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LA Catholics gather to mourn Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The Los Angeles  memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was much like the pope himself: sincere, traditional and replete with praise for Jesus.

Benedict, who died at 95 on Dec. 31, had requested that his passing be marked with a simple service – a challenging feat when people around the world poured out to mourn his death, including over 50,000 funeral attendees in Vatican City alone.

Nevertheless, the Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez rose well to the occasion and officiated a classic Mass on Thursday, Jan. 5, adorned solely with special prayers in recognition of Benedict’s life and service to the church.

“In my experience, Pope Benedict was a gentle soul, a beautiful man. It is true that he was a great teacher, a biblical theologian and one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the Church in Western civilization,” Gomez said during Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown Los Angeles.

Archbishop José H. Gomez during a special memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Archbishop José H. Gomez makes his way to the alter during a special memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lat the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Clergy members a special memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lead by Archbishop José H. Gomez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jna 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People pray during a special memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lead by Archbishop José H. Gomez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People pray during a special memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lead by Archbishop José H. Gomez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People pray during a special memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lead by Archbishop José H. Gomez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

People pray at a photo of Pope Emeritus Benedict XV after a special memorial Mass for Benedict lead by Archbishop José H. Gomez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Archbishop José H. Gomez during a special memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan 5, 2032. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Gomez also expressed his gratitude for Benedict selecting him to serve as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“I will personally remember him most of all for his kindness to me and his deep humility,” Gomez added.

Benedict, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, was elected pope in 2005 and resigned in 2013 due to health problems. In doing so, he broke a 600 year tradition of serving until death and paved the way for future popes to step down if they feel they can no longer adequately perform their duties.

Prior to this, the last time a living pope stepped down was when Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 to resolve disputing claims to the papacy.

“Now future popes have the freedom to also be courageous, to say ‘I can no longer do this, it’s time for someone else to come’,” said Father Juan Ochoa, director of the Office for Divine Worship for the LA Archdiocese, in an interview at the memorial Mass. “This is something that he has done that will change the future of the papacy.”

Benedict was ordained a priest in 1951 and received a doctorate in theology at the University of Munich in 1953. He was appointed archbishop of Munich in 1977 and a cardinal three months later. In 1981, he became prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and assumed responsibility for enforcing doctrinal uniformity in the church.

Benedict is also remembered for his sharp mind, erudition and conservative Catholic bent.

“Something that everyone will agree about him is that he was a great intellectual and thinker,” Ochoa said. “There is so much richness in his writings that historians, intellectuals and theologians will be reading them for hundreds of years in the future.”

Benedict was also the pope who headed the church during a period of great scandal as the truth about rampant sexual abuse in the church came to light in the early 2000s.

“He was the first pope ever to meet with victims of abuse and it’s something that he did when he came to the United States,” Ochoa said. “He was the first one who said we need to recognize it, acknowledge it and, most especially, bring healing to the victims.”

Benedict was a traditional Catholic in a modern world and strove to reverse the trend of declining church attendance.

“Pope Benedict understood that the modern world is moving away from God, that faith is fading from the hearts of many people, that our society is growing cold and intolerant towards religion, but he also knew that God is not finished with his creation, not done building his Kingdom on earth,” Gomez said during Mass. “Pope Benedict reminded us that the Church mission is Christ’s mission: to seek and save the lost.”

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, was unable to attend the memorial Mass as he traveled to Vatican City to attend Benedict’s funeral in person. He issued a statement commemorating Benedict’s passing on Saturday, Dec. 31.

“He was a grand gift from God to the Church, and his many years as a priest, a theologian, an Archbishop, and a Pope, created a tapestry of holiness, wisdom, compassion, and integrity,” Mahony wrote in his statement.

“May he know rest in the embrace of the Good Shepherd,” Mahony added, “for whom he gladly spent his life, gifts, and energies for the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church.”

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