Pope Francis: Like Benedict XVI, Be ‘Humble Laborers’ for the Church

Pope Francis presided on Friday morning at a Mass of intercession for the repose of the souls of Pope Benedict XVI and the six cardinals and 147 bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church who died since November 2022.

Pope Francis prayed for the repose of the souls of Pope Benedict XVI and the cardinals and bishops who died in the past year during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Nov. 3, 2023.
Pope Francis prayed for the repose of the souls of Pope Benedict XVI and the cardinals and bishops who died in the past year during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Nov. 3, 2023. (photo: Daniel Ibanez/CNA / EWTN)

At a Mass for Pope Benedict XVI and deceased cardinals and bishops on Friday, Pope Francis urged Christians, especially pastors, to be the humble servants of others.

“I like to recall the very first words with which Pope Benedict described himself following his election: ‘a humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord,’” the Pope said in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 3.

“Indeed, Christians, especially the pope, the cardinals and the bishops, are called to be humble laborers: to serve, not to be served and to put the fruits of the Lord’s vineyard before their advantage,” he added. “What a fine thing it is to renounce ourselves for the Church of Jesus!”

Pope Francis presided on Friday morning at a Mass of intercession for the repose of the souls of Pope Benedict XVI and the six cardinals and 147 bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church who died since November 2022.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re was the celebrant of the Mass, which took place at the Altar of the Chair, and cardinals and bishops concelebrated.

“Let us pray for our beloved deceased brethren,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “Their hearts were pastoral, compassionate and humble, for the Lord was the center of their lives. In him may they find eternal peace.”

The Mass for deceased cardinals and bishops is celebrated every year at the Vatican during the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

“Benedict XVI, whom we remember today, together with the cardinals and bishops who died in the past year, wrote in his first encyclical that the program of Jesus is ‘a heart that sees,’” Francis said, quoting from Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”).

“How many times did he keep reminding us that faith is not primarily an idea to be understood or a moral precept to be followed, but a person to be encountered,” he said. “That person is Jesus Christ, whose heart beats with love for us, whose eyes look with pity upon our suffering.”

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected at length on the virtue of Christian humility, which he said “is not simply one virtue among others, but the basic disposition of life: believing ourselves to be in need of God, making room for him and putting all our trust in him.”

“It is the humble, the poor in spirit, who reveal to us the ‘littleness’ so pleasing to the Lord, the path that leads to heaven. God seeks the humble, those who hope in him and not in themselves and their own plans,” the Pope said.

“God loves humility,” he added, “because it permits him to interact with us. Even more, God loves humility because he himself is humble. He comes down to us; he lowers himself; he does not impose himself; he makes room for us.”

Pope Francis also reflected on compassion as demonstrated by Jesus in St. Luke’s Gospel, proclaimed at Mass.

In Luke 7:11-17, Jesus encounters a widow following behind her only son who had died as he was being carried out of the city: “When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

“Jesus, as today’s Gospel shows, halts before the tragedy of death,” the Pope explained. “Here we see our God, whose divinity shines forth in contact with our sorrow and grief, for his is a heart full of compassion.”

“The raising of that young man, the gift of life that overcomes death, has its source precisely there, in the compassion of the Lord, who is moved by death, the greatest cause of our suffering. How important it is to communicate that same look of compassion to all those who grieve for the death of their loved ones,” he said.

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