Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
Today, April 16, 2022, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrates his 95th birthday. The Pope Emeritus remains in good health and was visited earlier this week at his home, a monastery in the Vatican Gardens, by Pope Francis. It’s remarkable that the Pope Emeritus should observe his birthday during the Paschal Triduum, the holiest of days. It must be a special joy for someone who has an evident love for the liturgy.
The fact that Pope Benedict celebrates his birthday on Holy Saturday is all the more remarkable, as Joseph Ratzinger was born on Holy Saturday, on April 16, 1927.
April 16 is the feast of St. Bernadette Soubirous, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and, as Pope Benedict says, “above all, this day is immersed in the Paschal Mystery, in the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.” As he puts it, “In the year of my birth this was expressed in a special way: it was Holy Saturday, the day of the silence of God, of his apparent absence, of God’s death, but also the day on which the Resurrection was proclaimed.”
And if that weren’t enough, he was baptized the very same day. Pope Benedict once shared his gratitude to his parents for rushing him to the waters of baptism, saying, “The same day on which I was born, thanks to my parent’s concern, I was also reborn through water and the Holy Spirit” On the same day his parents gave him life and the gift of life in the Spirit.
At that time, the custom of anticipating the Easter Vigil by holding the ceremonies in the morning was still widely practiced. Commenting on this, Pope Benedict says, “It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of light in a day of darkness, could almost be an image of the history of our times.”
“On the one hand,” the Pope continued, “there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the ‘yes’ of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear him speak, and through the darkness of his absence we glimpse his light.”
I am now facing the last chapter of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is Risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world.
With words that today carry new weight and meaning, 10 years ago Pope Benedict preached, “I am now facing the last chapter of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is Risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world.”
Despite significant differences in their personalities and strategies, such as those laws which govern the Traditional Latin Mass, Pope Francis regularly praises his predecessor. To the surprise of many, at a recent meeting with fellow Jesuits in Malta, Pope Francis said,
“Pope Benedict was a prophet of [the] Church of the future, a Church that will become smaller, lose many privileges, be more humble and authentic, and find energy for the essential. It will be a Church that is more spiritual, poorer, and less political: a Church of the little ones. As a bishop, Benedict had said: Let us prepare ourselves to be a smaller Church.”
The Christian faithful who wish to send the Pope Emeritus a birthday greeting can do so with the help of this project.