LEWISTON — Catholics from Lewiston and beyond flocked to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 122 Ash St. Wednesday to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Basilica rector and Prince of Peace Parish pastor the Rev. Daniel Greenleaf led the Mass for the Repose of the soul of the former head of the Catholic Church, who died at age 95 on Dec. 31.

Benedict stepped down in 2013 due to declining health after seven years as pope. He was the first pope in six centuries to resign and one of only three. Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 and Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

Benedict’s body is on public display at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City until his funeral Thursday in St. Peter’s Square, which will be led by Pope Francis.

Greenleaf said before Mass that the celebration of Benedict’s soul being laid to rest is important to basilicas — also known as the “Pope’s Churches” — due to their special relationship to the pope.

“There are 5 major Basilicas in Rome and minor Basilicas all over the world. Lewiston is blessed to have a minor basilica in its community. Therefore, it is very fitting that (this) Mass … be celebrated in the sacred space of the basilica.”


As parishioners trickled through the doors, Lorraine Clavette of Lewiston was rising from her prayers, waiting for Mass to begin. She said she doesn’t like to drive at night, but knew she had to come out to pray for Benedict’s soul.

“He was very, very close to Pope John Paul II, Saint John Paul. He was his very best friend. He’s the one who allowed this to become a minor basilica, for all the graces and everything. So, he’s got a big connection with our community, with the church. It’s just an honor.”

The Portland Troops of Saint George came out to Mass under the leadership of Chris Roberts and George Spino. The Troops are a nonprofit fraternal apostolate linking boys, men and priests to virtue through adventure.

Roberts said his decision to join the church was in large part due to Benedict. “(He) was the pope when I came into the Catholic Church and his theological depth, his commitment to tradition had an enormous impact on me.”

Added Spino, “It’s always important to pray for the souls of those who have passed and it’s a wonderful act of charity to do such.”

Greenleaf said he was also affected by Benedict’s teachings. When he was in seminary school and when he was a young priest, Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who was influential under John Paul II and produced many theological works that shaped Greenleaf’s philosophy and spiritual journey, he said. He said he was also in his presence three times, but they never spoke face-to-face. So, this Mass is especially important to Greenleaf since, as rector, he is the steward of the basilica and the pope, pastor.

“We’re celebrating the Eucharist part of it, which is for his soul specifically,” Greenleaf said, “but the homily itself is looking at three parts of my own experience of him: His teaching on love, on the desire for truth and reason and faith, and on clarity. He actually says that in his final testament, that when he dies, when you die, to remain clear about your life. That’s important.”

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