News/Op-Ed: Pope Benedict XVI’s Impact on the Salesian Community

by Connor Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief

The reluctant pontificate has passed away, and as the Catholic world grieves the loss of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, his colorful papacy leaves a strong impact on the Salesian order and community.

Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, the birthname of Pope Benedict XVI, was one of the more controversial and complex popes of the 21st century. A fierce defender of Catholic tradition, he fought for cornerstones of the faith such as the doctrine and the liturgy. 

Pope Benedict’s resignation in February 2013, is notable for being the first modern pope in six centuries to resign since Pope Gregory XII, who was, unlike Benedict, forced to resign from the papacy. 

He began his faith journey in the midst of World War II. Seeing his family forced into Nazism, he developed a disdain for fascism and grew strong in his Catholic faith. He served as a teacher, like St. John Bosco, of young minds as a professor of Theology at the University of Bonn, the University of Tubingen and the University of Regensburg for the first decades of his time as a priest.

Pope Benedict believed that education was vital, as he saw places of Catholic education as “a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”

Indeed, Pope Benedict believed that Salesians play a critical and active role in the education of Catholic youth throughout the world. Addressing the Salesian Order, he praised the tradition that Don Bosco pioneered when he stated, “The special tenderness and commitment to young people… are characteristic of Don Bosco’s charism.”

Pope Benedict, indeed, held a great love for Don Bosco. He addressed the saint as a “shining example of a life marked by apostolic zeal” and praised his motto of “give me souls, take away the rest.”

St. John Bosco students can see that motto everyday on the outer wall of the pool written in Latin and facing the stadium parking lot.

Like we emphasize in Salesianity, Pope Benedict was a strong advocate of the arts as a core aspect of the Catholic faith tradition and a device for the expression of those traditions.

“The great music born in the Church makes the truth of our faith audible and perceivable,” Pope Benedict said.

The pope undoubtedly held the Salesians in high regard, seen when he humbly spoke of his stay at a Salesian Parish, St. Paul, in Luanda, Angola, when they celebrated mass there in 2009.

“Finally, let me offer a particular greeting to the Salesian community and the faithful of this parish of Saint Paul; they have welcomed us to their church, without hesitating to yield the place which is usually theirs in the liturgical assembly. I know that they are gathered in the field next door, and I hope, at the end of this Eucharist, to see them and give them my blessing, but even now I say to them: ‘Many thanks! May God raise up in you, and through you, many apostles modeled on your Patron,” said Pope Benedict.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVII lies at rest in the Monastero Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican City.

The Salesian Community offers the same greeting to the Pope Emeritus Benedict – may God raise him up and the apostolic lineage continue to be strong. Requiescat in pace, Papa. 

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