Mass service held in Freehold in memory of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

People gathered at the Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine just hours after the former 95-year-old pope was laid to rest at the Vatican.

News 12 Staff

Jan 6, 2023, 1:38 AM

Updated 565 days ago

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A memorial Mass was held in Freehold Thursday for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
People gathered at the Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine just hours after the former 95-year-old pope was laid to rest at the Vatican.
Bishop David O'Connell, who knew Benedict personally, led the Mass service.
The two men started to form a friendship when Benedict was still known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and when O'Connell was president of Catholic University.
It was not long after that Benedict became pope in 2005 and then named O'Connell bishop.
"He's the reason I'm here. He appointed me to be the Bishop of Trenton," O'Connell said.
Later, O'Connell would find out Benedict specifically chose the Trenton Diocese for O'Connell so that the new bishop could be close to his ailing mother in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
While Benedict will widely be remembered as a conservative and the first to retire from his post in nearly 600 years, O'Connell recalls him as a scholar who authored 66 books.
He told a story in which Benedict offered him his Zucchetto, the pope's hat, as a gift.
"He took his white Zuchetto off his head and gave it to me. And I looked at the pope and I said to him, 'can I put it on?' And he didn't miss a beat, and he said, 'not yet,'" O'Connell recalled.
Overnight, Benedict's remains were buried in the papal tombs under St. Peter's Basilica following a funeral Mass.
Benedict was not without controversy, accused of mishandling cases of priest abuse while a bishop in Munich. Regarding the scandal, O'Connell thought he was treated unfairly, and reminds people that Benedict was the only pope to ever meet with victims of assault.
O'Connell saw the pope as kind and gentle.
"Benedict closed his eyes on this world on New Year's Eve and on New Year's Eve he opens them to eternity to see the face of God," O'Connell said in his homily as he closed the service.
O'Connell said he would not be surprised if someday Benedict was canonized as a saint.


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