Catholics around the world are being invited to congratulate Pope emeritus Benedict XVI on his 95th birthday.
The Tagespost Foundation for Catholic Journalism has created a website to collect the messages, which will then be shown to Benedict XVI.
“I know he is very happy about it,” said Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the private secretary of the pope emeritus, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.
Benedict XVI will celebrate his 95th birthday on April 16, Holy Saturday. He was born Joseph Alois Ratzinger in 1927 in Marktl am Inn, a small Bavarian town not far from Austria, also on a Holy Saturday.
Looking back to his birth in his memoir, published before his election as pope, he wrote: “The fact that the birthday was the last day of Holy Week and the eve of Easter was always noted in the family history, because it was connected with the fact that I was baptized right on the morning of my birthday with the water that had just been consecrated in the ‘Easter Vigil’ celebrated at that time in the morning. To be the first baptized with the new water was considered a significant providential event.”
He continued: “The fact that my life was thus immersed in the Paschal Mystery from the beginning in this way has always filled me with gratitude, for this could only be a sign of blessing.”
“Admittedly — it had not been Easter Sunday, but only Holy Saturday. But the longer I think about it, the more it seems to me to be in keeping with the essence of our human life, which is still waiting for Easter, not yet in full light, but nevertheless confidently moving toward it.”
“I thank God for giving us Joseph Ratzinger on Holy Saturday 1927 as a fine man, profoundly devout Christian, outstanding theologian, and kind bishop and pope. And I thank Pope emeritus Benedict XVI for his lifelong witness to the love of God and for his compelling life’s work in theology,” he said.
“For his birthday, which the honoree will again celebrate on a Holy Saturday, I wish that it be for him a day of joy and appreciation, that he — despite all the hostility from the outside, which unfortunately occurs again and again — can look back gratefully on his life and on his episcopal and theological work, and that on his last earthly pilgrimage he can walk with confidence toward the final encounter with Jesus Christ, whose face he sought throughout his life and brought close to us.”
On behalf of the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, eastern Germany, congratulated the pope emeritus.
He wrote: “I gladly remember our meeting at the seminary in Erfurt on the occasion of your visit to eastern Germany shortly after my episcopal ordination in September 2011. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have given to the Church in your writings. I am sure that you have helped many people to find God and to know and love Christ more deeply. May the Lord reward you for this effort one day in His glory!”
Father Karl Wallner O. Cist., a monk from Heiligenkreuz Abbey, which is dear to Benedict’s heart, wrote: “From the bottom of my heart I offer my congratulations, also in my current capacity as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Austria. In the Church in the Global South, I experience every day, there is a very, very great gratitude for your pontificate and your theological work.”
“It is beautiful that your birthday this year coincides with Holy Saturday, the day on which you also received your baptism at the early Easter Vigil,” said Father Maximilian Heim O. Cist., the abbot of Heiligenkreuz.
“You give us a living example of how we ourselves should live from the mystery of the Paschal Mystery. For this, we thank you and rejoice in your attachment to our monastery and its various tasks, not least to our university, which may bear your name.”