POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT NOW OLDEST PONTIFF IN HISTORY
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI yesterday, September 2, became the oldest pontiff in history, surpassing Pope Leo XIII who lived to be 93 years and 140 days. Leo was born on March 2, 1810 and died July 20, 1903. Benedict XVI was born April 16, 1927. One Rome newspaper calculated that yesterday was, in fact, the 34,109th day of his life.
POPE SENDS CONDOLENCES ON THE DEATH OF CARDINAL SIMONIS
In a telegram addressed to the current Archbishop of Utrecht, Pope Francis offers his condolences on the death of Cardinal Adrianus Johannes Simonis.
By Vatican News
Pope Francis has sent condolences to Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, the current Archbishop of Utrecht, in the Netherlands on the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Adrianus Johannes Simonis. “Commending his soul to the loving mercy of Jesus the Good Shepherd,” the Pope said, “I join you in giving thanks to Almighty God for the late Cardinal’s faithful witness to the Gospel, his years of devoted episcopal ministry to the Churches of Rotterdam and Utrecht, and his valued efforts in the service of ecclesial communion.”
The Holy Father then extended his Apostolic Blessing “to all who mourn Cardinal Simonis in the sure hope of the Resurrection… as a pledge of consolation and peace in the risen Lord.”
Cardinal Simonis served from 1970 to 1983 as Bishop of Rotterdam and as Archbishop of Utrecht from 1983 to 2007. He was created Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1985.
Cardinal Simonis died on September 2 at a care centre in the Netherlands. He was 88 years old.
With the death of Cardinal Simonis, there are currently 220 living Cardinals, of whom 122 are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave.
SEPTEMBER 3, FEAST OF ST. GREGORY THE GREAT
SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT’S STORY
(franciscanmedia.org) – Gregory was the prefect of Rome before he was 30. After five years in office he resigned, founded six monasteries on his Sicilian estate, and became a Benedictine monk in his own home at Rome.
Ordained a priest, Gregory became one of the pope’s seven deacons, and also served six years in the East as papal representative in Constantinople. He was recalled to become abbot, but at the age of 50 was elected pope by the clergy and people of Rome.
Gregory was direct and firm. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade taking money for many services, emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and the victims of plague and famine. He was very concerned about the conversion of England, sending 40 monks from his own monastery. He is known for his reform of the liturgy, and for strengthening respect for doctrine. Whether he was largely responsible for the revision of “Gregorian” chant is disputed.
Gregory lived in a time of perpetual strife with invading Lombards and difficult relations with the East. When Rome itself was under attack, he interviewed the Lombard king.
His book, Pastoral Care, on the duties and qualities of a bishop, was read for centuries after his death. He described bishops mainly as physicians whose main duties were preaching and the enforcement of discipline. In his own down-to-earth preaching, Gregory was skilled at applying the daily Gospel to the needs of his listeners. Called “the Great,” Gregory has been given a place with Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, as one of the four key doctors of the Western Church.
An Anglican historian has written: “It is impossible to conceive what would have been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages without the medieval papacy; and of the medieval papacy, the real father is Gregory the Great.”
Gregory was content to be a monk, but he willingly served the Church in other ways when asked. He sacrificed his own preferences in many ways, especially when he was called to be Bishop of Rome. Once he was called to public service, Gregory gave his considerable energies completely to this work. Gregory’s description of bishops as physicians fits in well with Pope Francis’ description of the Church as a “field hospital.”