he is love and he loves me — and as such, life should be guided by him, by this power called love.” (p. 242).
Bishop Provost said that he is convinced that the pursuit of discovering the Lord is what motivated Pope Benedict’s life.
“The nurse attending him in the early morning hours of his last day reported that Pope Benedict’s final words were, “Signore, ti amo,” “Lord, I love you.”
Bishop Provost described Pope Benedict XVI as a “formidable theologian who played a pivotal role at the Second Vatican Council.
“For him, the Council could only be interpreted and seen as properly through the lens of what had transpired before,” the bishop said. “Pope Benedict was faithful to the true spirit of the Council as articulated by Pope Saint John XXIII, when at the Council’s inauguration, he said the Council’s purpose was ‘to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without attenuation or distortion (October 11, 1962). The challenge remains.”
View more photos from the Solemn Memorial Mass on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles Facebook Page.
CLICK HERE to read Bishop Provost’s homily in its entirety.