Pope Benedict XVI R.I.P.

I wish to reflect briefly upon the life of the late Pope Benedict XVI who died on 31st December 2022.  He was a man of faith, who alerted us to the crisis of faith, took steps to address the scandal of clerical sexual abuse and acknowledged his own limitations in resigning as Pope in 2013.

Pope Benedict XVI was at heart a theologian who sought to alert us to the crisis of faith in Europe as evidenced in aging regular churchgoers, the stagnation in the recruitment of priests as well as growing unbelief and scepticism.  He stated that the essence of the crisis in the Church in Europe is the crisis of faith and he urged us to respond by seeking a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ.[1]  Indeed, Pope Francis calls attention to the importance of our relationship with Jesus Christ by asking us to remember that the focus of Pope Benedict XVI was first and foremost, the person and word of Jesus Christ.[2]  In paying tribute to and asking for prayers for his predecessor, Pope Francis has emphasised that ‘Pope Benedict XVI always wanted to take us by the hand, to accompany us towards an encounter with Jesus.’[3]

During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the clerical sexual abuse scandal, and he had a particular concern for Ireland arising from revelations of crimes committed by members of the Catholic Church in Ireland.  In his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland[4] he spoke directly to victims/survivors stating “You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.  He highlighted that there was ‘a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal’ and he addressed bishops and religious leaders stating that “serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations”.  He concluded his Pastoral Letter by recalling the importance of a personal and life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ, pledged his solidarity with us and offered earnest prayers for healing.  His words led to the strengthening of national safeguarding policies and procedures to ensure the safety of children and of vulnerable adults in the Irish Church.

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI, after prayer reflection upon his advancing age, made the decision to resign, stating, “I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”  He resolved to “serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer”.[5]

We commend Pope Benedict XVI to the Lord in thanksgiving for his leadership, faith, intellectual rigor as a theologian, prayerfulness, and humility.  May his soul and the souls of the Faithful Departed rest in peace.

+ Martin Hayes

Bishop of Kilmore.


[1] Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia – 2011
[2] Preface to ‘God is Always New’, Spiritual Reflections of Pope Benedict XVI, ed. Luca Caruso, Vatican Publications House, January 2023
[3] General Audience, 4th January 2023
[4] Pastoral Letter to the Catholics in Ireland – 19th March 2010
[5] Pope Benedict XVI, 10th February 2013