By Vatican News
Archbishop Léon Kalenga Badikebele was born in what was then the Belgian Congo in 1956. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1990. His last post was that of Apostolic Nuncio in Argentina. He died this month in Rome after a long illness, and his funeral was held in St Peter’s Basilica on Saturday morning.
Pope Francis began by reflecting on the meaning of the word “valedictio”, the “farewell” that concludes every funeral Mass. “It is like saying: we let you go to God”, said the Pope, “into God's hands…which are the most beautiful hands, hands wounded with love”.
Even more so, continued the Pope, ”it is the farewell of the shepherd. The shepherd says goodbye to his people, to his flock”. Using the example of St Paul leaving the faithful in Miletus, the Pope said, “the shepherd says goodbye with his own testimony”, he takes his leave “showing that his life is one of obedience to God”.
The pastor also takes his leave “with a witness of detachment”, said Pope Francis. “He is accustomed to being unattached to the goods of this world”. Again referencing the example of St Paul, as recounted in Acts chapter 20, the Pope said, the pastor detaches himself from the faithful, saying: "Now you are adults. Watch over yourselves and over the whole flock…and be careful, because after my departure rapacious wolves will come among you".
Learning to leave
But “detachment is temporary”, clarified the Pope. In His farewell, Jesus gives us hope when He tells us: "I am going to prepare a place for you". Pope Francis concluded his homily by recalling the spirituality he was taught in the novitiate: “that all life is a way of learning to die…life teaches us to leave…to say goodbye”, he said. “May the Lord give us all this grace: to learn to leave”.