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Sydney Seminarian’s Role at Pope’s Final Public Mass

Last edited 26th February 2013

Sydney Seminarian’s Role at Pope’s Final Public Mass

Pope Benedict XV’s decision to leave the pontificate surprised most people, not the least all the seminarians studying for the priesthood in Rome.

One such seminarian is Daniel McCaughan from Sydney.

Daniel will soon be returning home to prepare for his ordination at St Mary’s Cathedral but his last month especially in the Eternal City will certainly be remembered with both sadness and joy.

He will also carry with him forever memories of Pope Benedict’s final public Mass on Ash Wednesday at St Peter’s – he was privileged to be one of the seminarians to distribute the ashes.

Here is how Daniel recalled the announcement of the resignation and the final public Mass.

“The Monday when the announcement was made was one I'll never forget. I was in class at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family at the Lateran University.

I received a text from a friend telling me about it. What followed was a flurry of texts and calls to determine it was true. The news spread like wildfire through our lecture hall.

At the end of our class the head of the Institute, Mons. Livio Melina came in to tell us officially. He broke down as he told us the news and could barely get the words out.

We all sat there shocked. Some were crying. No one knew what to say. We were walking around campus in a stunned silence, shaking our heads at each other incredulously.

It took a good couple of days for the news to really sink in.

When the opportunity came to distribute ashes on Wednesday I leapt at the offer.

The Mass was very special. It had to be moved from it's usual location at Santa Sabina church on the Aventine hill to St Peter's because of the magnitude of the occasion.

The congregation was definitely emotional. Gratitude and sadness were probably the principle ones. Then there was deep admiration for the Holy Father's humility and courage to take such a bold step.

His homily at the Mass I think captured the meaning of his act of stepping down when he spoke of false religion being self-serving, a using of God for one's own self-aggrandizement and true religion being humbly obedient to the will of God.

I was especially moved when I was standing in front of the high altar with the ashes waiting for Benedict to bless them. He was seated on the Chair, tired and humble.

If John Paul II showed the world the Christian meaning of suffering I believe Benedict has demonstrated true Christian humility. His has displayed a profound detachment from the office and all its privileges and this detachment gave him the freedom to also accept his physical limitations.

After the final prayer Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone gave a beautiful farewell address. The crowd then burst into applause, which quickly became a standing ovation. The ovation simply wouldn't stop.

We clapped and clapped and clapped. Everytime it looked like it was about to ease off someone would yell "Viva il Papa!" and all the vigour would come surging back. Benedict had to forcibly cut off the applause by beginning the final blessing!

As he left I was sad, he's been the Pope during my whole time in seminary and I've clung to his writings. Yet I trust that this decision will open the doors for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

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