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The Christophers: The Gentleness of Pope Benedict


Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,

The Christophers’ Board of Directors


In the aftermath of Pope Benedict XVI’s passing, many beautiful remembrances were written about his life and the impact he had on the world and on those who had the privilege to know him. One of the quieter and more personal remembrances was published on the Vatican News website, and it’s worth focusing on for the glimpse it provides of the late pontiff’s character. The piece was written by Alberto Gasbarri, who spent many years as the organizer of papal journeys. It was a role that required regular contact with Benedict, and the insights he gained from those interactions are illuminating and heartwarming.

“To those who had an austere and professorial impression of him,” Gasbarri writes, “he may have seemed to them detached or indifferent, but on the contrary, in his soul, Pope Benedict was full of gentleness and a disarming kindness frequently accompanied with a subtle and witty good humor.”

In trying to capture the nature of Benedict’s character, Gasbarri references Mother Teresa, who once gave him a tour of the home where she cared for sick and abandoned people. Gasbarri asked Mother Teresa what chances those in her care had for recovery. The nun responded, “Our fundamental mission is not to heal those who cannot be cured, for this there are hospitals. It is to gently accompany them to their encounter with Jesus.”

Relating this bit of wisdom to his initial interactions with Benedict, Gasbarri writes, “Soon after visiting him more closely, I immediately thought back to the gentleness described with Mother Teresa…One could sense [Benedict’s gentleness] in private meetings with him, what Mother Teresa called The Gospel of Kindness. ‘Be Kind,’ was indeed Mother Teresa’s admonition, ‘because holiness is not a luxury for the few. It is a simple duty for all. Kindness is the basis of the greatest holiness. If you know the art of kindness, you will become more and more like Christ.’”

Through a series of brief vignettes that shed light on the impressions Gasbarri formed of Benedict over the years, he paints a portrait of a man who cared deeply about others and showed profound respect to everyone he encountered. In one of the more dramatic stories, Gasbarri tells of a time when Pope Benedict was at World Youth Day and a powerful storm wiped out the power and damaged the papal stage. There was great concern for Benedict’s safety and, Gasbarri writes, “We suggested Pope Benedict leave the stage area and suspend the event, but the Pope’s polite but firm reply came as he remained seated in his chair, saying: ‘If the young people stay here, the Pope cannot abandon them.’”

This is such a beautiful picture of a servant of the people. Benedict understood the excitement of everyone who had journeyed from far and wide to attend that World Youth Day, and he wanted to remain there in solidarity with them. What a blessing he was to the Church, and his example of love, fidelity, and gentleness will most certainly be the legacy he leaves to the world.

Let us continue to pray for the repose of the soul of Pope Benedict XVI so that he might be in heaven and intercede for us all. Gasbarri certainly inspires confidence regarding Benedict’s path to heaven with the final line of his remembrance: “I am sure that Pope Benedict presented himself with all his gentleness in meeting with beloved Jesus, as I am equally sure many will miss his refined thinking and his exquisite gentleness of heart.”

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note YOU ARE A SAINT IN TRAINING, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

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