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Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI: Church Is ‘on the Verge of Capsizing’

The Catholic Church is a boat “on the verge of capsizing,” said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in a personal message for the funeral Mass of his close friend, Cardinal Joachim Meisner on Saturday.

Given his inability to travel, the usually silent retired Pope delivered the message in writing, and had it read aloud in the Cologne Cathedral by his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who also serves as Prefect of the Papal Household for Pope Francis.

In the text, Benedict said that Cardinal Meisner “found it difficult to leave his post, especially at a time in which the Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination.”

What moved me all the more, Benedict said, was that, “in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”

Notably, Cardinal Meisner was one of the four cardinals who presented a series of questions, or “dubia,” to Pope Francis last September, asking him to clarify five serious doctrinal doubts proceeding from his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) concerning Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, the indissolubility of marriage, and the proper role of conscience.

The other three prelates who submitted the questions to the Pope were Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bologna; and Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

When Pope Francis failed to respond to the dubia, the four cardinals published their questions publicly last November.

“The Holy Father has decided not to respond,” they wrote. “We have interpreted his sovereign decision as an invitation to continue the reflection and the discussion, calmly and with respect.”

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI turned 90 years old on Easter Sunday, after which he gave a rare birthday speech inside the Vatican expressing his thanksgiving to God for the gift of life.

“My heart is filled with gratitude for the 90 years that the good God has given me,” said Benedict, who retired as pope on Feb. 28, 2013, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.

“There have also been trials and difficult times, but through it all He has always led me and pulled me through, so that I could continue on my path,” he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

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