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Today marked the end of the papacy of a good, if not great, and humble man trying to provide moral and religious leadership on an increasingly evil planet. Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope emeritus, served his flock well through (to say the least) challenging and difficult times for the Catholic Church worldwide.

Throughout everything that happened during his papacy, including the sex abuse scandals that have dogged the clergy, he has been a rock solid proponent of rationalism and conservative Catholic doctrine. In 2005 many “cafeteria Catholics” were looking to Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, as the newly minted Pope Benedict XVI, to make wholesale changes in the Church hierarchy and to embrace what may be kindly termed “progressive” changes in Church doctrine and practice. To his credit, Benedict did not budge to the whims of the populists and the progressives…and his teachings were what might be thought of as a back-to-basics in the individual-Church-faith relationship. He espoused and frequently preached “Friendship with Jesus”, where he saw the love of God as a means and a bridge to loving others who loved God as well. He saw this as an important tool in replacing the rampant secularism and consumerism that has gripped developed societies. He also sought to bring the Catholic faith closer to other worldwide religions by reaching out to other prelates and faiths. But he also had the strength of his convictions to speak out regarding evil when he saw it, and this forthrightness created friction with Islam and many of its teachings.

So as the helicopter that carried him away to the papal retreat, Castle Gandolfo, we should offer our thanks to a man who was unselfish and worthy of his station. A man who put the needs of his God and his Church before his needs. He was a worthy successor to the beloved John Paul II, and he sets a high bar for future Popes to aspire to. We can only hope and pray that the upcoming conclave puts aside political correctness and chooses Benedict’s successor based on his loyalty to God and to the Church, and his fidelity to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

God bless you and thank you, Pope Benedict. May God always shine his grace down upon you.