On this, Pope Benedict's 87th birthday, we remember that he had the daunting task of succeeding one of the most beloved, longest and greatest papacies since the day Christ established His Church on the rock of Saint Peter. The brilliant scholar quietly took up his task and in a few, short years healed wounds in the Church that had festered for a half century, and wounds in the Body of Christ that had divided the people of God for a millennium.
On this kind and gentle shepherd's 85th birthday we wrote:
In these seven years, he has undertaken 23 international trips, including the first state visit by a Pope to England and Scotland (Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit in 1982). He has made 26 pastoral trips throughout Italy. He has presided over 4 synods of bishops and 3 world youth days. In 3 encyclicals and in all of his many books, homilies, letters and addresses he has spoken powerfully, clearly and from the heart, to the heart.
His contributions to building the unity of the Church and healing old divisions have been monumental and historic. There has never been such friendship and collaboration with leaders of the Orthodox churches as there has been throughout this pontificate. Through his apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus he has provided a bridge through which thousands of Anglicans and other Protestants are entering the Church, while maintaining their own rich patrimony. Through his Apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum he has restored the Roman Church's own patrimony, ending nearly a half century of division and conflict and restoring reverence and beauty to sacred liturgy. And in the English-speaking world he has restored a faithful and reverent translation of the Roman Missal. He has been tireless in seeking reconciliation with those alienated by false interpretations and reckless innovations following the Second Vatican Council.
Most importantly, his joyful, faithful and total submission to the service of Jesus Christ and His Church has inspired vibrant, new, evangelical growth throughout the universal Church, that has also spawned a boom in religious and priestly vocations.
Today we give thanks for all of this and so much more, and pray that Pope Benedict may continue for many more years in his prayerful service to the Holy Father and God's people, and in his holy example to us all.
We love you and thank you, dear Pope Benedict!