Prayer service, airport send-off await Cardinal Rigali as he travels to Rome for papal conclave

Cardinal Justin Rigali greets parishioners at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus following Sunday Mass as a TV news team films him. Photo by Bill Brewer

Cardinal Justin Rigali greets parishioners at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus following Sunday Mass as a TV news team films him.
Photo by Bill Brewer

Cardinal Justin Rigali, a papal elector who is in residence in Knoxville, will depart Knoxville on Tuesday for Rome, where he will join other members of the College of Cardinals ahead of the final day of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate on Thursday.

Parishioners from around the diocese are invited to McGhee Tyson Airport at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday to participate in a send-off ceremony for Cardinal Rigali, who also will take part in a prayer service at All Saints Church earlier in the morning.

Cardinal Rigali celebrated Mass Sunday at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where he delivered a homily that asked for prayers for Pope Benedict and for the cardinals who will be choosing the Holy Father’s successor.

Cardinal Rigali said the thoughts and prayers from millions of faithful around the world are with Pope Benedict in the last hours of his pontificate as he prepares to carry out his resignation. The cardinal asked that thoughts and prayers also go to the College of Cardinals, who need the prayers of the faithful “very much” as they assemble to choose Pope Benedict’s successor.

In his homily, Cardinal Rigali said that for 2,000 years Catholic people have gathered together from the time of the Apostles on Sunday in order to do two things: to listen to the Word of God and open our hearts to the message of God’s holy word. And secondly, after having listened to the Word of God, “after having opened our hearts to the challenge the Word of God brings with it for us, then we bring with all our hearts, we bring our intentions to the altar, together with the priest, in union with him, who in turn represents our Lord Jesus Christ, we offer our lives to our Heavenly Father.”

He said as the people of God bring their intentions to the altar, they offer them to God in communion with the priests, and noted that two very special intentions of the Sunday Mass were to pray fervently for Pope Benedict and for the papal electors.

“He (Pope Benedict) has explained to us that the role of being pope is very arduous, and he has certainly—with tremendous dedication and with great love and great effort—he has fulfilled this role now for eight years. And he has traveled around the world — he has gone from Brazil to Poland, from Lebanon to the United States. So many different countries; and now before God he has very energetically examined his conscience and he knows there are so many more things that the pope can do. That now, because of age and because of the burdens of the office, he is simply no longer able to perform them all, even though he actually to the very end has been extremely active.

“And so he has decided to resign in order that someone younger and with more energy will be able to continue the role of pope. Therefore, our second intention is to pray for the College of Cardinals that is chosen to elect the pope. I happen to have the great privilege of being one of the electors of the pope. So, in asking for the prayers of all of you for the cardinals, I’m also asking for your prayers for myself—for all the cardinals who will gather together in order to elect the successor,” Cardinal Rigali said.

He said Pope Benedict appeared as usual on Sunday at his window in St. Peter’s Square giving his last Sunday message as thousands of people gathered to watch.

“This is what unites us to the beauty of the Gospel today. He spoke about the transfiguration,” Cardinal Rigali said of the pope.

The cardinal told Sacred Heart parishioners that the very basic role of the pope is to constantly proclaim, as the chief preacher of the Church, to continue to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Son of God and at the same time to draw the attention of all the people to these important words of the Father.

“This is what it means to be a follower of Christ; to be a Catholic,” he said.

Cardinal Rigali noted that Pope Benedict has constantly been proclaiming Jesus Christ and encouraging the faithful not to lose heart, but always look to Jesus. “This is the formula for peace in the world.”

“So we come here with all our relationships. We come here as parents, as spouses, as single people, young and old, as children, all of us children of God. We come with all the needs of our families, with all the needs of the world, because we are part of the community. We come here, therefore, as one assembly, as one community in Jesus Christ, with that wonderful assurance that he is with us, that he is leading us, and that he never, despite all the challenges of our lives and despite all the problems of the world, that he never abandons us. We have the great privilege of praying together with him, with Jesus Christ,” Cardinal Rigali said.

Once in Rome, Cardinal Rigali is expected to convene on Thursday with other members of the College of Cardinals as Pope Benedict serves his last day.

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