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ATLANTA–Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., offered the following statement on Dec. 31 following the death of retired Pope Benedict XVI:

“It was with deep sorrow that I received the news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI this morning. Pope Francis appealed for prayers at the end of his Wednesday audience this past week, saying “I would ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who in silence is supporting the church. Remember him–he is very ill–asking the Lord to console him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end.” And this morning at 9:34 a.m. on the last day of 2022, our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict returned to the House of the Father.

The outpouring of grief throughout the world, as well as the many tributes made by religious and civil leaders, bear witness to the respect and esteem in which he was held. A man of deep faith, a scholar of great learning and a pastor imbued with the heart of the Good Shepherd, he was the voice of truth in a world in which the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ has challenged every teaching and doctrine of the faith. Benedict inspired others, not only by his brilliant intellect, but also by his humility and courage as well as his charity and simplicity.

Speaking at a vespers service for New Year’s Eve, Pope Francis stated: ‘With emotion we remember his person, so noble and so kind. And we feel so much gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world, gratitude to him for all the good he has done, and above all for his witness of faith and of prayer, especially in these last years of his retired life … Only God knows the value and strength of his intercession, of his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church.’

While the world has lost a great voice of truth and the Catholic Church, a beloved pastor, we thank God for the gift of the life and ministry of this ‘humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.’ As Pope Emeritus Benedict prayed for the church throughout his life, and especially during his years in retirement, he will continue to do so from the House of the Father. I am humbled and especially grateful to him for appointing me as Bishop of Savannah on July 19, 2011.  I remember fondly meeting him on different occasions such as the ad limina visits. His humility and sincerity were just a couple of the qualities that he exemplified.

Well done, good and faithful servant! May Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI rest in peace and may his memory be eternal.

A Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be celebrated at the Cathedral of Christ the King in the coming days.”