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Asian Catholics remember Pope Benedict with requiem Masses

The German pope is hailed for his life of simplicity and prayerfulness and great teaching on love and harmony
A Catholic prays in front of a portrait of the late Pope Benedict XVI at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Church in New Delhi, India on Jan. 4

A Catholic prays in front of a portrait of the late Pope Benedict XVI at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Church in New Delhi, India on Jan. 4. (Photo supplied)

Published: January 06, 2023 12:14 PM GMT
Updated: January 10, 2023 03:27 AM GMT

Catholics across Asia flocked to their cathedrals and churches to take part in requiem Masses, remembering retired Pope Benedict XVI’s service to their Church and communities.

Cathedrals and parish churches across Asia organized special requiem services on Jan. 5, when Pope Francis led his German-born predecessors’ funeral service at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict, who died of age-related complications on Dec. 31 at age 95, will be remembered in India as a leader “who worked toward Christian unity, which is a need of the hour, especially in the context of Indian churches,” said Maria Stanislaus, a member of the All-India Catholic Union in New Delhi.

She along with some 100 Catholics attended a requiem Mass for the late pope at New Delhi’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on the evening of Jan 4.  

Apostolic Nuncio to India Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli led the Mass along with Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi, retired Archbishop Vincent Conçessao and Auxiliary Deepak Valerian Tauro of Delhi.

In the Catholic-majority Philippines, the president of the national bishop’s conference, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, hailed Pope Benedict’s courage and humility.

Pope Benedict was a teacher, an intellectual, theology professor when he was appointed archbishop of Munich and Freising at the age of 50, Bishop David said.

“After just five years of pastoral leadership as archbishop, he was appointed to lead the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for almost 23 years, acting as Pope John Paul II’s watchdog on orthodoxy.”

“All he wanted to do after 49 years of academic life and five years of pastoral leadership was to retire and work quietly in the Vatican Archives,” the prelate said.

But he was elected pope and “left a lasting legacy on the Church and the world,” the bishop told at a Mass in Manila.

Indonesia’s Apostolic nuncio Archbishop Piero Pioppo led a requiem Mass on Jan. 5 at Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in the capital Jakarta.

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta and national bishops’ conference president Holy Cross Bishop Antonius Franciskus Subianto Bunyamin of Bandung led the service with three other bishops.

Bishop Bunyamin said Pope Benedict’s life reminds the Catholics of the menace of secularism that threatens the sacred presence of God.

“No wonder his first encyclical God is Love invites us not only to understand about and to have faith in the loving God but also to experience the loving God,” the prelate said. 

Hong Kong’s Cathedral of Immaculate Conception remained open from Jan. 2-4 to allow people to pray for the soul of the departed pope. People from different walks of life paid their respects to Benedict XVI, who made history in 2013 by becoming the first pope to resign in almost six centuries.

Hong Kong diocese held a requiem Mass on Jan. 4.  Its vicar general Father Peter Choy Wai-man said Pope Benedict never had an opportunity to visit the diocese or mainland China, “but his brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church in China were always in his heart.”

Father Choy’s recalled that the late pope wrote a letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007 to guide them to live their faith despite the difficult situation.

In Thailand's capital, Bangkok, the city’s Holy Rosary Church was holding requiem Masses daily until Jan. 7. The masses began on Jan. 1, the day after the Church announced Benedict's death.

All 27 dioceses in Vietnam held papal requiem Masses.

Some 1,000 people in traditional dress attended a requiem Mass at Phu Cam Cathedral in the old capital of Hue on Jan 5. It was led by Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Hue and some 60 priests.

Before the Mass, they offered incense in front of a large portrait of the pope and his biography was read out.

Archbishop Linh said the pontificate of Benedict was full of turbulence, “hatred, riots, terror and wars all over the world. The pope also suffered greatly from the opposition against the Church. but we still saw his humility, holiness, and faithfulness to God."

Father Dominic Phan Hung, the pastor of the cathedral, hailed the late pope as an outstanding teacher of the Catholic Church.

During his papacy from 2005 to 2013, Pope Benedict expressed great interest in Vietnam and sent messages when the Vietnamese Church held three La Vang (Marian) congresses that attracted thousands, Father Hung said.

Pope Benedict sent Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli as the first Vatican envoy to Vietnam as the first step to strengthen bilateral ties with the communist nation, Church leaders recalled.

In Cambodia, Bishop Olivier Schmmitthaeusler, the Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, led a memorial service on Jan. 2 at the Queen of Peace Church in Lvea Em district, Kandal province.

Ambassadors from Germany and France, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Cults and Religions, and a large crowd of Catholics attended the service.

In January 2013, a month before he resigned, Pope Benedict sent a video message to Cambodian Catholics.

"He sent the least number of video messages during his tenure as pope. But his last video message (as pope) was for the Cambodian church. (In the video) he pleads with Mary of the Mekong to protect our community and protect our faith,” said Bishop Olivier, a missionary of the Paris Foreign Mission  Society.

In Sri Lanka, following a government directive, all state institutions flew the national flag at half-mast on Jan. 5, the papal funeral day, as a mark of national respect for the late pope.

Bells at churches and parish shrines across the island nation tolled and special Masses took place for the late pope.

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Archbishop Brian Udaigwe led Holy Mass at St. Lucia's Cathedral in the capital Colombo on Jan. 5 with hundreds of Catholics.

Catholics in Muslim-majority Bangladesh joined special prayers and Masses in their eight dioceses, praying for the late pope.

In Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, the Holy Rosary Catholic Church a special requiem Mass was scheduled for Jan. 7. Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario and Archbishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze of Dhaka and several bishops are expected to lead it for thousands of Catholics in the country’s largest Catholic parish.

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1 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
fellow catholics: do NOT mourn the passing of ex-pope benedict. he was a the person (before he became pope) responsible for hiding the paedpophile priests/ bishops/cardinals/nuns from the law and instead blamed children and women. HE WAS A CRIMINAL WHO PROTECTED CRIMINALS! he will NOT be forgiven here on earth!
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