Area priest: ‘He has inspired me personally’

Pope’s retirement sends troubled church scrambling

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, center, leaves after attending a meeting of Vatican cardinals where he read a document in Latin in which he announced his resignation, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, center, leaves after attending a meeting of Vatican cardinals where he read a document in Latin in which he announced his resignation, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. Photo by The Associated Press.

Whether in his own writings or when he speaks to groups, Father Dan Merz frequently refers to the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, who announced his retirement Monday.

“He has inspired me personally,” Merz said.

Even before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became pope, following the death of Pope John Paul in 2005, his writings and teachings were part of Merz’ library.

For example, the “Spirit of the Liturgy” said “it’s not just a bunch of rules; it’s inspiring,” Merz said.

A Missourian from Bowling Green, Merz serves as the liturgical commission chairman for the Diocese of Jefferson City and the associate director of the secretariat of divine worship for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

Beyond the liturgy and theology, Merz said he has appreciated the humility and sensitivity of Pope Benedict.

The writing “God is Love,” was Ratzinger’s first major work after becoming pope.

“It’s just beautiful,” Merz said.

Known as a teacher who could share theology in a simple way, Pope Benedict also made strides outside the Mass.

He encouraged that there is no opposition between faith and science and reason. And he had a concern for the Christians in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict was environmentally conscious, having solar panels installed at the Vatican. And he was the first pope to have a Twitter account.

He also enabled Bishops to require more accountability from his priests in regard to sex-abuse cases. And he reawakened the Latin Mass and other prayers.

“He is a mixture of old and new,” Merz said. “He wanted to be current without forgetting 2,000 years of tradition.”

At age 78, Ratzinger was the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years.

And he is the first pope to resign in 600 years.

“He taught clearly and wisely, he has ruled gently and firmly, he has prayed with and for us and the whole world,” said the Rev. John Gaydos, Bishop of the Jefferson City Diocese.

“I ... ask all of our local church and all people of good will to join together in praying to God for the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit during this time of transition for the Catholic Church throughout the world,” Gaydos said in a statement released Monday.

Ratzinger was born in 1927 in a small Bavarian town and attended a minor seminary 12 years later, according to a Catholic News Service article.

Like his peers, he automatically was enrolled in the Hitler Youth program, to which he quit going to meetings. When conscripted into the army during World War II, he similarly deserted, putting him in a prisoner-of-war camp for several months.

He finally returned to the seminary in 1945 and six years later was ordained alongside his older brother Georg.

In 1977, he was named archbishop of Munich and Freising in Germany. Four years later, he was called to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he remained as cardinal for nearly 25 years.

Throughout his ministry, Benedict emphasized that Christianity was a religion of love and not a religion of rules.

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