“Please pray for me and pray for the church,” McNaugton remembers Pope Benedict telling him. “I had a feeling he was just exhausted. I thought it was a beautiful, simple expression.”
Although he has served for only eight years, Pope Benedict was praised by local Catholics for helping guide the church after the clergy sex abuse scandal.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston said “it was a great privilege” to be with the pontiff when he visited the United States in 2008 and met with several of the sex abuse victims.
“At that meeting, the Holy Father’s pastoral care for the survivors was clearly evident, as was his commitment and determination to heal the wounds of all persons impacted by the abuse crisis and to insure that the church continues to do all that is possible to provide for the protection of children,” O’Malley said in a statement.
The Rev. Bill Waters, a campus minister at Merrimack College, considers that meeting among Pope Benedict’s greatest moments.
“One of my most vivid memories of the pope was when he met with the (sex abuse) survivors because he was showing the care, concern and the sensitivity of the whole church to them,’’ Waters said. “I thought that was a beautiful moment.”
Others said he enlightened the faithful with his series of books and discourses, inspiring many people by his devotion and leadership.
Pope Benedict even adapted to new technology by going on Twitter and blogging.
The Rev. John Delaney, pastor of Sacred Hearts Parish in Haverhill, and other priests said they hope the College of Cardinals is guided by the Holy Spirit when choosing Pope Benedict’s successor.
Waters said the next pope could unite the people from different parts of the world.
“We need someone who is able to understand the church in many countries and many cultures, which takes a special gift,” he said.