At Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) on Thursday, February 23, an event was held and streamed live at the Issam Fares Conference Hall in honor of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his legacy as Holy Father of the Catholic Church, organized by the Benedict XVI Endowed Chair of Religious, Cultural, and Philosophical Studies at the Faculty of Humanities (FH). Given his recent death, and a decade after his resignation, the event reflected on Benedict’s papacy in the honorable presence of the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Msgr. Paolo Borgia. Attending the commemoration were the Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, represented by Archbishop Antoine Aoukar, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude Youssef Absi, represented by Archbishop George Baconi, Syriac Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, represented by Archbishop Charles Murad, Superior General of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary (OMM), Abbot Pierre Najem, NDU President, Fr. Bechara Khoury, and Chair of the NDU Board of Trustees, H.E. Dr. Ziyad Baroud.
The Benedict Chair, Dr. Edward Alam, took to the podium and invited the audience to a minute of silent prayer for the late Pope, “this great disciple of Jesus, and special son and devotee of the Virgin Mary.” Alam then proceeded with his address, detailing the influence of the Benedictine papacy on NDU, most notably with the establishment of the Endowed Chair in 2013 by Fr. Walid Moussa, then President of the University. The idea was inspired by the Holy Father’s resignation and the conviction that “the nature of Benedict’s profound and even prophetic thought would guide the Church for many years into the future.”
These efforts constellated into the formal institution and inauguration of the Benedict XVI Endowed Chair at the Opening Mass of the 2015–2016 Academic Year. Alam brought attention to the fact that said Divine Liturgy was presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio at the time, His Excellency Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, who dedicated the FH building to the memory of Pope Benedict. “One can see the plaque today which formally names the Faculty of Humanities, the Pope Benedict XVI Building,” said Alam. He continued: “Today, in the presence of His Excellency Msgr. Paulo Borgia, the present Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, we feel the continuity of these good relations between Rome and NDU,” in reference to the annual Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Foundation’s International Symposium, set to take place at the University come November 2023.
Fr. Khoury was then introduced to the stage, his speech revering Benedict XVI’s legacy as a scholar and theologian, who showed great intellectual leadership and wisdom as Holy Father of the Church. “The Pope Emeritus’ passing draws us to contemplation and prayer,” said the Father President. “We are here today to honor his life and work, in the great presence of our new Nuncio, Msgr. Borgia.” Fr. Khoury expressed NDU’s honor as a family of faith and education to carry Pope Benedict’s legacy with the Endowed Chair “as an integral part of our mission to serve the youth of Lebanon.” The President requested we continue praying “that God may receive Benedict in His immeasurable mercy and eternal peace.”
The Apostolic Nuncio’s highly-anticipated word commenced, relaying the late Pope’s profound and humble devotion to Christ. Msgr. Borgia stated: “Pope Benedict XVI will certainly enter the Church’s history as a remarkable theologian and true disciple of Jesus.” A distinguished Pope, Benedict incessantly sought to enrich his relationship with the Lord and be a faithful evangelist of the Truth of the Gospel. “He was the godfather of the Catholic Church, and we have much to draw from his example.”
After Msgr. Borgia’s speech, a panel discussion, moderated by Alam, was held with Dr. Habib Malik, son of Charles Malik and Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Malik Institute, Dr. Christian Thuselt of the German Orient-Institut Beirut, and Professor Eugene Sensenig of the Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLPS). Habib, Thuselt, and Sensenig engaged in a lively conversation surrounding Benedict’s theological contributions, writings on liberation theology, and consistent fidelity to Catholic doctrine in an increasingly secular world.
The commemoration concluded with an offering: Fr. Khoury presented Nuncio Borgia with a trophy bearing the face of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the intercession of Our Lady, we pray that Pope Benedict XVI enjoys the abundant love of the Holy Trinity in heaven.