Pope Francis thanks Benedict XVI on his 70th ordination anniversary

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA

Pope Francis greets Benedict XVI at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery on Nov. 28, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis thanked Benedict XVI on Tuesday for his continual prayer for the Church in his retirement, calling the pope emeritus “the contemplative of the Vatican.”

Speaking from the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square from the Apostolic Palace on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pope commended Benedict XVI on the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

“Today marks an anniversary that touches the hearts of us all: 70 years ago, Pope Benedict was ordained a priest,” Pope Francis said in his livestreamed Angelus address on June 29.

“To you, Benedict, dear father and brother, goes our affection, our gratitude, and our closeness.”

The pope noted that Benedict XVI now lives in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery within the walls of Vatican City.

“He is now the contemplative of the Vatican, who spends his life praying for the Church and for the diocese of Rome, of which he is bishop emeritus,” Pope Francis said.

“Thank you for your credible witness. Thank you for your gaze, constantly directed toward the horizon of God. Thank you,” he added.

The ordination and first Mass of the future Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, took place in Bavaria on June 29, 1951.

The 24-year-old Ratzinger was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Munich alongside his brother, Georg, in the Co-Cathedral of Freising, Germany.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, told EWTN that the pope emeritus offered Mass privately in the Mater Ecclesiae chapel to mark the occasion. At age 94, Benedict XVI lacks the strength to make a public appearance, his secretary said.

Six members of the choir in Regensburg, Germany of which his late brother was the choirmaster were present at the Mass “to sing a beautiful Mass by a German composer,” Gänswein said.

“To be a priest, for him, is the most important thing of his life. He lived to be a priest, then he lived as a priest. For him, that is the most important thing. It is the content of his whole life, and I think that for him it was also a remembrance of all the things that came from the Lord,” he commented.

In Pope Francis’ Angelus address, he said that both saints were “protagonists of the Gospel” who “spent their lives for the Lord and for their brothers.”

“How often, for example, we say that we would like a Church that is more faithful to the Gospel, closer to the people, more prophetic and missionary, but then, in practice, we do nothing,” he said.

“It is sad to see that many speak, comment and debate, but few bear witness. Witnesses do not lose themselves in words, but rather they bear fruit. Witnesses do not complain about others and the world, but they start with themselves.”

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