On New Year’s Day, the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for the first papal Mass of 2023 to pray for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed away on December 31st at the age of 95.
During Mass, Pope Francis entrusted the soul of Benedict to the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying, “Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God.”
In the prayers of the faithful, the congregation prayed, “Remember Lord, the deceased Pope Emeritus Benedict. May the chief Shepherd, who always lives to intercede for us, welcome him kindly into the kingdom of light and peace.”
The Mass marked the start of the Catholic Church’s celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God.
Pope Francis, who recently turned 86 and arrived at the Basilica in a wheelchair, sat in a white chair in front of the congregation for the Mass.
In his homily for the Marian solemnity, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to see the new year as an opportunity to do good by sharing God’s love with “the people next door, the people who live in the same building, the people we meet each day on the street.”
He said, “At the beginning of this year, among all the other things that we would like to do and experience, let us devote some time to seeing, to opening our eyes and to keeping them open before what really matters: God and our brothers and sisters.”
The pope also urged Catholics to imitate the shepherds in Bethlehem by “setting out in haste” to serve others.
He said, “Today, at the beginning of the year, rather than standing around, thinking and hoping that things will change, we should instead ask ourselves: ‘This year, where do I want to go? Who is it that I can help? So many people, in the Church and in society, are waiting for the good that you and you alone can do, they are waiting for your help.’ Today, amid the lethargy that dulls our senses, the indifference that paralyzes our hearts, and the temptation to waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen, the shepherds are summoning us to set out and get involved in our world, to dirty our hands and to do some good.”
Pope Francis also emphasized the importance of contemplation, saying that like the shepherds, Christians should prioritize time in the new year to contemplate “the Christ Child resting in his mother’s arms.”
He asked, “How many times, in our busy lives, do we fail to stop, even for a moment, to be close to the Lord and to hear his word, to say a prayer, to adore and praise him?”
Pray for Benedict XVI!