A contingent of high school students, including those from Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, and St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, were in attendance at the Mass.
A contingent of high school students, including those from Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, and St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, were in attendance at the Mass.
From all corners of the Diocese, hundreds of clergy, religious and parishioners gathered with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Jan. 5 to remember, pray and thank God for the life of his servant, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

PHOTO GALLERY: Memorial Mass for Pope Benedict XVI

“We join today with sadness but also with a sense of joy as we commend His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, to our heavenly father,” Bishop O’Connell said at the start of the Memorial Mass celebrated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.

“We gather in prayer as a community of faith and let that Resurrection faith fill our hearts,” the Bishop said.

The Memorial Mass, which was livestreamed on diocesan media sites, was celebrated nearly nine hours after the Pope Emeritus’ Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Pope Francis on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The interest of diocesan faithful was shown in a Jan. 6 report on the livestream which indicated that within 24 hours, the diocesan YouTube channel showed 4,450 views in English and 321 views in Spanish; the diocesan Facebook page reported 478 views in English and 193 views in Spanish, and viewership on the Familia Viva Su Fe Facebook page indicated 303 views.

Bishop O’Connell began his homily by referencing the commemorative items he brought to have on display at the Mass. The items, arranged on a table in front of the sanctuary and next to a portrait of Pope Benedict, included the papal bull that was presented to Bishop O’Connell when he was named Bishop of Trenton in 2010; coins that were minted at the Vatican to commemorate Benedict’s papacy; a pectoral cross that the Bishop received from the Holy Father during the Bishop’s 2011 ad limina visit to Rome; copies of the Holy Father’s three-volume work, “Jesus of Nazareth,” which Bishop O’Connell described as a “magnificent great work.”

In addition, there were two items marking the Holy Father’s 2008 visit to the United States – a medal and a white zucchetto that was given to Bishop O’Connell by Pope Benedict.

With a smile on his face, the Bishop went on to tell one of the many stories he had of the late pontiff.

One of the stops Pope Benedict made during his U.S. visit was to The Catholic University of America, Washington, where then-Father O’Connell was university president at the time. When one visits with the pope, it’s customary that the person presents a white zucchetto (skull cap) to him. The pope, in turn, will then exchange the zucchetto he is wearing with that person.

“When he came to CUA, I was ready,” said Bishop O’Connell. After a 20-minute conversation, the Pope noticed the white box the zucchetto was in and said to Father O’Connell, “I know.”

After Father O’Connell opened the box and presented the zucchetto to Pope Benedict, the Holy Father took off the white zucchetto he had been wearing and “gave it to me,” the Bishop said.

“I looked at the Pope and said, ‘Can I put it on?’” Bishop O’Connell recalled, and “Without missing a beat, he said, ‘Not yet.’”

“What is the measure of the man?” Bishop O’Connell then queried, leading into his homily.

“It is a good question, an important question, an enduring question that becomes an ultimate question when we face the death of someone who was larger than life, someone like Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger, our beloved Pope Benedict XVI,” the Bishop reflected.