Father Rocky on Pope Benedict’s funeral, life and legacy

Funeral services for the late Pope Benedict XVI are set for this Thursday, January 5th. It will be a historic moment at the Vatican as Pope Francis participates in the event, paying tribute to his predecessor. Father Rocky, Executive Director and CEO of Relevant Radio was recently interviewed by WGN News Chicago and talked about Pope Benedict’s funeral, life, and legacy. 

Father Rocky was asked how he first heard the news of Pope Benedict’s passing. He said, “I woke up yesterday morning (December 31) about 5:00 in the morning I grabbed my phone first thing like most Americans do, and there’s a text message news … that announced that the Holy Father had died. I was not totally surprised because (Benedict’s declining health) was already in the news for a few days beforehand.” 

“Well, I never knew him personally,” said Father Rocky, “Although I met him once I lived in Rome from ‘88 to ‘92 in the seminary. I will always recall him as sort of the right-hand man of (Pope) John Paul II. He was his theologian. He was a priest. He was a theologian. Then he became a Bishop. He was a cardinal, at a very young age, and in fact, he was one of the Cardinals who elected John Paul II — he wanted to retire a number of times even during the pontificate John Paul II but the Pope said ‘I need you to hang on.’” 

Father Rocky interviewed by WGN News

“And then the evening before (Benedict) was elected as Pope in 2005, he used a phrase that I thought was really quite shocking. He was talking about the dictatorship of relativism, and when I heard him say that I said, well, he doesn’t want to be elected Pope… Well, they elected him, and then there was for eight years.” 

Father Rocky commented on Benedict’s pontificate saying “One of his great accomplishments was during that pontificate, helping to publish a document in the Church which had not been published for about 400 years. It’s called the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and then he wrote three books. It’s a trilogy called Jesus of Nazareth, and of course, he’s going to be remembered as the pope who retired in modern times – it hadn’t been for 6 or 7 hundred years that a pope retired.” This is the first time I know of that a retired pope will be buried by his successor. 700 years ago there was a Pope who retired, Pope Celestine V, and it’s not clear who celebrated his funeral. He was canonized a saint years later… So this is unique.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be as grand as the funeral of John Paul II back in 2005 when 3 million people came to Rome. I need to be more subdued. But he’ll get all of the honors. All the ceremonies that the church accords him, and Pope Francis will celebrate that. (Benedict) will lie in state for the next three days. Monday through Wednesday night in Saint Peters and they expect 30,000 people a day will pass by to pay their respects. (The Funeral) is very early in the morning it’s gonna be 9:30 in the morning, so that’s 2:30 AM here. We will broadcast it live on Relevant Radio, but I don’t expect anybody is going to get up in the morning to watch it or view it. Maybe a few people will, but then it’s always available on demand.”

Benedict asked for forgiveness for how he handled child sex abuse allegations against priests when he was the Archbishop of Munich. When asked how that will impact his legacy, Rev. Hoffman said, “I think the Church has learned a ton about that. He made an honest admission there. He asked everyone to forgive him for the mistakes he made. He didn’t name exactly what those mistakes were made, but this just came out yesterday. He had prepared a spiritual testament back in 2006, one year into being Pope. It’s not too long. You can get it on the Vatican website and mostly he’s thanking God for his mother, his father, his brother, his sisters, his friends, his, you know his compatriots in Germany. He asks in one short paragraph for forgiveness if he’s ever hurt anyone. And I think that’s a good sign of humility.”

Father concludes the interview by saying, “(Pope Benedict) proclaims be faithful, be faithful to Jesus Christ. I think that’s the thing that most influenced me about Joseph Ratzinger — Benedict XVI. He’s a brilliant man. He could speak many languages, wrote many books and he was very, very familiar with the challenges of Sacred Scripture. Like did that person really write it? Did these miracles really happen? Can we really believe it? Because there’s a lot of complexities in that. He could handle all of that, and yet he could emerge with this deep faith… Jesus Christ really is God!” 

You can watch the entire interview on WGN’s YouTube video embedded below.

Video courtesy of WGN News.
Pope Benedict XVI photo: haak78 / Shutterstock.com

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, "Fr. Rocky" is the Executive Director/CEO of Relevant Radio and a priest of Opus Dei.