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Saturday 7th January 2023 – Saturday 14th January 2023


Dear parishioners,


The death of Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger, is the loss of a spiritual father. Calling him ‘Holy Father’ was not just a title for many of us when applied to him. We meant it. And although we had the continuous and aching wound of his absence since his retirement, knowing he has died, leaves us feeling like spiritual orphans and makes deeper the wound caused by his retirement ten years ago. Selfishly, his retirement had left many of us bereft. Why did he do it? Dr Taylor Marshall put it rather colourfully, he was like a dad we all loved deeply, who then leaves us to the care of cruel step- father. It left us confused. These are of course feelings, which I can’t comment on, but all bereavement is an expression of feeling, of what we ourselves have lost. Yes, it is often said, that when a loved one dies, we weep for ourselves. And that is in the end true, because we believe in God, we trust in him, and ultimately, we pray and hope those we love will make the journey - through God’s mercy and the help of our prayers - to Heaven. Why weep about that ? You will hear it said ‘they’re better off’. Well yes, that is certainly our Christian hope. And although we may lose a spiritual father in this life, we are not orphans either, as Archbishop John wrote in his pastoral letter to us last Sunday:

‘St Paul recalls that we have each been adopted into a new life in Christ. We are sons and daughters of God, in and through God’s Son. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing one Heavenly Father. In a related sense, Mary is also spiritually our heavenly Mother. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have God as our common Father. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we also share one holy Mother. There are no orphans in Christ’.

These words, written before the death in this world of a true spiritual father to us, were prophetically comforting.

What can I personally say of Pope Benedict? I remember when he was elected the peace and joy I felt because the Holy Spirit had given us a safe pair of hands to steer the ark of the Church. I met him, or perhaps it would be better say I saw him, at Oscott seminary in Birmingham on his remarkable state visit to the UK. I remember one of my fellow seminarians calling out to him ‘I love you Holy Father’ as he left the group photo and headed to his limo for the airport . Well I couldn’t quite do that, but I said it in my heart. I can’t say more about him and his life that is not in public record, you can read about it, and because of course I did not know him personally, I can only talk about his legacy which I have lived through. Firstly, his writing. God’s light poured upon his mind and he wrote the most amazing theology in the most fine prose. His book on eschatology (the end things) which I read at my Seminary (alas no more) helped me greatly and his encyclicals as pope were lucid and written from pure love of God and the church.

And the latter point is important. For the first way God reveals himself to humanity is through The Catholic Church. This is what we believe, but nowadays sounds like a bold statement. That’s why our buildings, all our music, all our architecture, all our art, all our liturgy, need to be beautiful because God is beauty. Pope Benedict believed this, and he loved the sacred tradition of The Church, which for two thousand years has communicated the beauty of God: our liturgy should be a window into the beauty of heaven. Long before he became pope, in those nineteen seventies, Joseph Ratzinger had become disturbed by the radical and revolutionary throwing out of two thousand years of sacred tradition, catholic teaching and the ugly secularizing of the Liturgy. However, Ratzinger was no reactionary and had been an influential and forward thinking Father at Vatican II. The Council Fathers had never intended to create a rupture with what had gone before and indeed, in the Council document on the Mass, the continuity with the Mass of the Ages is clearly written and can be read by all.

As Pope Paul VI stated, Vatican II was a pastoral council, called to find ways the Church could engage better with the modern world. It was never the intention of the Council Fathers to let worldly and protestant belief into the church. Nowhere in the Council was The Church asked to undress and destroy the altars, have the priest face the people, give up confession, let laity distribute holy communion in the mass, lessen the ‘sacrificial aspect’ of the Liturgy, adopt the custom of receiving communion in the hands while standing - intiated by protestants to deny belief in the Real Presence, have dancing, jumping and rock bands at the altar, abandon our sacred music, language, litanies, processions, novenas, vestments, sacred vessels made with precious metals, images, tabernacle veils, women’s head coverings in church, religious habits or given permission to deviate from the Church’s wording of the Liturgy. And nowhere in Vatican II were we called to change Catholic beliefs, ethics or Christian morality. It is often said that Vatican II was called to find ways for the Church to go into the world and preach the gospel, not to let the world into the church so that the Church becomes more like this world. That is not what the Lord commanded when he began the mission of The Church.

So Cardinal Ratzinger, supporting the papacy of pope John Paul II, began the work of restoration, not to take us back to the 1950s, but to bring The Church back to herself and so to Christ, so that the developments in the mass, including the increased use of the vernacular, were in a single line of continuity with the Mass of the Ages. This became known as the hermeneutic of continuity. It means, that the new form of the mass must be recognisable, looking and feeling like the old form, and not appearing and sounding so different it could be from a modern protestant church. This continuity is simply implemented, if the actual rubrics (instructions) for saying the new mass are observed, rather than following the radical individualistic interpretations of the seventies.

Unfortunately, many chose to misunderstand this work and considered Cardinal Ratzinger a hardline conservative. This totally misunderstood him and ignored his own writings and liturgical practice which had simply held to Catholic Teaching, in times when secular and non -catholic belief and practices were beginning to flood the church, leading to that ‘watered down Catholicism’ that has failed to nurture new generations in the faith. In this way, Cardinal Ratzinger directed catholic priests to teach what The Church teaches. This is hardly much to ask. Professors in a catholic university should also not write against catholic dogma. This also is hardly hardline! If you propose the abolition of the Union in the Conservative and Unionist party, you are not a conservative, and if you are against Scottish independence in the SNP, then you are in the wrong party. If you deny the Virgin Birth or the Real Presence of Christ in the Mass, or promote marriage of people of the same sex, you quite simply do not hold Catholic belief. If you want the label ‘catholic’, then teach what the church teaches. Is that too much to ask?

A cultured man who loved the arts and was a good musician, Pope Benedict XVI was a most liberal man in many ways, in his short and blessed papacy showing pastoral care to millions of Catholics throughout the world who love and cherish the Traditional Latin Mass. He actually listened to us and gave free permission for us to worship God in this timeless way, stating quite simply and categorically that this was because The Traditional Latin Mass has never been abrogated. In celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass, we believe that what has been of God through the Ages is still of God today. As a result of this, there were many new vocations to the priesthood and religious life and many families found their way back to leading a full catholic life in faith, practice and morals. In an era of crisis in the church in which few come forward for the priesthood and seminaries are closing (as mine has), and in many areas of the church’s life we must admit that the church is actually dying, traditionalism has been an area of the church’s life in which there have been green shoots of growth. This should be encouraged and celebrated, not suppressed, because vocations to the priesthood and religious life are a sure sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit in The Church. Pope Benedict will forever be loved and thanked for what he did for the Church in his pastoral care of those who love our Sacred Tradition. His papacy showed that authentic Catholicism is fruitful but, if we welcome the ways of the world into The Church, it will lead to The Church’s death in this world. This seems to be happening now, most notably through the novel ‘synod on synodality’ which is allowing expressions of heresy in what Cardinal Mueller has called, ‘a hostile takeover of the church’.

Pope Benedict’s liberalism is also shown in his opening wide the doors of the church in welcome to Anglican priests and their wives, allowing them to form the Ordinariate and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy in their own form, bringing with them valued traditions from Anglicanism. For this, I think Pope Benedict will forever be remembered gratefully as the Spiritual Father of the Ordinariate of former Anglicans, both priests and laity, who are now in The Catholic Church.

This liberalism of Pope Benedict was in his pastoral generosity. He did not rule by grim diktat in a tyranny demanding absolute obedience, uniformity and conformity, but listened, then recognised and welcomed varied expressions and rites in the Catholic Church ( the novus ordo, the TLM, the Anglican usage, the Dominican usage, the Syro-malabar rite, the Maronite rite etc), encouraging the hope that they would all ‘inform’ each other for mutual benefit in the continuance of sacred Tradition. These varied rites and forms of the Mass are perhaps the greatest visible expression of the breadth and depth of truly colourful and vibrant catholicity, if allowed to flourish, and the belief in the continuance of true catholic tradition within this variety is where Pope Benedict, was also a true conservative.

Pope Benedict was a gracious and kind man, whose humility was not saved for when cameras and journalists were present so all could see it and declare it, but through a natural aversion to self -publicity. In the end, I believe it was his humility that led him to retire, for he did not believe the papacy belonged to him, and when it got too much and too painful for him to bear due to the faithlessness and sins of many around him, he humbly let it go and then led a monastic existence of quiet reflection and prayer.

Some commentators are saying that it is the almost unprecedented retirement of Pope Benedict that is his greatest legacy, but this is not so. Certainly his retirement was dramatic and newsworthy, but his greatest legacy will live on in the faith and practice of millions of Catholics – much less reported in the media, including the men and women called to the priesthood and religious life, inspired by the traditional faith he supported and encouraged. His greatest legacy is therefore his vision for Traditional Catholicism within the hermeneutic of continuity and the placing of Vatican II, not as a revolution, but part of a continuity of the Church’s history and development. This vision is now facing a new period of confusion and darkness. The response to this in retirement of The Pope Emeritus Benedict was to remain silent, but according to Pope Benedict’s secretary, Archbishop Ganswein who remained close to him to the end, the attack on Pope Benedict’s greatest legacy by his successor ‘broke his heart’.

However, no-one will destroy such a great legacy of writings and encyclicals, in addition to those who were given renewed courage by Pope Benedict to live in the faith and practice of the sacred traditions of the church and will never let them go. He inspired us to find ourselves again as Catholics after decades of revolutionary turbulence, and this cannot be taken from us. We thank God for Pope Benedict’s life and ministry and the great blessing of his papacy, and in my prayers for him, I now send him my love. May he rest in peace.

Watch and Listen to this lovely tribute: You Were Loved: The Rock That Would Not Be Shaken! A Tribute to Pope Benedict XVI by Mark Mallett

‘Benedict’s papacy did not shake the world perhaps like his predecessor. Rather, his papacy will be remembered for the fact the world did not shake it’

God bless

Fr Jonathon

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If you ordered a Diocesan Directory, these are now available in the sacristy after mass.



Don’t forget the Food Bank collection crate in the Church Porch! People are not managing to afford the basic essentials of life. If you can contribute some long life milk, canned food, packets of pasta, toilet rolls or any other non-perishable basics, you will be helping our neighbours in great need.

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