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Retired Pontiff Praises Evangelization Efforts At St. Paul Inside The Walls
Michael Wojcik

MADISON Bishop Serratelli recently announced that early this spring, he had received an unexpected special delivery from a famous prelate in Rome: a short “warm and encouraging” letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, praising the Paterson Diocese’s multifaceted efforts in sharing the “Good News” of the Gospel.

Dated March 22, Pope Benedict’s correspondence, which was delivered to Bishop Serratelli’s mailbox at the Paterson Diocesan Center, Clifton, commended the ministry of St. Paul Inside the Walls: the Diocesan Center for Evangelization at Bayley-Ellard here, and the center’s annual Pope Benedict XVI Summer Institute — named in his honor — which promotes and examines his theological teachings

The retired pontiff sent the note in response to a letter from the Bishop, dated Feb.17, which expressed the Diocese’s gratitude for his clear teachings and long ministry to the Church. Also, Bishop Serratelli alerted Pope Benedict to the work of St. Paul’s — inspired by his call for the Church to spread the Gospel through the New Evangelization — and its summer institute, which will feature Father Johann Roten, one of the pope emeritus’ former students.

“I want to sincerely thank you for your kind letter…The pastoral initiatives in the Diocesan Catholic Center for Evangelization, inspired by the spirit of the Apostle Paul, are a cause of joy for me. I can only praise the Lord for the fruits that these initiatives bring to the hearts of many laypeople and clergy in your diocese,” wrote Pope Benedict, who resigned as leader of the universal Church on Feb 28, 2013, due to his advanced age, and was succeed by Pope Francis, who was elected on March 13. “May God continue to shower his blessings upon your apostolic ministry and may the Blessed Virgin guide you, together with priests and the faithful of your diocese, on the journey towards to the solemnity of Easter,” Pope Benedict wrote in the letter.

Bishop Serratelli was inspired to write the letter to Pope Benedict, after he learned from Father Paul Manning, diocesan vicar for evangelization and St. Paul’s executive director, that Father Johann Roten, a Marian scholar and director of research and special projects at the University of Dayton in Ohio, would be leading the summer institute this year. He will explore “Mary: Mother of Jesus and Model Disciple,” from June 26 to 28, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day at the evangelization center.

The Bishop shared the news about the letter from Pope Benedict in his address at the Diocesan Catechetical Conference on April 22 and the monthly Cenaculum Christi gathering of priests in the Diocese on April 28, both a St. Paul’s. Today the framed two-paragraph letter hangs the main hallway of St. Paul’s, appropriately under a large painting of Pope Benedict, before the Blessed Sacrament.

“From his early days as a theologian at the Second Vatican Council even into his retirement, Pope Benedict XVI has remained a brilliant light leading the Church into a deeper and deeper understanding of the faith,” Bishop Serratelli told The Beacon. “We are thrilled to have received a personal letter from him encouraging our Diocese’s work of evangelization at St. Paul Inside the Walls. Our Pope Emeritus has set for us a sure path to bring others into a closer relationship to the Lord Jesus, especially in the liturgy,” said the Bishop.

In the Feb. 17 correspondence, Bishop Serratelli expressed the Diocese’s “deep gratitude” to Pope Benedict for the “ministry that you have exercised and continue to exercise on behalf of the universal Church.” In addition, he wrote about his “appreciation for your compelling and clear exposition of the Gospel and teaching of the Church, your attention to the appeal of divine beauty and the radiance of holiness and your encouragement of the New Evangelization.”

The Bishop wrote about the success of St. Paul Inside the Walls, which opened in 2008, “inspired by your own enthusiasm for the mission of the Gospel and by the special Jubilee Year of the Apostle Paul in 2008-2009,” which the pope emeritus had declared.

The Bishop wrote about “one of our successful programs:” the annual Pope Benedict XVI Summer Institute, which is “dedicated to promoting your thought, writings and teaching on various topics.” In his fourth year, the institute has been financed by a private grant from two medical doctors, who approached St. Paul’s with the specific request to create a program to advance Pope Benedict’s teachings, the Bishop wrote.

“Attended by a growing number of laymen and women and clergy, the Institute has explored your teaching on the Word of God, on the Way of Beauty, on the Genius of Human Sexuality and, this coming year, on the Blessed Virgin Mary. I am pleased to let you know that our instructor this year will be one of your former students, Father Johann Roten…We are looking forward to what he will share with us about you and the Mother you have helped us to understand and love more deeply,” Bishop Serratelli wrote Pope Benedict. “Again, I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your faithful and thoughtful labor in the vineyard and how much we realize, through our Pope Benedict XVI Institute, the worth of your life’s work,” the Bishop wrote.

After hearing about Father Roten’s upcoming appearance at St. Paul’s summer institute, Bishop Serratelli suggested writing a letter to Pope Benedict with input from Father Manning. Cardinal Robert Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican, had delivered the letter to the pope emeritus’ office. The Bishop worked with Cardinal Sarah on the English translation of the liturgy.

“It’s wonderful that Pope Benedict read Bishop Serratelli’s letter and then responded. I was thrilled and excited,” Father Manning said. “It was a warm and encouraging letter that complemented and blessed our work of the center.”

[For information/cost of Benedict Institute: Allan Wright at (973) 377-1004 or email awright@