Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington issued the following statement Dec. 31 following the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at age 95.
“I respectfully ask all in the Diocese of Arlington to unite in prayer as we mourn the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. May we give thanks to God for his example and witness and pray for his eternal peace and happiness.”
“Born Joseph Ratzinger, he served the Church faithfully and generously for more than 70 years as a priest, bishop, cardinal and pope. He was an influential figure at the Second Vatican Council and served as one of Pope Saint John Paul II’s closest collaborators before being elected pope himself in 2005.”
“A devoted student of the Word of God and steeped in the Church’s liturgical and theological tradition, he was able to engage the modern world with intellectual clarity and pastoral charity. The breadth and depth of his teachings have inspired many and are already considered part of the Church’s patrimony. May the Lord grant to this good shepherd eternal rest and abundant reward for his labors.”
Benedict XVI was elected pope in April 2005 following the death of John Paul II. In February 2015, he became the first pontiff since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign office and the first since Celestine V in 1295 to do so without outside pressure or coercion being applied. He chose the title “pope emeritus” for himself upon retirement and lived in Vatican City until his death.
At more than 95 years and eight months, Benedict XVI appears to have been the oldest among the nearly 270 who have held the post of Roman Catholic bishop of Rome over nearly 2,000 years. The longest-lived pope while still in office was was Leo XIII, who died in 1903 at age 93 after 25 years of service as pope.
The Catholic Diocese of Arlington was created in 1974 when the Diocese of Richmond (which had been established in 1820) was split by Pope Paul VI and northern areas of Virginia were given their own diocese. Currently, it is home to 70 parishes, 276 priests, 49 seminarians, about 50 schools with 16,800 students, and a total of 460,000 parishioners.
Burbidge, who was served since 2016, is the fourth bishop for the diocese, following Thomas Welsh (1974-83), John Keating (1983-98) and Paul Loverde (1999-2016).
Geographically, the diocese includes the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester and the counties of Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, King George, Lancaster, Loudoun, Madison, Northumberland, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Richmond, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren and Westmoreland.