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Nov 19 16 10:25 AM
There was hugging galore during the visit which Francis and newly-created cardinals paid Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, today. After Pope Francis’ third Consistory for the creation of new cardinals , the Pope and the new cardinals boarded two minibuses and headed towards the Mater Ecclesiae monastery where the Pope Emeritus lives. The visit began with a warm and powerful embrace between Francis and Benedict XVI in the presence of the new cardinals. The Pope was greeted by the Prefect of the Papal Household, Mgr. Georg Ganswein, in the courtyard of the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, while Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, waited in the chapel. After the affectionate embrace between the two popes, Ratzinger hugged each of the 16 new cardinals present. Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Benedict XVI stood side by side at the centre of the chapel: After Francis gave a nod of approval, the Pope Emeritus led a prayer and imparted his blessing to the 16 cardinals present. Benedict XVI appeared thinner but smiley and very much involved. As will be the case tomorrow, during the closing of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, Ratzinger preferred to watch the worldwide broadcast of today’s ceremony from home.
Nov 19 16 10:33 AM
Nov 25 16 6:13 AM
It's unprecedented in publishing history for two books tracing the spiritual roots and biographies of two living popes to be published within the same month, let alone within the same lifetimes. And in tandem, or alone, they make for extraordinary reading.One, "Last Testament: In His Own Words," by Pope Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald, is the much-awaited, book-length, question-and-answer autobiography of the only modern-day pope to retire from the papacy. While Benedict's resignation in February 2013 fueled a firestorm of speculation, and bracketed a deeply divisive chapter of Catholic Church scandal, the ex-officio pope breaks his silence here and takes on the tough, fine-grained questions of veteran Vatican observer and fellow German Seewald, a journalist who has recorded three other book-length interviews with the former Joseph Ratzinger.The other tome, "Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis," by Mark K. Shriver, weaves spiritual memoir with anecdotal biography. Despite the fact that Shriver never speaks a word with Francis, the Argentinia-born Jesuit whose charisma has captured a rare global attention and rekindled the faith of many a tepid Catholic, it's the one more apt to stir the soul of its readers.It's been almost 600 years since a pope resigned, with Benedict's resignation coming almost 598 years after that of Gregory XII, who stepped down from the Holy See in July 1415. And Benedict's retirement capped a whirl of Vatican intrigue and controversy, most notably the "Vatileaks" scandal in which the pope's longtime butler secreted files exposing institutional corruption and power struggles, and which led to an internal investigation that uncovered alleged blackmailing of gay clergy by people outside the Roman Catholic Church.From the very first page, Seewald frames his subject as far more vulnerable than he's previously been portrayed: "Instead of red slippers, he now wore sandals like a monk. He has been blind in his left eye for many years, he remembers less and less now, and meanwhile his hearing has diminished. His body had grown very thin, but his whole demeanor was tender like never before."With that frail, diminished portrait, Seewald, who first met then-Cardinal Ratzinger in November 1992 on assignment by a German magazine to write about the already much-maligned cardinal, forges head-on into the controversies that led to Benedict's stepping down.It's hard not to feel pathos for a man who once led the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics yet now writes a weekly homily he'll deliver to an audience of only four or five believers who file in for his Sunday sermon in the convent where he now lives, a short walk up the hill from his former lavish residence, the Apostolic Palace.While Benedict bats down some tough questions with a simple, "I don't remember," he takes others straight-on, asserting that his decision to step down from the papacy was one "without internal struggle," so great was the evidence — in his own mind — in favor of doing so. "My hour had passed," he says, "and I had given all I could give."He insists he didn't abandon his office amid the firestorm but rather saw it through to resolution. "I could resign because calm had returned to this situation," the pope emeritus asserts. A few pages later, he adds: "The Pope is no superman."Benedict now keeps a contemplative existence, rarely leaving his residence, poring over the Psalms, absorbed in a "new greater intimacy" with God, and preparing, he says, for his "final examination before God."Recounting a life that drew him from the home of a devout, Nazi-defying Catholic father in a tiny village in Bavaria, through his own desertion of the German army during World War II, his years as a highly regarded scholar and intellect — considered by many one of the great theologians of his time — and the eight years of his papacy, Benedict's narrative is rich in charming or disarming human detail (how he practiced baptism on a doll, for instance, trying to become comfortable in a pastoral role, or how he struggled with cuff links as he dressed for his papal installation).Throughout there are moments of breathtaking candor, as when he reveals that it felt like "a guillotine" when he learned the outcome of the cardinals' ballots that elected him pope in 2005. Even in passages without such striking revelations, it's stunning to realize you're reading the inner thoughts — and confessions — of a former pope now speaking without the weight of that papal mantle. (Seewald writes in his foreword that Benedict read and approved every word of this text.)In the end, despite chapters that might best be savored by close observers of Vatican politics and church intrigue, the portrait here is one that deepens and defends the place of Benedict in history. Especially near the end of the interview, when the former pope answers the question, where do we look to find God, where is this God?: There "is not something, a place, where He sits. God Himself is the place beyond all places. If you look into the world, you do not see heaven, but you see traces of God everywhere."Francis, then, would be a pope who points us to God in countless encounters with those at the margins. It's no accident that Francis, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Jesuit priest cum archbishop of Buenos Aires before being elected to the church's highest office upon the resignation of Benedict in 2013, might be called the pope of the periphery.Shriver, the son of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver, himself the president of Save the Children Action Network, begins his search for the "real Pope Francis" by striking a common chord: "I had been yearning for a Church I could believe in again."After acknowledging his "Catholic funk," fueled by each pedophilia crisis, corruption scandal and the church's "fumbling statement on homosexuality or the role of women or the status of Islam," Shriver goes on, deepening and broadening his audience sentence-by-sentence: "I realized that as Francis half-danced his way through our troubled world, hand in hand with the poor, the sick, and the shunned, he was lifting my spirits along with theirs."And so Shriver sets out to know firsthand the life story of the first Argentine pope, one whose essence is defined by humility and mercy. Shriver's is an anecdotal biography, one that retraces Francis' life from the poor villas of Buenos Aires through the Jesuit seminaries and colleges and churches where he studied, taught and most of all inspired.In interview after interview, Shriver hears first-person accounts of the man behind the collar. His "theology of the people" — the belief that propels Francis to kiss the leper, wash the feet of the prostitute and answer sharp-edged critiques of those outside the church's acceptance with a simple, "Who am I to judge?" — is not some newly plucked posture but rather a way of living he's carried with him all his 79 years.In the slums of Buenos Aires, where he was a teacher of Jesuit priests before becoming the cardinal, he wanted his students "to be like shepherds tending to their sheep," and he insisted on deep human encounter, instructing each to become "a pastor with mud on his shoes, a shepherd who smells like his sheep."He was a seminary prefect who, on the seminarians' day of rest, woke early to clean the pigsty. He was the cardinal who refused to ride in the official car to his installation, preferring instead to walk to the Vatican, through the streets of Rome in his cardinal-red robes.While this is a rich telling of Bergoglio's life and ascension to the papacy, it is more movingly a spiritual memoir that draws us deep into a knowing of this at once humble and soul-stirring re-kindler of faith.A final instruction from the pope of the periphery:"Practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter. We need to build up this culture of encounter. … Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities … of names and faces which fill our hearts. From those seeds of hope patiently sown in the forgotten fringes of our planet, from those seedlings of tenderness which struggle to grow amid the shadows of exclusion, great trees will spring up, great groves of hope to give oxygen to our world."And that's a pope to believe in.
Nov 28 16 3:52 PM
Nov 30 16 6:16 AM
James Carroll’s RatzingerI’ve written my share of critical appraisals of Joseph Ratzinger, both when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and during his surprisingly fitful years as Benedict XVI. His rigidity, theologically and even physically, seemed almost stereotypically Germanic, as I suppose did his widely acknowledged analytical brilliance. His resignation from the papacy was startling, but also revealed a measure of genuine humility and an abiding trust in God’s promises to his church. In many ways, he seemed the very model of a certain kind of starchy but fiercely dedicated priest-theologian and churchman. You didn’t have to agree with him to admire his devotion or respect his considerable talents as a theologian, thinker, and writer.James Carroll, the novelist and frequent commentator on things Catholic (his most recent book is Christ Actually: Reimagining Faith in the Modern Age), thinks Ratzinger a frankly sinister figure. Last Testament, a series of interviews the pope emeritus gave to the German journalist Peter Seewald, confirmed Carroll in his belief in Ratzinger’s pernicious “ethical detachment,” “astounding emotional and religious indifference,” “a moral perception so partial as to be immoral, with drastic consequences for the church.”Carroll’s critique of Ratzinger’s theological conservatism is predictable enough. The soft-spoken prelate’s instincts were “always to defend, never to reexamine, much less regret” his own actions or church teachings. As head of the CDF, Ratzinger was a notorious scold of those unquestionable goods: liberal Catholicism, liberation theology, women religious, feminism, and any rethinking of Catholic sexual morality. Carroll complains that Ratzinger was so retrograde he even questioned John Paul II’s interfaith efforts, despite the fact that some of these seemed—and not only to Ratzinger—to have more theatrical than theological value. Worse, Carroll writes, was Ratzinger’s cautious approach to getting rid of priests who had abused children. Carroll dismisses Ratzinger’s concerns about procedural justice for the accused more or less out of hand. And yet the last time I looked, a presumption of innocence was still a liberal value.Ratzinger was conscripted into the German army at seventeen near the end of World War II. One wonders how any of us should be judged by the choices made for us when we were seventeen. But in Carroll’s eyes, Ratzinger’s time in the German military places a special responsibility on him to condemn the church’s failures during the Holocaust. It is true that like other Germans of his generation, Ratzinger has been reluctant to do that, but the church’s failures in that regard, though real and deplorable, are easily caricatured. Carroll admits that having lived through the war as a teenager, the future pope was understandably “branded by fear,” but thinks that is no excuse for his theological timidity and alleged moral myopia. Those experiences and that fear, Carroll writes, made Ratzinger into a tenacious opponent of change in the church, compelling him to “ruthlessly” protect its boundaries. Hence the cliché: “God’s Rottweiler.” In short, Ratzinger is judged to have lived his “life at such a level of abstraction, ever shoring up the bulwarks of institution and doctrine, that he consistently misses the real meaning of the human experiences that challenge both.” But the challenge “human experiences” present to institutions and doctrines is never straightforward. The embrace of some human experiences will build up the church; others are likely to tear it down. Rarely is it immediately clear which is which. “Human experiences,” after all, are what have created institutions and doctrines in the first place, and history tells us that humans are easily cast adrift without them. In the light of the recent presidential election, shoring up institutions and “doctrines” would seem to be just as important as resolving the more personal conflicts Carroll touches on. How, not whether, “human experience” is to be weighed against the demands of supposedly calcified “doctrine” is the more difficult question, and one I suspect Ratzinger has thought about as deeply as Carroll. Religions don’t just respond to human needs; they make demands. Being held morally accountable is also a human need, and the demands made on us as parents, workers, citizens, and Catholics—or even bishops—are often the most humanizing of all.As a gifted writer himself—and a theologically literate one—Carroll might be expected to appreciate Ratzinger’s gifts as a theological writer of uncommon power and lucidity. Yet that aspect of Ratzinger’s “moral perception” is ignored. Rather, what is most striking about Carroll’s depiction of Ratzinger and the church is how it is pitched to satisfy every prejudice his largely liberal, secular New Yorker readership presumably has about Catholicism. The sexual abuse of children and adolescents by priests is of course highlighted, but without nuance or context. The recent revelations about sexual abuse in prestigious prep schools, at the BBC, or in every conceivable athletic coaching venue would only clutter up the formulaic indictment. Nor does Carroll try to complicate the picture of what is at stake in internal church disputes. Nowhere does he suggest that, despite the church’s undoubted failings, defenders of tradition like Ratzinger might actually feel a responsibility to protect and hand on a faith millions of men and women around the globe cherish. For Carroll and his audience, the institutional church is simply an authoritarian bogeyman, an enduring source of anti-Semitism, a corrupt patriarchy, an anachronism. Except for Pope Francis, of course. In the ascendency of Francis, Carroll believes, we see that “style and substance are inseparable.” Francis’s “unrelentingly positive spirit,” rather than his dour predecessor’s admonitions, will save the church. The possibility that we might need both admonitions and a positive spirit doesn’t seem to have occurred to Carroll. I do agree with Carroll about one thing. Style and substance are inseparable, and in his pinched and ungenerous portrait of Ratzinger, there is about as much “positive spirit” as there is in a condemnation handed down by the CDF.
Dec 3 16 3:01 PM
Dec 6 16 6:49 AM
Dec 6 16 7:36 AM
Dec 12 16 4:05 AM
Dec 14 16 4:12 PM
With my book Last Testament we gain unrestricted access to the life of Joseph Ratzinger (pictured), a life which covers most of the 20th century, and to a man who is one of the most influential thinkers of the present, one of the most brilliant and charismatic figures of our time.I’m often asked how this book came about. Some ask if Pope Benedict has broken his promise to withdraw into silence after his resignation. No, he has not. The recordings of our conversations were not origin-ally meant to lead to a separate project but rather as an aid for my writing of Ratzinger’s biography. It was anything but easy for me to convince Pope Benedict that it was important to publish this text first.Last Testament is a world first and a historical document. Never before in the long history of the Church has a Pope drawn his own pontificate to a close. So we have an opportunity to get authentic information here, without any distortion by the media. The point of the project was to keep the way open for us to engage with his life and work.It has made me angry to see how a silly understanding of him has encroached on public perceptions.It has made me angry to see how a silly understanding of him has encroached on public perceptions. They say: Ratzinger was the wrong choice as Pope, his greatest deed was his resignation! What rubbish. This not only contradicts the historical truth, it is also dangerous. It prevents us from engaging with Pope Benedict’s important message.Last Testament is not a matter of justifying the Pope’s work, nor dealing with the accusations levelled at him, and certainly not an attempt at whitewashing his legacy. Rather, it is about the information, and about providing illuminating insights into the life and work of one of the great characters of the age. It also takes the wind out of the sails of the speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding Benedict’s resignation. In this book we learn how it really was.The interviews for the book took place in a very pleasant atmosphere in a small monastery in the Vatican Gardens to which Pope Benedict withdrew after his papacy. I’d go there to meet him, offer him my hand, and then usually ask: “How’s it going?” He would answer: “It’s going the way things go for an old man.” And then I’d get straight to the questions in order to make full use of the time I had with him. It was important to me to preserve a certain journ-alistic distance. Joseph Ratzinger is not a chummy kind of guy who pats you on the back, anyway. But he is without arrogance and vanity, and he makes it easy to pose the kind of questions which won’t be easy for him. And he impresses with the openness of his answers. Then the beauty of his language takes you deeper into the depth of this thinking.An encounter with him is always very cheerful because he is a musical person, a poet, an artist. We have laughed a lot together. One of his friends once said: “Ratzinger never complains.” He is like Mozart in this respect, never letting his personal problems overcloud the joviality of his work. In this respect he hasn’t changed in the 20 years I’ve spent time with him. I have to say: every one of the first-hand witnesses to Pope Benedict’s life have shaken their heads at the image of the so-called ‘Panzerkardinal’, which some people in the media continue to propagate. As a theologian of the people, he has never forgotten that he comes from very simple circumstances. It remains a mystery to me how Ratzinger could master the epic job of being Pontifex for the Roman Catholic Church, with its 1.3 billion members – considering his old age and various health issues – and at the same time write his three-volume work about Jesus Christ.Pope Benedict acknowledges the exhaustion he experienced at the end of his pontificate. He gave of himself right up to the last minute he was in office. Other popes are characterised by their pontificates, above all. With Ratzinger there is a corpus of writings which is significant and great regardless of his papacy. But we have here not only a profoundly important intellectual. We have a spiritual master, a modern-day father of the Church, who leaves behind a store of writings which is almost inexhaustible. Above all, Ratzinger has shown us that religion and science, faith and reason, are not opposites.From the beginning, I was impressed by his realism, his courage and his strong-heartednessFrom the beginning, I was impressed by his realism, his courage and his strong-heartedness. Ratzinger sees his Church as a resistance movement against the bedevilment of this age, against the Godforsakenness of fundamentalist atheism and new forms of paganism. He encourages us not to be bedazzled or carried away by the latest contemporary trends. Yet at the same time he sets us against being rigid or narrow-minded but rather leads us toward being open to the necessary changes presented to us by the times in which we live.He himself was willing to do things which no one had done before. Asked about the nature of his succ-essor, Pope Benedict says: “I think it’s good.” This does not mean that he finds everything agreeable. On the other hand, Francis says that Benedict had been “a great Pope”. “His spirit,” Francis tells us, “will appear greater and more powerful from generation to generation.”With Benedict XVI an era came to an end. He is a Pope for changing times, someone who has built a bridge for the coming new era, however that era will be. His most important reminder for us can be seen when he says: “A society where God is absent destroys itself. This is what we have seen in the great totalitarian experiments of the last century.”
Dec 17 16 5:21 AM
Dec 17 16 4:47 PM
Aleteia - Benedict XVI today sent his best wishes and three mysterious gifts to Pope Francis as he celebrates his 80th birthday.Benedict first offered birthday greetings in a “very warm” written message that was “particularly appreciated,” according to the Vatican. Then, in the afternoon, he called Francis personally.Benedict XVI also sent Pope Francis three gifts which were received “as three very personal and meaningful signs” for them both. The Vatican has not said what the gifts are.The pope began his 80th birthday by inviting 8 homeless people, two women and six men, to his residence at Santa Marta. The 8 guests of various nationalities — four Italians, one Moldovan, two Peruvians and one Romanian — all live around St. Peter’s Square. They were accompanied by the papal almoner, the Polish Archbishop, Konrad Krajewski.The pope welcomed his guests at 7:15 a.m., greeted each of them personally, and thanked them for the three bouquets of sunflowers they offered him for his 80th.The rest of the pope’s day was “normal” for the most part. The Holy Father was particularly delighted at the presence of so many children and young people at an audience with Italian lay community of Nomadelphia [Greek for “law of brotherhood”].Throughout the day, Pope Francis also received telephone calls and telegrams from various world leaders, the Vatican reported. He also received more than 70,000 from all over the world, with birthday wishes. The most numerous were sent in English, Spanish, Polish and Italian.
Dec 31 16 7:10 AM
Jan 11 17 6:57 AM
Jan 12 17 9:45 AM
Jan 13 17 6:29 AM
It is well-known that Pope Francis regularly grants interviews to various media outlets, and has done so since the earliest days of his papacy. As a result, it seems as if each successive interview is received with less fanfare, and the words of the Holy Father are watched with breath a little less bated.His predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, was never one to give interviews so frequently. However, over the last 25 years, he has granted four book-length interviews to German journalist Peter Seewald—Salt of the Earth, God and the World, Light of the World, and now Last Testament: In His Own Words (Bloomsbury, 2016). This most recent (and perhaps final) installment in the series of interviews, Last Testament contains many insights into the life and personality of Joseph Ratzinger.The interviewer, Peter Seewald, brings his own intriguing personal story to these interviews. Raised Catholic, he left the practice of the Faith in his youth and became an ardent communist. It was the time he spent interviewing then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that famously brought Seewald back home to the Church. Their professional relationship developed into a close friendship, and this can be seen in the pages of this latest book.The interview sessions comprising Last Testament began before Benedict’s announcement of his resignation, and continued shortly thereafter. As a result, these interviews—which initially were conceived as research for Seewald’s biography of Benedict—became a venue for Benedict to give an unfiltered account of his papacy, of how he views its successes and failings, as well as one more exploration into his analysis of the blessings and problems of today’s world, and a reflection on his life up to this point.Mr. Seewald spoke with CWR by email in December 2016. His responses were translated by the translator of Last Testament, Jacob Phillips.CWR: You were born in Germany to a Catholic family. Can you tell us a little bit about your faith journey up to this point?Peter Seewald: During the student rebellions of 1968 I began to engage with politics. Christianity seemed something of a relic from the past then. I felt that its mixture of power and madness had to be overcome in order finally to build a genuinely progressive society. So one day I withdrew myself from the Church. I felt liberated, and I fought for the ideas of Marx and Lenin. Now, with the passage of time, I’ve left communism behind me. We did not know then what atrocities and millions of victims Maoism left behind in China (or rather, we did not want to know), but it was clear to me that these ideological systems cannot be reconciled with human dignity.As a journalist who followed developments in society closely, I could now see that with the decline of Christianity in the West, the basic level of our culture, indeed of civilization, completely sank away with it. It was obvious that there was a link between forsaking the conviction that the world is created and belongs to a created order—an eclipse of God—and the danger of a new barbarism. When I had the opportunity of conducting a long interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1992, I was fascinated by the fact that from the faith, knowledge, and tradition of the Catholic Church there are answers that correspond to the problems of our time. Yes, the message the faith brings with it is an offer that one cannot fundamentally dismiss out of hand.CWR: This is the fourth book-length interview you have done with Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict. Whose idea was it to do one more? Did Benedict go into this with the intention of giving his “final word” on his life and papacy, as far as you know?Seewald: Originally, these recordings were not meant for a separate publication, but as an aid to my work on a biography of Ratzinger. However, I then came to see they would constitute an incomparable historical document, and I realized that this text should not be withheld from the world. Pope Benedict was not in favor at first. But I could convince him that the book was a good idea. The prerequisite for him was that Pope Francis gave his consent.So our conversation is not some text published for self-justification, nor did Pope Benedict want to give his “last word.” It just turned out that we had an unexpected chance to get authentic information from the chief shepherd of the world Church, without any distortion from the media. This book clarifies in particular the circumstances and reasons for the historic resignation, and ends the speculations and conspiracy theories which surround it. ( Not really. Seewald failed to ask who pressured Ratzinger into using the title Pope Emeritus - when he personally told a journalist that he wanted to be called Father Benedict - and keeping the papal trappings and household. Those things still give the impression of a sort of shared papacy, especially when the celebrity secretary declares it is so in public. It isn't hard t guess who shaped Ratzinger's retirement and who benefited most from those arrangements. The situation provides both a power base and a bomb shelter as long s Benedict lives. If Seewald had asked awkward questions - or published them at this poin - the door to further access which have been slammed shut)In essence this book is about keeping the doors to Benedict’s life’s work and message open, for this message is something I am convinced is indispensable for the future of the Church, of faith, and of society. CWR: Having done so many interviews with him, and knowing him for so long, was there anything new that you learned in this most recent set of interviews?Seewald: Yes, there was a lot. I didn’t know, for example, that he was completely blind in one eye even before his election as pope, that he had heart problems, that he didn’t expect to live long. ( His heart problems were well known) Expecting a short period of office, one doesn’t make long-term plans but only deals with the most urgent matters.What hit him hardest was his being reproached for anti-Semitism in connection with the Williamson affair. He is one of the pioneers of Catholic-Jewish dialogue. Had he been properly informed about Williamson’s attitude, the reprieve of the excommunication of the Society of St. Pius X bishops would not have happened. ( Nobody ever took responsibility for thsi debacle and nobody was removed. In the interview Ratzinger blames Ecclesia Dei - a less than transparent response. information to FellayHis secretary began his preistly training at SSPX and fed information to Fellay - as Fellay admitted - then there was the email which he conveniently failed to see because he had flu. Why wasn't the second secretary given access to emails? There are many questions still to be answered about this disaster and Ratzinger ought to have removed people.)His humanity is moving. He says that when he needs to think deeply and clearly, he always has to recline on a sofa. And the fact he is not a merely functional character is shown by the story of an unhappy love during his time as a student. He was a fresh-faced, youthful man, who wrote poems and read Hermann Hesse. He had an effect on women, and they had an effect on him. He did not make the decision to be become a celibate priest easily.The book describes his life in service, [a life] whose whole existence was placed in the service of proclaiming Christ, and which subordinated even his own happiness to the most burdensome and thankless tasks. He suffered enormously for it, without becoming embittered.CWR: The interviews for this book took place both before and after Pope Benedict’s resignation announcement in February 2013. How shocked were you at the announcement?Seewald: My reaction was, “Oh no, please don’t, not yet!” A radio reporter called me on my iPhone and asked me whether the news was true or was just a scam.I always knew that for Pope Benedict resignation was a real option. In our interviews published as Light of the World I asked him if he’d ever thought about resignation, and he answered, “If one’s psychological as well as physical power is no longer sufficient, the pope has the right and even the duty to step down.” But I had not expected it actually to take place at that point of time.CWR: When was your next meeting after the resignation? Did the announcement change your plans?Seewald: Our first meeting after the resignation took place in July 2013. This event had of course changed my list of questions. As I mentioned, the background for this project was that it was intended to gather information for a biography. Now propaganda from Ratzinger’s opponents had misleading versions of events dominating the media. They said, “Ratzinger was the wrong choice for pope, the best thing he did was resign.” That was nonsense! Last Testament shows that his papacy was anything but a failure, notwithstanding problems like Vatileaks, the Williamson affair, and the scant support from certain quarters of the Catholic establishment.I believe that Benedict XVI was the collegial and prudent pope which the Second Vatican Council had wished for. With him, everyone knew where they stood. And that which he decreed, although perhaps uncomfortable, faithfully corresponded to the teachings of the Gospel. Moreover, he exercised his office with a unique dignity. (Yes, he did, but he surrounded himself with the wrong people and allowed himself to be effectively isolated from those outside a tight circle approved by his aide. He also allowed too much frippery to be put on his person in liturgies, especially in January 2013 )
CWR: The most recent book, as with each of the others, touches on everything from obscure biographical information to the most profound questions about life, faith, and the last things.Seewald: Joseph Ratzinger is not a jovial, slap-on-the-back person. There are no cheap gimmicks with him. But at the same time he makes it easy to ask difficult questions unflinchingly, and he impresses you with his answers. And the beauty of his words only serves to deepen the clarity of his thinking even further. Anyone reading even just four or five pages of the book would be impressed with the humility with which the Pope Emeritus answers the questions. You can feel and sense his person almost as if he were there: his character, his thinking, his humility, his humor. CWR: I have been an avid reader of the writings of Joseph Ratzinger for years, including his memoirs and your interviews with him. I still learned a great deal about him from this book. Were there any specific new insights that you gained?Seewald: He speaks with a remarkable openness, and neither glosses nor reworks his answers, as politicians like to do in order to present things differently or refine things. It remains a mystery to me, how he could deal with the demands of his stupendous responsibilities as pope in his old age, with his health problems, promulgating three encyclicals and writing his three-volume book on Jesus Christ.In my opinion Joseph Ratzinger is one of the most misunderstood personalities of our time. With his contributions to the Council, the rediscovery of the ancient Church Fathers, the revivifying of doctrine, and the purification and consolidation of the Church, he was not only a force of renewal, but as a theologian on the Petrine chair, one of the most significant popes in history. As a theologian of the people, he has never forgotten that he comes from very simple circumstances, and has always defended the views of the simple faithful against the cold impositions of many university professors. He is the sort of character that simply won’t exist in the future—and can be considered overall, therefore, as the Doctor of the Church for the modern era. CWR: How many hours did you spend interviewing Pope Benedict for this book?Seewald: Maybe 10 or 12. Because he is a very musical person, a poet, an artist, an encounter with him is always cheering. We laughed a lot together. One of his friends once said: “Ratzinger never complains. He is like Mozart—his problems never affect this work.”The great drama of his life was perhaps centered on his ability to keep going when otherwise everything would have been lost. Above all, that requires resources of spiritual strength which, he believes, themselves depend on the cultural and intellectual quality of humanity. When human beings no longer revere God as holy, then nothing else can be sacred to them. And when people lose their spiritual potency, their intellectual potency soon follows. CWR: How long did you spend researching and preparing for the interview sessions?Seewald: It’s hard to say, maybe two months. Because I‘ve been accompanying him as a journalist for more than 20 years, I could gather together a lot of information and then scrutinize what is right and wrong about the image we have of Joseph Ratzinger. We have here a biography spanning Germany of the 20th century, with all the peaks but also the troughs of a historical personality. According to the Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, Ratzinger is one of the most significant intellectuals of the contemporary world, whose bold reflections provide answers for the moral, intellectual, and cultural problems of our time. But above all he is an inspired Father of the Church, who leaves behind a body of writings which is almost inexhaustible. There is also an untold amount of material to deal with, which must be situated in relation to history in order for the actions and statements to be understood at all. The experiences of the aftermath of Nazi-dictatorship, after the atheistic tyrant and apocalyptic Second World War, are a case in point. No one would have dared to say, in 1945, that Christianity is a relic from the past, that we don’t need any longer. On the contrary, it was to be salvation for the future of humanity.CWR: Do you expect to do any other work with the Pope Emeritus in the future? Or other books about him?Seewald: I mentioned that I’m working on a biography of Benedict XVI. One gets a closer understanding of someone through personal proximity to them. You can then “read” someone better, so to speak. On the other hand, however, if you are writing on someone who is indeed a “co-worker in truth,” you must above all make sure you’re writing a truthful account, and this necessitates a degree of critical distance. But with Ratzinger, his life seems to be guided by some force of providence. “Why does everything to do with Ratzinger go wrong?” many people ask. But the real question should be, “Why is so much he does so right and good?” Ratzinger always goes for the whole perspective. He is preoccupied with the question of God, what God means for the human being, meaning how he enables the human being to find out who he is. To enter into the fulfillment of life, by turning to the Creator as a creature, to become an incarnation, such as is offered by the Gospel of Christ.Other popes are characterized primarily by their pontificates. With Ratzinger there is a body of written work which is already great and significant even without his becoming pope. He is not far off being the most widely-read theological teacher worldwide, with editions of his books published in the millions. Above all, he has shown us that religions and science, faith and reason, are not opposites. And that reason is a guarantor for ensuring that religion that does not slip into false fantasies and violent fanaticism. Last but not least, he put in place initiatives which Pope Francis can now extend, with gratitude. CWR: How would you describe the influence Ratzinger/Benedict has had on you over the years?Seewald: From the very beginning, I was impressed by his realism, his courage, and the strength of his spirit. Joseph Ratzinger sees his Church as a resistance movement against the seductive aberrations of the world, against the God-forsakenness of fundamentalist atheism and neo-paganism. Ratzinger is a pragmatist—without losing sight of what is big and great, the complete whole, even for a second. That is where his modern edge lies: the critical perspective, the desire to perceive the real nature of things. How is that possible? By not letting oneself be blinded or manipulated by certain fashions, but at the same time not be narrow-minded or stiff, but open to what must necessarily be changed. Then having the courage to do the things which need to be done.Neither as a theologian nor as pope did Ratzinger put forward his own system of doctrine. He is a teacher for the whole Church, because he always goes to the center, to Jesus Christ. He has shown us Jesus once again, the whole Jesus. The image of Jesus has become tattered by certain theologies and media representations. No one other than Ratzinger had the authority and gifts to show that we can trust the Gospel, both spiritually and historically. I believe that Pope Benedict has made a decisive contribution against the dilution of the Gospel, and laid the foundations for the faith in the 21st century.What always impressed me was the continuity of the life of Pope Benedict. The continuity in his teaching, but also in his attitude, being both critical while being formed by love for God and humanity. Perhaps the very fact that he is always slandered makes his testimony all the truer. At the end of his life, at any rate, he is at peace with himself and in the Lord—quite simply because he always performed his tasks with all the gifts that had been laid in his hands.I consider Pope Benedict XVI to mark a turning-point, a link between two worlds, one who has built a bridge between the old world and the coming of the new—whatever it might bring. His most important sentiment is: “A society from which God is absent, destroys itself.”
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Music moves the soul in unrivaled fashion, giving expression to a full range of emotions, intellectual harmony, and our desire for transcendence. It is a sacramental expression of what resides within us, from the lowest to the highest.Benedict has a great love for classical music, especially for Mozart. Pope Francis, on the other hand, has expressed his great love of tango, which he says “comes from deep within me.” ( Francis has also expressed an appreciation for opera) He has shared the names some of his favorite tango composers and in a previous article I posted some video selections of their pieces. This difference in musical taste provides a fitting image of the different sensibilities and styles of the two popes: the serene and even sublime transcendence of the classical versus the turbulent passion of the people’s dance. - (Ridiculous conclusion. So Francis has no serenity and Ratzinger has no passion? Why does the Register persist in this foolish game of comparisons? And they love the grand papal title too - a title Joseph Ratzinger never wanted and that he was bullied into using.)In Benedict’s recent interview book, The Last Testament, he lists some of his favorite classical pieces. I’ll provide links to some of them below, but first want to give some background.In a previous interview, also with Peter Seewald, Salt of the Earth, Benedict describes Mozart’s role in his childhood:You are a great lover of Mozart.Yes! Although we moved around a very great deal in my childhood, the family basically always remained in the area between the Inn and the Salzach. And the largest and most important and best parts of my youth I spent in Traunstein, which very much reflects the influence of Salzburg. You might say that there Mozart thoroughly penetrated our souls, and his music still touches me very deeply, because it is so luminous and yet at the same time so deep. His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence (47).Benedict played Mozart on piano throughout his life, and continues to do so in retirement. At least as of a couple of years ago, Gänswein, who remains his secretary,(Yes he needs that security blanket) stated: “In the last few weeks he has resumed playing the piano more often—mostly Mozart but also other pieces that come into his mind and which he plays from memory.”Ratzinger gave a lecture to Communion and Liberation on beauty, “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty,” which should be required reading for all. In it he describes a powerful moment in his life, listening to Bach:The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgement and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true". The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration.This is a powerful reminder to us of the spiritual impact of music, which cannot be overlooked in the liturgy (see Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy for more on this connection). It can be both positive and negative (the latter of which is only too common). Pope Benedict described a similar reaction to Mozart, while joining others in commemorating the composer’s 250th birthday:When in our home parish of Traunstein on feast days a Mass by Mozart resounded, for me, a little country boy, it seemed as if heaven stood open. In the front, in the sanctuary, columns of incense had formed in which the sunlight was broken; at the altar the sacred action took place of which we knew that heaven opened for us. And from the choir sounded music that could only come from heaven; music in which was revealed to us the jubilation of the angels over the beauty of God. . . . I have to say that something like this happens to me still when I listen to Mozart. Mozart is pure inspiration — or at least I feel it so. Each tone is correct and could not be different. The message is simply present. . . . The joy that Mozart gives us, and I feel this anew in every encounter with him, is not due to the omission of a part of reality; it is an expression of a higher perception of the whole, something I can only call inspiration out of which his compositions seem to flow naturally.Now back to The Last Testament. Benedict makes a practical point, which should help us both in our reading of books and appreciation of music. Asked if he listens to music while writing, he replies: “I would find it a disturbance. Either music or writing.” (That's his preference. Others feel differently) This reminds of a professor who asked us not to listen to any music while reading St. Thomas for homework. I pushed back, but he told me that I would be doing a disservice both to St. Thomas and Mozart to divide my attention between them. It proved to be excellent advice and I would encourage others to take it up: read in silence and when listening to classical music, do exactly that. (People should be encouraged to make their own decisions, not merely follow the edicts of others)Benedict is asked further:What are your favorite pieces by Mozart?There is a clarinet quintet that I really life. Then the Coronation Mass, of course. The Requiem I’ve particularly enjoyed. It was the first concert I heard in my life, in Salzburg. Then Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. We tried to play that on the piano as a duet when we were children. The Magic Flute, naturally, and of the operas I would still say Don Giovanni.One or two favorite pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach?Yes, Bach—the B Minor Mass is particularly dear to me. I’ve asked my brother for a new recording of it for Christmas. Then the St. Matthew Passion of course.Here are links to some of Benedict’s favorite pieces. Enjoy and hopefully be moved as Benedict himself was listening to them.Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet:Mozart’s Coronation Mass:
Bach’s Mass in B Minor
You are a great lover of Mozart.Yes! Although we moved around a very great deal in my childhood, the family basically always remained in the area between the Inn and the Salzach. And the largest and most important and best parts of my youth I spent in Traunstein, which very much reflects the influence of Salzburg. You might say that there Mozart thoroughly penetrated our souls, and his music still touches me very deeply, because it is so luminous and yet at the same time so deep. His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence (47).
The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgement and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true". The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration.
When in our home parish of Traunstein on feast days a Mass by Mozart resounded, for me, a little country boy, it seemed as if heaven stood open. In the front, in the sanctuary, columns of incense had formed in which the sunlight was broken; at the altar the sacred action took place of which we knew that heaven opened for us. And from the choir sounded music that could only come from heaven; music in which was revealed to us the jubilation of the angels over the beauty of God. . . . I have to say that something like this happens to me still when I listen to Mozart. Mozart is pure inspiration — or at least I feel it so. Each tone is correct and could not be different. The message is simply present. . . . The joy that Mozart gives us, and I feel this anew in every encounter with him, is not due to the omission of a part of reality; it is an expression of a higher perception of the whole, something I can only call inspiration out of which his compositions seem to flow naturally.
What are your favorite pieces by Mozart?There is a clarinet quintet that I really life. Then the Coronation Mass, of course. The Requiem I’ve particularly enjoyed. It was the first concert I heard in my life, in Salzburg. Then Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. We tried to play that on the piano as a duet when we were children. The Magic Flute, naturally, and of the operas I would still say Don Giovanni.One or two favorite pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach?Yes, Bach—the B Minor Mass is particularly dear to me. I’ve asked my brother for a new recording of it for Christmas. Then the St. Matthew Passion of course.
Feb 10 17 3:38 PM
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