Bishop Kemme celebrates funeral Mass for Pope Benedict XVI

Bishop Carl A. Kemme speaks about the late Pope Benedict XVI in his homily Thursday, Jan. 5, during a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. (Advance photo)

It’s difficult to reduce Pope Benedict XVI’s career to one theme, Bishop Carl A. Kemme said in a homily Thursday evening, Jan. 5, during a Mass for the pope in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

“But he actually did this for us on the day of his death,” Bishop Kemme said. “His last audible and understandable words before leaving this life, as we have been told, were ‘Jesus, I love you.’

“These words echo those of his predecessor, Simon Peter, the first pope who said when Jesus asked him, Simon do you love me? ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ What more is to be said? What more can be said than that? He said those words in every aspect of his life, as student, teacher, priest, bishop, and pope. It was his life’s mission to deepen his love for Jesus who loved him and us with an everlasting love. Would that each of us might also come to end of our life with this pledge, by saying as he did, ‘Jesus, I love you.’”

Millions praying for the pope’s soul

Speaking from his cathedra, Bishop Kemme said millions around the world were praying for the late pope’s soul. “In our charity then, let us pray that the Lord will be merciful in judging him and welcome him with an all-embracing love into eternal life.”

Many have written about their admiration and esteem for Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Kemme said.

“I did not have the good fortune of meeting him, but like so many, have admired his writing and his service. While I have not read everything he wrote, I could not recommend more highly his three-volume work, Jesus of Nazareth, in which he expounds on the life of Jesus as revealed to us in the Gospels in simple and yet profound ways, inviting us to seek his face and to know him as he is, Son of God and Son of Man.”

Bishop Kemme continued saying he wanted to offer his reflections “as one might gaze at various sides of a brilliant and sparkling diamond.”

Benedict XVI was a brilliant student

The first side of the diamond that is Joseph Ratzinger is as a student, he said.

“From an early age, Joseph distinguished himself as a lover of knowledge and truth, a student par excellence. He loved books and reading, but not just reading, he loved study. Often he is photographed at his desk poring over texts, studying them intensely. He was a lifelong student, never tiring of searching and seeking greater understanding of theology, the Bible, and indeed all the sacred sciences.”

Another side of the late pope was his role as a teacher, the bishop said, one sought after for his mentorship and guidance.

“His lectures, books, and essays will be studied for generations to come, there can be no doubt, but being such a good student, I doubt if he ever gave his students the impression that his search for greater knowledge and understanding was exhausted. Rather, I suspect he approached this passion of his life, being in academic settings, with humility and inexhaustible desire for more.”

A good example for all

Pope Benedict XVI is a good example for all those who endeavor to teach about God with admiration and confidence, he said.

He was called to serve as a bishop, a cardinal, and “then much to his great surprise and I suspect disappointment” was elected pope, Bishop Kemme said.

“Few, if any, except his spiritual advisors and closest friends, perhaps knew of the cross this service would require him to bear, but he bore it with patience and simple and humble trust,” the bishop said regarding his resignation. “Joseph the bishop, cardinal, and pope can and does inspire the likes of me and my brother bishops of how best to serve, in spite of our desires, and especially in spite of our weaknesses and faults.”

Bishop Carl A. Kemme described the late pope as a true Renaissance man: Pope Benedict XVI spoke with varying degrees of fluency some six languages and could read Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He wrote 66 books. He traveled extensively, played classical piano, loved Mozart, and enjoyed other avenues of beauty and culture. “It would be difficult to imagine any subject that Joseph Ratzinger, student, teacher, priest, bishop, prefect, and pope that he could not be engaged on, so expansive his knowledge.”

Pope Benedict XVI, 95, died on Dec. 31 in Rome. His funeral, held at the Vatican Thursday, Jan. 5, was attended by thousands of mourners in St. Peter’s Square. Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in Germany in 1927, was ordained a priest in 1951, and named a cardinal in 1977. He was elected pope in 2005 and resigned in 2013 citing a “lack of strength of mind and body’ due to his advanced age.