50 US Bishops Remember Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

‘It is obvious that Ratzinger … was a man of faith,’ says Bishop Robert Barron. ‘But it is perhaps equally important to point out that he was one of the great defenders of reason on world stage.’

Cardinals and bishops attend Thursday’s funeral Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Cardinals and bishops attend Thursday’s funeral Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (photo: Filippo Monteforte / AFP via Getty Images)

Most Catholic bishops in the United States have made public statements about Pope Benedict XVI since his death last Saturday. Here are selected excerpts from 50 of them:

1. “I remember many meetings with him while I served in the Secretariat of State, and I will never forget his greeting to me at the first General Audience I attended some weeks after his election to the Chair of Peter. ‘Ci conosciamo’ (we know each other) were his warm words of welcome as he took my hand between his.” — Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services

2. “I had the privilege of sharing a table with Benedict and a military family from the United States. He was wonderfully gracious. He spoke to everyone and was very kind to the children. I’d heard that he liked orange Fanta soda and saw that it was true — a big pitcher of it was on the table. It was like sharing a meal with a member of one’s own family. Though shy, the Pope was always very kind and willing to do whatever was necessary to make others comfortable. … Benedict was simply the most intelligent person I’ve ever met — not only in his understanding but also in his articulation, and clearly a candidate to one day be a Doctor of the Church.” — Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia, writing in First Things

3. “I remember thinking to myself after his homily at the funeral for Pope John Paul II that he would be elected in the conclave that would follow. It seems the world came to know Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a very different light after he became Pope Benedict XVI. He was shy and humble, and yet he bravely served the Church as Pope for eight years. His hallmark will be as a great teacher.” Archbishop Paul Étienne, Archdiocese of Seattle

4. “The magnitude of the historical influence and significance of Pope Benedict’s systematic, liturgical and biblical theology cannot be completely known in the present. But it will be great, and it will grow over time like the influence of the teachings of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John Henry Cardinal Newman.” Bishop John Barres, Diocese of Rockville Centre (New York)

5. “Often pilloried by his opponents as a fire-breathing conservative, he was in fact one of the most balanced, nuanced, and stabilizing figures within the Catholic ambit. … It is obvious that Ratzinger, as priest, bishop, theologian and pope, was a man of faith. But it is perhaps equally important to point out that he was one of the great defenders of reason on world stage. At a time when many of the representatives of the secular culture were questioning our capacity to know anything as true, Ratzinger resisted what he termed ‘the dictatorship of relativism.’ He claimed, in line with the great Catholic tradition, that certain truths — moral, intellectual, and aesthetic — can be known and that this knowledge in fact serves to unite people across religious and cultural divides.” Bishop Robert Barron, Diocese of Winona-Rochester (Minnesota)

6. “He had an ability to express profound truths simply and with great insight into the temptations and spiritual struggles of our time. Thanks to the creativity and beauty of the images and words he used, he was able to move both the hearts and minds of believers.” Archbishop Leonard Blair, Archdiocese of Hartford

7. “He led the Church with courage and gentle dignity …” Bishop Paul Bradley, Diocese of Kalamazoo (Michigan)

8. “There was a genuine kindness and gentleness about him.” Bishop Robert Brennan, Diocese of Brooklyn

9. “We had many beautiful conversations together. I think he was an incredibly important person in the history of the Church. His mind was absolutely magnificent.” Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska)

10. “I was fortunate to be in Rome at the Pontifical North American College during the entirety of the Pope Emeritus’ pontificate, from his election to his renunciation. His love of seminarians and priests was ever evident to us. Whether in a private meeting with him or in the square or Paul VI Audience Hall with so many others, his fatherly love and encouragement moved us priests and seminarians to give more fully of ourselves to the Lord and his people.” Bishop James Checchio, Diocese of Metuchen (New Jersey)

11. “Pope Benedict will be remembered as a giant of the Catholic Church. He was a guiding theological light for all of us. He stood firm against the waves of secularism battering the Church; like a rock, his teachings were grounded in the Truth of Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.” Bishop James Conley, Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska)

12. “I will remember him as a man who knew deeply the profound yet simple love of God which he wrote about from his first encyclical letter to his last Wednesday audience. … If you have never read Pope Benedict’s writings, I encourage you to do so. You will find yourself inspired to a greater life of holiness.” Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Diocese of Crookston (Minnesota)

13. “What remains so strongly with me from those meetings I had with him was his paternal attitude toward the bishops and his interest and care about our mission in our own dioceses. He showed amazing knowledge and great interest about what was happening in the world.” Bishop Edgar da Cunha, Diocese of Fall River (Massachusetts)

14. “Throughout his life as a scholar and as a churchman, he showed us what it means to fulfill the ancient command to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago

15. “He knew that faith is entrusting oneself to Jesus and being conformed to his very life of love, and to believe is to enter into that love.” Bishop Robert Deeley, Diocese of Portland (Maine)

16. “The human family grieves the passing of this erudite, wise, and holy man, who spoke the truth with love …” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archdiocese of New York

17. “A man of deep faith, a scholar of great learning, and a pastor imbued with the heart of the Good Shepherd, he was the voice of truth in a world in which the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ has challenged every teaching and doctrine of the faith. Benedict inspired others, not only by his brilliant intellect, but also by his humility and courage as well as his charity and simplicity.” Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, Order of Friars Minor Conventual, Archdiocese of Atlanta

18. “Few things in this world have given me greater delight than meditating on his writings … and I know that I shared this joy with countless believers throughout the world.” Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Williams, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

19. “I always found Pope Benedict to be quite gracious and humble, despite being the pontiff and the greatest theologian of the century.” Archbishop Jerome Listecki, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

20. “He was very much aware of his own mission to point out Jesus Christ to others, but like John the Baptist he knew he was not the Christ, and like John knew that he must decrease so that Christ would increase in people’s lives …” Bishop Douglas Lucia, Diocese of Syracuse (New York)

21. “His personal holiness, combined with his extraordinary brilliance and insightful writings, helped to deepen the Church’s understanding of the Scriptures, the liturgy, and God’s revelation of his love and justice for all humanity.” Bishop David Malloy, Diocese of Rockford (Illinois)

22. “He had carved out a place in our hearts and there he shall ever remain. … On a more personal note, approximately one hour after the announcement of the election of Pope Benedict XVI to the Chair of Peter on April 19, 2005, I entered the Co­-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Burlington, Vermont, to be ordained a bishop. I spoke of this memorable occasion at my first visit with His Holiness in September 2005. It is a moment that I will never forget as he seemed genuinely pleased that we shared such joyous occasions on the same day.” Bishop Salvatore Matano, Diocese of Rochester (New York)

23. “Ever the brilliant theologian and teacher, the late Pope Emeritus guided the Church through the rough seas of doubt, confusion and challenging ideologies, always presenting the tenets of our Catholic faith with wisdom and genuine pastoral concern.” Bishop Robert McManus, Diocese of Worcester

24. “Perhaps the most moving experience for me was accompanying survivors of clergy sexual abuse to a meeting with the Holy Father in Washington, D.C., during his 2008 pastoral visit to the United States. It was a great privilege for me to be present at this meeting, as the Holy Father, in very personal ways, demonstrated his deep pastoral care for the survivors. Pope Benedict XVI recognized the pain experienced by survivors and all persons impacted by the abuse crisis. He was then, and at all times remained, committed to the Church supporting their journey towards healing and doing all that was possible to ensure the protection of children, young people, and vulnerable adults.” Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archdiocese of Boston

25. “He taught eloquently about the human need for God amidst a world that had become more aggressively secular and functionally atheistic.” Bishop Michael Olson, Diocese of Fort Worth

26. “His steadfast defense of our faith’s teachings and traditions and remaining faithful to them, despite the pressures of the secular world and from inside the Church, is the mark of a true leader.” Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Diocese of Springfield (Illinois)

27. “His first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, is in my opinion, one of the greatest ever written. I especially appreciated his liturgical scholarship and attention to the Sacred Liturgy. I had several conversations with him about that over the years, which I treasure. … He granted me a private audience about one year after his resignation and it was a conversation that I will never forget. I had the opportunity to thank him for all that he has meant to me. Above all I respected his profound humility and gentleness. He was a man of deep prayer and spirituality. I will miss him dearly and now ask for his prayers of intercession.” Archbishop Alexander Sample, Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon

28. “During my years as general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the early 1990s, I would frequently travel to Rome, and oftentimes I would see then-Cardinal Ratzinger making his daily treks across St. Peter’s Square from his apartment to his office. He would mingle with the people in the square while garbed in a simple black cassock. There was no indication that he was a cardinal. Often, he was asked by groups to serve as its photographer. This he did willingly and with a generous smile. As far as the group members were concerned, they had just been assisted by one of the local priests – and Cardinal Ratzinger seemed content to leave them with that understanding. I often wonder today if any of those tourists know their photographer moved on to become Pope Benedict XVI.” Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Archdiocese of Cincinnati

29. “Pope Benedict was a world-class theologian who loved seeking and speaking the truth, and he taught the faith of the Church with the moral authority and doctrinal clarity so sorely needed today. … He was a great man, but more importantly, he was a good man; a gracious, gentle, and kind man whose example of charity and compassion, and gentle leadership, will be his lasting legacy.” Bishop Thomas Tobin, Diocese of Providence

30. “While his many gifts have long been evident — his penetrating intellect, his piety, his courage — what most resonates with me now is his profound humility and the gentleness with which he exercised his ministry.” Archbishop Allen Vigneron, Archdiocese of Detroit

31. “My mom liked to read his works! Why? She said, ‘He wrote so that I can understand him!’” Bishop Patrick Zurek, Diocese of Amarillo (Texas)

32. “In my mind, his most important contribution to the theology of the Church was showing the continuity — not rupture — between the Second Vatican Council and the Tradition of the Church.” Bishop Michael Barber, Diocese of Oakland

33. “Whenever I was in his presence, I was aware of a deep interior calm that pervaded him. I pray for the grace of that calm in the midst of many storms. … I remember the Vespers celebrated at World Youth Day in Madrid (2011). A torrential rain interrupted the prayers. Pope Benedict didn’t move or leave, though his advisors wanted him to. He waited. The young people didn’t leave either. And when the storm had passed, he spoke to the young people from his heart: ‘The Lord is with us in the storm.’” Bishop Daniel Flores, Diocese of Brownsville (Texas)

34. “I will forever be grateful for his paternal love and kindness and will always consider him one of the great thinkers and shepherds in the history of the Catholic Church.” Bishop Edward Burns, Diocese of Dallas

35. “It looked like he had all the time in the world for you.” Bishop Michael Mulvey, Diocese of Corpus Christi (Texas)

36. “Pope Benedict utilized the best scriptural research, while always reading the Gospel through the eyes of Faith.” Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

37. “Like St. Joseph, Papa ‘Benedetto,’ as the Italian children would chant to him at audiences I attended, always put his family first. You could feel his love some might call grandfatherly, intimate yet disciplined. More contemplative as he aged, even mystical, he was not distant or otherworldly, and with an almost impish sense of humor, never cranky. Not easy for a German! For me, personally, he was always the priest, keeping Jesus at the center of his life, Mary-like. I will always admire his sacrificial humility.” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Diocese of Albany

38. “… the most poignant lessons we will draw are from the way he lived his life in conformity to what he taught and in humble and great respect for both faith and reason.” Bishop Gregory John Mansour, Maronite Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

39. “As a person, Pope Benedict was often perceived as shy, introverted, and even backward; however, when it came to proclaiming the truth and pursuing that which is ‘true and good,’ this holy man was bold and unrelenting.” Bishop David Bonnar, Diocese of Youngstown

40. “If we need an example of trust other than Mary, we can once again look to Pope Emeritus Benedict who simply surrendered himself to the Lord’s will.” Bishop Edward Malesic, Diocese of Cleveland

41. “I was privileged to meet Pope Benedict in Rome on two occasions in 2011, the second of which was especially memorable to me. Upon seeing me in a simple black habit that I had to borrow because the airline lost my luggage, he asked me if I was a Benedictine. It immediately occurred to me that the Pope knew the difference between a Benedictine habit and a cassock, but this was his way of engaging in a lighthearted conversation with me. When I explained my predicament to him, he shared humorous stories of his own travel experiences, including lost luggage. Nearly an hour later, Pope Benedict assured me that he was praying that I received my luggage that day, which I did.” Bishop Mark Bartchak, Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown (Pennsylvania)

42. “It is not just that his writings and teachings were sound theologically, but they were eminently clear, rational and reverent.” Bishop Ronald Gainer, Diocese of Harrisburg (Pennsylvania)

43. “Pope Emeritus Benedict was not just a man of words, and not just a man of intellect. He did not just live in the theoretical realm of the philosophical and theological world. But he allowed what he knew in his mind to set his heart on fire, and to love the Lord.” Bishop Larry Kulick, Diocese of Greensburg (Pennsylvania)

44. “In his many years of serving the Church, the Pope Emeritus left us great encyclicals on love and hope and Catholic social teaching, but I find myself particularly grateful for his book series on Jesus of Nazareth. I invite you to encounter once again the writings of this gifted theologian and teacher.” Bishop Daniel Felton, Diocese of Duluth (Minnesota)

45. “His overall body of magisterial teaching, including his audience reflections on the early Church fathers — several of whom were named doctors of the Church — prompted some of us to regard him as eventually worthy of inclusion among this august cohort.” Bishop William Joensen, Diocese of Des Moines

46. “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a gentle shepherd, at heart a pastor, with a refreshing way of making the most difficult concepts comprehensible. … He was transparently kind and had a splendid sense of humor.” Bishop Glen John Provost, Diocese of Lake Charles (Louisiana)

47. “What he taught us in his first papal encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he also taught us in how he lived his life — that while God’s love is big and sometimes incomprehensible, it is best returned and shared in small ways by accepting and giving of one’s self to the other.” Bishop Luis Rafael Zaram, Diocese of Raleigh (North Carolina)

48. “It was a privilege to participate in the election of Pope Benedict. I can remember when I went up to the Pope and knelt before him to show my respect and offer to him my pledge to be faithful and obedient, the first thing that Pope Benedict said to me was, ‘Happy Birthday, Your Eminence.’ It was my 70th birthday. Pope Benedict remembered that, and that is a memory I will always carry with me.” Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphi

49. “He had a tremendous gift for taking complex thought and making it understandable and simple, but without diluting its richness and its profundity.” Bishop Donald Hying, Diocese of Madison (Wisconsin)

50. “Humble and loving, as a friend of Jesus should be — kind and gentle in his speech and behavior towards others, even those who pushed the doctrinal envelope and very cultured and well-mannered as is befitting a gentleman. … He was super smart and holy, but some say he was a poor administrator and poor judge of character. I don’t know about his administrative skills, but his poor judgement of character can be seen in his promoting me to be the archbishop of Dubuque!” Archbishop Michael Jackels, Archdiocese of Dubuque (Iowa)