A Sioux Falls priest says his upcoming trip to Rome will be a bittersweet journey in the aftermath of Pope Benedict's announcement that he's retiring at the end of the month. Father Justin Wachs will turn-in his doctoral thesis to a university in Rome next week. This scholar of Catholic law credits much of his academic success to Benedict.
As Father Justin Wachs prepares his Our Lady of Guadalupe parish for the Lenten season, he reflects upon a Catholic Church soon to be without Pope Benedict.
"It's the Holy Father, he's probably the greatest man in the world today," Wachs said.
Wachs was a doctoral student of Canon law when he met with Benedict at the Vatican nearly a year ago. He thanked the pope for his extensive theological writings that span some 16 volumes.
"And he looked up, he and I are about the same size and he said, 'Oh, you know of my Opera Omnia!' And I said, 'Yes, your holiness,'" Wachs said.
The pope then gave Wachs a rosary and some scholarly advice.
"'You must use it every day if you are to be a good Canon lawyer.' And I said, 'Yes, your Holy Father, I do and I will. Thank you so much,'" Wachs said.
Father Wachs has even dedicated his doctoral thesis to Pope Benedict.
Wachs relied heavily upon Benedict's writings for much of his research. He delivers his 212-page paper to Rome next week. An academic achievement tempered by the pope's stepping aside, in what Wachs considers a heroic act of humility.
"This is a man of greatness. He recognizes that it's not about him; that the church comes first," Wachs said.
Wachs first met Benedict more than a decade ago, when he was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Wachs thinks Benedict's greatest legacy will be his religious writings that he says will help guide the church for years to come.