Cardinal Lacroix joined around 120 other Cardinals at Benedict XVI's Requiem Mass Cardinal Lacroix joined around 120 other Cardinals at Benedict XVI's Requiem Mass  (Vatican Media)

Cardinal Lacroix recalls Benedict XVI's gentleness, care for Canadian Church

Canadian Cardinal Gérald Lacroix of Quebec speaks to Vatican News about his memories of Benedict XVI, and recalls the late Pope Emeritus as a "humble servant in the Lord's vineyard."

By Deborah Castellano Lubov & Jean-Charles Putzolu

Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix has recalled Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's great gentleness and closeness, calling him a truly "humble servant in the Lord's vineyard."

The Archbishop of Quebec, who was among the more than 120 cardinals present at Benedict XVI's Requiem Mass on Thursday morning, did so in an interview with Vatican News’ Jean-Charles Putzolu, following the celebration in St. Peter's Square.

Unique historic moment

The Canadian Cardinal expressed his emotion to have taken part in this unique event in Church history, and recalled meeting with the late Benedict XVI over the years.

“This is a unique, historic moment,” the Cardinal reflected, expressing his gratitude to be able to travel from Quebec and share this moment in the Vatican with people from all over the world.

“There were more than 4,000 priests, 400 bishops, at least 120 cardinals, with an an enormous crowd of men and women from all over the world, who came to pray, to give thanks and to present to God this humble servant in the Lord's vineyard that Benedict XVI was.”

Funeral Mass of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Funeral Mass of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Benedict's invaluable prayers for the Church

While the late Pope Emeritus may have withdrawn from the public sphere, the Cardinal said, “he withdrew in prayer.”

Cardinal Lacroix expressed the great value and importance of Benedict’s prayers for the Church since his resignation.

“As much as Pope St. John Paul II showed us his perseverance until the end, we saw him almost at the last hours of his life. Pope Benedict chose to show us that even if you no longer have the strength, the capacity to be active in ministry, you are still active in prayer and you are still useful.”

Charism of authenticity

The Cardinal said he went twice to pay his respects to the Pope Emeritus while he was lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica earlier this week.

"I watched the faithful pass by with a respect, a silence that you almost never hear in the Basilica, when there are tourists," he said.

While present at the General Audience where Pope Francis praised Benedict XVI as a "master of the catechesis," Cardinal Lacroix shared his delight in seeing “the gratitude for this man who was not exuberant, who did not have the charisma of his predecessor or his successor, the charisma of the crowds, but who had the charisma of authenticity, of truth, of love and of his link with the Lord which was visible in his being.”

“He was a luminous being, Benedict XVI. I was honoured to be there also on behalf of the people of Quebec and of Quebec, of the French-speaking people of Canada.”

The Cardinal encouraged the faithful to return to the late Pope Emeritus' writings, speeches, homilies, and books, which, he said, “deserve to be explored and developed further.”

Benedict's care for Canada

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he recalled, had done much for Canada, including "being the first to welcome a delegation of indigenous people in 2009 to begin this long process of reconciliation," and the one "who canonized the first indigenous woman in North America: Kateri Tekakwitha and Brother André, also from Montreal." 

Cardinal Lacroix also recalled that when he was appointed Archbishop, Benedict XVI had said to the Apostolic Nuncio, "When Bishop Lacroix accepts the responsibility, tell him that I want to see him fifteen days after he begins his ministry."

Admitting he was very curious as to why the Pope wanted to see him, the Canadian Cardinal expressed joy and appreciation that upon his arrival in Rome, the late Benedict received him for almost a half hour only to encourage and listen to him, offer some good advice, and thank him for accepting.

“It was done in great simplicity, with a penetrating look, a tenderness, a gentleness. But I felt that he supported me, that he had confidence in me. And that touched and supported me enormously.”

Personal memories

Cardinal Lacroix recalled that when Pope Francis created him a Cardinal in 2014, Benedict XVI came to attend the celebration. “He didn't do it often, but he came.”

The Cardinal said he remembers immediately going downstairs after receiving the biretta, the Cardinal's ring, and the parchment designating his Rome parish.

“He was the first person I greeted. He welcomed me with open arms and said, 'Ah, Quebec!' At first, I was surprised that he recognised me. 'Quebec, it takes a lot of hope to serve in Quebec.' That touched me greatly.”

Cardinal Lacroix said he keeps those precious memories close in his heart.

File photo of Cardinal Lacroix
File photo of Cardinal Lacroix

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06 January 2023, 11:11