Benedict XVI’s words for Card. Meisner’s funeral

Benedict XVI sent a message for the funeral of the late Joachim Card. Meisner, emeritus of Cologne.  For the German, HERE

His words include:

Was mich an den letzten Gesprächen mit dem heimgegangenen Kardinal besonders beeindruckt hat, war die gelöste Heiterkeit, die innere Freude und die Zuversicht, zu der er gefunden hatte. Wir wissen, dass es ihm, dem leidenschaftlichen Hirten und Seelsorger, schwerfiel, sein Amt zu lassen und dies gerade in einer Zeit, in der die Kirche besonders dringend überzeugender Hirten bedarf, die der Diktatur des Zeitgeistes widerstehen und ganz entschieden aus dem Glauben leben und denken. Aber um so mehr hat es mich bewegt, dass er in dieser letzten Periode seines Lebens loszulassen gelernt hat und immer mehr aus der tiefen Gewissheit lebte, dass der Herr seine Kirche nicht verlässt, auch wenn manchmal das Boot schon fast zum Kentern angefüllt ist.

What struck me particularly me in the last talks with the departed Cardinal was the relaxed cheerfulness, the inner joy, and the confidence he had found. We know that it was difficult for him, the passionate shepherd and pastor, to leave his office, and especially at a time when the Church needs dedicated pastors who resist the dictatorship of the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times), and who resolutely live and think from the Faith. But it moved me all the more that he had learned at this last period of his life to let go and he lived ever more out of the deep certainty that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even if the boat is filled to the point of capsizing.

He used that image in 2005 in his Stations of the Cross.


Als an seinem letzten Morgen Kardinal Meisner nicht zur Messe erschien, wurde er in seinem Zimmer tot aufgefunden. Das Brevier war seinen Händen entglitten: Er war betend gestorben, im Blick auf den Herrn, im Gespräch mit dem Herrn. Die Art des Sterbens, die ihm geschenkt wurde, zeigt noch einmal auf, wie er gelebt hat: Im Blick auf den Herrn und im Gespräch mit ihm.

When, on his last morning, Cardinal Meisner did not appear at Mass, he was found dead in his room. The breviary had slipped out of his hands: he had died praying, looking at the Lord, talking with the Lord. The manner of dying that was given as a gift to him shows once again how he had lived: Looking at the Lord and talking with Him.

Everyone… Fathers, you especially…  two things.

First, it’s all hands on deck now.  The boat is taking on water to the point of capsizing.  We know that the Lord is in the boat and that the boat is His.  That doesn’t mean that we should not do our part when it is clearly taking on water.

Also, we don’t know the time or place or circumstances of our upcoming death and meeting with the High Priest who is Just Judge and King of Fearful Majesty.  So, consider your state in life, examine your conscience and


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Lisa Graas says:

    Reading these words of Pope Benedict’s was a great relief to me. I’m not sure protestants would understand why it would be such a relief. It is a relief because I feel validated now, in my thinking about the state of things and I feel that the Church itself has been validated in his testimony that Christ will not abandon us. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. GordonB says:

    I keep thinking…. “You can’t win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

  3. Anneliese says:

    It’s a beautiful way to leave this world. I can only hope I pass away with a Rosary in my hands.

  4. Orlando says:

    Thank you, Holy Father Emeritus Pope Benedict xvi for your clarity in these turbulent times., may you live to be 125!

  5. Charivari Rob says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for letting Benedict’s wonderful remarks stand on their own without projecting/conflating personal interpretations.

    I read an article on the same story elsewhere earlier today – the author/editor’s interpretation appears to be that parts of it referred to Pope Francis (which it might, or might not – but be that as it may) and projected that interpretation into the headline with quotation marks attributing the view to Benedict.

    Thank you.

  6. Charivari Rob says:

    …and I forgot!

    Thank you for pointing out context – that Benedict had used this particular metaphor years previously.

  7. TNCath says:

    If we weren’t exactly sure what Pope Benedict thinks about the current state of the Church, I think it’s safe to say we do now.

  8. Stephen Matthew says:

    “Yes, we are in the business of hope. We are the ones who, in the boat at times about to capsize in the midst of the storm, keeping going even when it seems that Jesus is asleep.”
    – Dolan, priests for the third millennium

    Happened to read this book just now, as I lay down to bed during travels, and the figure of the capsizing boat was too striking to ignore.

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  10. Geoffrey says:

    I am sure some will spin this to say that Benedict XVI was referring to the problems in society in general, and not what is currently going on in the Church. He was vague, and no doubt deliberately so. Nevertheless, “qui habet aures audiendi audiat [He who has ears to hear, let him hear]” (Mt 11:15).

    I was very moved when I learned of Benedict XVI’s words, thanked God for them, and wished that he was still pontiff regnant.

    And I think that is how I would like to go: praying the Divine Office, breviary in hand.

  11. juergensen says:

    “The dictatorship of the Zeitgeist”

    ^ An apropos papal motto.

  12. Eugene says:

    As a priest recently said to me “I can get more from one sentence by Benedict than in a a whole message by Francis who is mostly confusing and has nothing to say to me and can teach me nothing”

  13. cwillia1 says:

    Benedict is more than a pope, he is a starets. I imagine his words about Cardinal Meisner reflect his thoughts about his own situation and his own path.

  14. Cosmos says:

    I’m not sure why people think this is an assessment of Pope Francis’s Vatican.

    BXVI said very similar things about the Church during his own reign.

    I think it’s just as likely that he sees Pope Francis fighting–and losing–the same fight he was fighting and losing.

    I would be shocked that he intended to be issuing a more specific critique. That seems completely out of character for Benedict.

  15. george says:

    If he knows the status of the Church to be that bad, then I am left feeling like “You knew things were desparate, Papa, but you abandoned your post…”

  16. donato2 says:

    I pray that God raise up another pastor for the Church like Pope Benedict.

  17. Sandy says:

    I’ve lived to see more than a couple of popes, but Papa Benedict will always be so dear to me. We need his clarity more than ever, which was my thought as I listened to this weekend’s homily. It could have brought forth such great teaching about ears to hear and eyes to see, but we heard about the recent Antarctic iceberg and Francis’ encyclical on the environment, blah, blah. Sorry, Lord, I did pray for the priest however.

  18. Sandy says:

    I meant to add that the focus was on “climate change” and not even the encyclical or anything remotely supernatural or spiritual. Come, Lord Jesus!

  19. gaudete says:

    For those who understand German:
    1) the video of the message, showing how moved Archbishop Gänswein is:
    2) an additional interview with Archbishop Gänswein about the message:

  20. Fallibilissimo says:

    I agree fully. I think some have become so, needlessly, exasperated under the current pontificate that they’ll latch on anything that can give them a sense of relief and justification for their “nerves”. I don’t think any of that is healthy mentally or spiritually.
    It would be incredibly unlike Benedict to mean this as a critique of Pope Francis. On the contrary, I think his comments are meant to be read in solidarity with our current Pope who has to deal with this mess. Who better than Benedict to share in understanding the burdens and frustrations of that unique office?

  21. Geoffrey says:

    @gaudete: Thank you for that link!

    One does not need to understand German to see how overcome with emotion Archbishop Gänswein was. The subdued applause at the end was also very moving.

    Was it just me, or did anyone else detect a not-so-subtle smirk on the face of Cardinal Marx?

  22. VexillaRegis says:

    Here is a link to the entire pontifical requiem:

    Music from Fauré’s Requiem and Mozart’s Coronation Mass, very high musical quality. Cardinal Woelki also got very emotional, especially in his speech towards the end of the Requiem, when he cited Cdl. Meisner about the importance of doing what the Holy Three Kings did, namely following the Star of Bethlehem, which can’t show you the wrong way – just the way to Jesus!
    The recession occurred behind three standards with the respective letters C(aspar), M(elchior) and B(athasar) written on them – their relics at the high altar are among the greatest treasures of the Cathedral (and the World).

    I could recommend even non German speaking persons to watch this Requiem Mass. It was very, very beautiful.

    Dear Geoffrey, yes I noticed that too, it’s sad. It wouldn’t surprise me though if Cdl. Marx had a conversion of heart soon, I suspect Cdl. Meisner is at work in Heaven now! ;-)

  23. Cosmos says:


    Just to be clear, I don’t think BXVI and Francis are on the same page by any stretch of the imagination, and I can understand why some would be relieved to have Benedict acknowledge what’s going on. I just don’t think that will ever happen. When Benedict abdicated, he intended to step aside permanently, and I believe he will. I think it would take a catastrophe of epic proportions to have him weigh-in in some new way.

  24. dr.Lloyd says:

    I wonder about that because the deceased was a member of the Dubia.

    I really doubt he is all to please with the Holy Father. Their approached are so totally different and even their concerns. Pope Francis is more interested in crushing the American people by forcing millions of invaders on us. Benedict was concerned with the spirit.
    My mother’s family was persecuted in SW China for a full century and my grandfather LOVES Benedict! Let’s just say he feels the opposite about the current Holy Father. The waffling on Chinese policy is disgusting. I pray he does not sell out Chinese Catholics.

  25. albizzi says:

    Dr. Lloyd,
    You are right: Benedict doing the eulogy of Card. Meisner, a member of the “Dubia gang”, with such words as: “even if the boat is filled to the point of capsizing”, describing the current situation of the Church under his pontificate, certainly infuriated Francis.

  26. Fallibilissimo says:

    Dear Cosmos, in a more convenient setting one might go into the finer details of what is meant by “being on the same page” but yes, I can agree with what you’ve just said as well.

    I still think, whatever policy differences the two men have in guiding the Church (which is naturally to be expected), Father Benedict stands in in a spirit of support and solidarity with Pope Francis. Actually, he’s pretty much said as much. One may think a given decision is sinking and letting more water into the boat and at the same time work in union to “plug the hole”.

    I do believe that the overblown emotional reaction to Pope Francis’ pontificate is not at all something Pope Benedict would approve of readily. In his own behavior, I see Pope Benedict offering a teaching moment for all.

  27. chantgirl says:

    Fallibilissimo- I think that the “overblown emotional reaction” you refer to is the simple sheep in the sheepfold noticing that wolves have entered and are feasting on the flock while the shepherds are either pretending not to notice them, seeing them but saying nothing, or lying to the sheep that everything is perfectly fine. The sheep know what their eyes are seeing, and very few of the shepherds even seem alarmed. The sheep are trying to sound their own alarm, even if in a haphazard and clumsy way.

    Frankly, at this point, the Church could do with fewer calm, erudite responses to the crisis we are in, and a few more John the Baptists calling out the vipers. It’s like we have scholars giving lectures about icebergs on the deck of the Titanic instead of trying to get people into lifeboats!

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