The University of Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., expressed his sorrow at the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died today (Dec. 31) in Vatican City at age 95.
“Notre Dame joins the Church and the world in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict,” Father Jenkins said. “At once a luminous scholar and a devoted laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, Pope Benedict gave witness to the complementarity of faith and reason for a world which so often misunderstands both.
“His first major written teaching as Pope reminded us that God is love, and through his remarkable and lifelong devotion to the Church, he gave us all an example of the love a good pastor must have for the people of God.
“I pray in thanksgiving for Pope Benedict’s life and I hope that he will intercede for us from Heaven.”
Father Jenkins met briefly with Pope Benedict on Feb. 1, 2006, following a general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall that included some 50 Notre Dame Trustees, administrators and their spouses. The Pope shook hands with Father Jenkins and called Notre Dame a “great Catholic university.” The University’s president thanked the Pope and said, “Keep us in your prayers.”
Father Jenkins was among the more than 300 Catholic education leaders who attended an address by the Pope on April 17, 2008, at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
“It was a warm and gracious address that emphasized the value of Catholic education,” Father Jenkins said at the time. “It was a very positive experience. There was an expression of gratitude and appreciation for everyone in the room involved in Catholic education. He spoke of education as being central to the life of the Church, and, of course, that is what Notre Dame is all about. It was a great affirmation of our central mission.”
Notre Dame’s relationship with Pope Benedict began in the 1960s when the University’s then-president, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., offered a faculty position to then-Father Joseph Ratzinger, a German theologian.
“I was searching around the world for an up-and-coming theologian,” Father Hesburgh said in an interview with the South Bend Tribune soon after Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope. He wrote a letter of invitation to the young cleric, inviting him to join the faculty for a year or permanently.
“He wrote back, ‘I’d love to come, but I don’t think my English is good enough yet,’” Father Hesburgh said.
The death knell rang at the University's Basilica of the Sacred Heart for 15 minutes this morning. In addition, a photo of the Pope Emeritus and a condolences book are in place in the basilica.