‘These are emotional times for us’
Denver Catholics pray for Benedict XVI as he retires, offer thanks
By Julie Filby
Photo by Robert Linn for the DCR
As the papacy of Benedict XVI came to end Feb. 28 at noon Denver time, 8 p.m. in Rome, Ryszard (Richard) Drubkowski quietly honored the pontiff outside the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in bustling downtown Denver.
Drubkowski, a native of Poland who has lived in Denver since 1993, worked carefully to secure a vase of colorful fresh flowers and a framed photo of two shepherds—Benedict XVI and John Paul II—to the base of a 6-foot bronze statue of Pope John Paul II that sits atop a granite pedestal outside the Cathedral Basilica’s west doors.
“Today it is for the occasion of Benedict,” Drubkowski told the Denver Catholic Register, as he continued to wind green wire around the vase and the frame. “We Catholics are very sad; these are emotional times for us.”
While Drubkowski regularly adorns the statue to honor fellow Pole, Blessed John Paul II, the memorial that day—which also included three small candles and a row of fabric daisies—was all about Benedict.
“He was a very religious man, and very educated,” Drubkowski said with a heavy accent. “The Church needs popes like Benedict now.”
He is concerned who will follow in the Chair of St. Peter.
“I pray for the right choice,” he said. “We will see how God is guiding us.”
Inside the cathedral, people were gathered for a Holy Hour that began at 11 a.m. to give thanks for the pope’s eight-year ministry. An image of the Holy Father was placed on the altar as people prayed in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Ten minutes after his papacy officially ended, 12:10 p.m. Denver time, a Mass of Thanksgiving began.
Nearly 200 people attended the somber Mass celebrated by Father James Kleiner, a retired priest of the archdiocese.
During his homily Father Kleiner shared with the congregation that he hadn’t slept much that week. He had stayed up until the wee hours to watch live television coverage of Pope Benedict’s final gathering at St. Peter’s Square Feb. 27, as well as his final farewell to cardinals earlier that day, about 2:30 a.m. Denver time.
Photo by Robert Linn for the DCR
“Pope Benedict greeted each one of them personally,” he said. “I was very impressed with that; very sad on one hand, and joyful on the other. We remember now Pope Benedict and his life. He is an outstanding person, incredibly gifted.”
Father Kleiner urged those gathered to think of the pope in a special way as he begins the later chapters of his extraordinary life.
Anna Zielinski, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Northglenn, who attended the Mass with her young daughter, echoed the mixed emotions that came with the pope’s goodbye.
“(Benedict) didn’t say goodbye … he is still close to us,” she said after Mass. “It’s not goodbye, he is with us and he is praying for us, and we can pray for him.”
When in Rome, she had a chance to see Benedict XVI and his love for Jesus.
“When I went to Rome, I saw in his eyes Jesus’ love,” she shared. “I know that he is love, God is love, and he loves the Eucharist.”
She is grateful for his ministry as pope—as well as for his new ministry as pope emeritus.
“He will have even more time to pray for us,” she said, “and I thank him for that.”