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Feb 8 16 6:50 AM
Mar 17 16 6:47 AM
“I believe it is a ‘sign of the times’ that the idea of God’s mercy is becoming increasingly central and dominant.” Benedict XVI says so in a book on sale now, titled “Per mezzo della fede. Dottrina della giustificazione ed esperienza di Dio nella predicazione della Chiesa” (“Through the faith. Doctrine of the justification and experience of God in the preaching of the Church” (rough translation), San Paolo editore, pp. 199, €20). The volume, which is edited by the Jesuit Daniele Libanori, contains the conference proceedings from a theological meeting held in Rome last October. At that meeting, Georg Gänswein read out the text of an interview between Jesuit theologian Jacques Servais and Ratzinger, on “what faith is and how one comes to believe.” In the interview, Benedict XVI mentions his successor and explores the concept of mercy. Ratzinger starts off by emphasising what the Church is and the fact that the Church did not build itself. “It is about asking the question: what is the faith and how does one come to believe. On the one hand, faith is a deeply personal communication with God, which touches my very core and places me in direct contact with the living God so that I can talk to Him, love Him and enter into communion with Him. At the same time, this highly personal experience is inextricably linked to the community: becoming one of God’s children in the community of pilgrim brothers and sisters is part of the essence of the faith. Paul teaches us that faith comes from listening (fides ex auditu). Listening, meanwhile, involves having a partner. Faith is not a result of reflection, nor is it an attempt to penetrate the inner depths of my being. Both can be present but are insufficient without the act of listening through which, God from the outside calls me, staring with a story created by Him. In order for me to believe I need witnesses who have met God and make Him accessible to me.”“The Church did not build itself,” Ratzinger points out, “it was created by God and is continuously moulded by Him though the sacraments, particularly baptism: I enter the Church not by means of a bureaucratic act but through the sacrament. This means I am received by an outward looking community that did not create itself. These factors must form the basis of pastoral care, which aims to shape the spiritual experience of faithful. It must abandon the idea of a self-producing Church, emphasising the fact that the Church becomes a community in communion with the body of Christ. It must prepare for the encounter with Jesus Christ and bring about His presence in the sacrament.” Responding to another question, the Pope Emeritus speaks about the central importance of mercy. “Mankind today has this vague sensation that God cannot let the majority of humanity take the road of perdition. As such, the concerns people once had regarding salvation have for the most part disappeared. In my opinion, however, there is still a perception that we are all in need of grace and forgiveness, it just exists in a different way. I believe it is ‘a sign of the times’ that the idea of God’s mercy is becoming increasingly central and dominant – starting with Sister Faustina, whose visions in various ways deeply reflect God’s image among today’s mankind and its desire for divine goodness.” “Pope John Paul II,” Ratzinger continues, “felt this impulse very strongly even though this was not always immediately apparent. But it is certainly no coincidence that his last book, which was published just before his death, talks about God’s mercy. Inspired by his experience of human cruelty right from his younger days, he states that mercy is the only true and ultimately efficient reaction against the force of evil. Only where there is mercy does cruelty cease to exist, do evil and violence cease to exist.” “Pope Francis,” Benedict XVI continued, referring to his successor, fully shares this line. His pastoral practice finds expression in his continuous references to God’s mercy. It is mercy that steers us towards God, while justice makes us fearful in his presence. I believe this shows that beneath the veneer of self-confidence and self-righteousness, today’s mankind conceals a profound knowledge of its wounds and unworthiness before God. It awaits mercy. It is certainly no coincidence that people today find the parable of the Good Samaritan particularly attractive. And not just because it strongly highlights the social aspect of human existence, nor just because in it the Samaritan, a non-religious man, seems to act according to God’s will towards religious representatives, while official religious representatives have become immune, so to speak, to God.” “Clearly the people of today like this,” Benedict XVI observes. “But I also find it equally important that deep down, humans expect the Samaritan to come to their rescue that he will bend down and poor oil on their wounds, take care of them and bring them to safety. Essentially, they know they need God’s mercy and gentleness. In today’s tough and technified world where feelings no longer count for anything, expectations are growing for a redeeming love that is given freely. It seems to me that in divine mercy, the meaning of justifying faith is expressed in a new way. Through God’s mercy – which everyone seeks -, it is possible even today to interpret the crux of the doctrine of justification, fully ensuring its relevance.”
Mar 17 16 10:52 AM
We publish here the full text of the interview with Benedict XVI in the book, "Through Faith: Doctrine of Justification and Experience of God in the Preaching of the Church and the Spiritual Exercises" by Jesuit Fr. Daniel Libanori (Cinisello Balsamo, Edizioni San Paolo, 2016, 208 pages, € 20) in which the retired Pope speaks of the centrality of compassion in the Christian faith. The volume contains the proceedings of a conference that took place last October in Rome.As noted by Filippo Rizzi of Avvenire on March 16, who published excerpts from the interview, the conductor of the interview (whose name does not appear in the book) was the Jesuit Jacques Servais, a student of Hans Urs von Balthasar and scholar of his works.The InterviewFr. Jacques Servais, S.J.: Your Holiness, the question posed this year as part of the study days promoted by the rectory of the Gesu (the residence for Jesuit seminarians in Rome) is that of justification by faith. The last volume of your collected works highlights your resolute affirmation: “The Christian faith is not an idea, but a life.” Commenting on the famous Pauline affirmation in Romans 3:28, you mentioned, in this regard, a twofold transcendence: “Faith is a gift to the believers communicated through the community, which for its part is the result of God’s gift” (“Glaube ist Gabe durch die Gemeinschaft; die sich selbst gegeben wird ‘, gs iv, 512). Could you explain what you meant by that statement, taking into account of course the fact that the aim of these days of study is to clarify the pastoral theology and vivify the spiritual experience of the faithful? Benedict XVI: The question concerns what faith is and how one comes to believe.On the one hand, faith is a profoundly personal contact with God, that touches me in my innermost being and places me in front of the living God in absolute immediacy in such a way that I can speak with Him, love Him and enter into communion with Him.But at the same time this reality which is so fundamentally personal also has inseparably to do with the community. It is an essential part of faith that I be introduced into the “we” of the sons and daughters of God, into the pilgrim community of brothers and sisters.The encounter with God means also, at the same time, that I myself become open, torn from my closed solitude and received into the living community of the Church.That living community is also a mediator of my encounter with God, though that encounter touches my heart in an entirely personal way. Faith comes from hearing (fides ex auditu), St. Paul teaches us.Listening in turn always implies a partner.Faith is not a product of reflection, nor is it even an attempt to penetrate the depths of my own being.Both of these things may be present, but they remain insufficient without the “listening” through which God, from without, from a story He himself created, challenges me.In order for me to believe, I need witnesses who have met God and make Him accessible to me.In my article on baptism I spoke of the double transcendence of the community, in this way causing to emerge once again an important element: the faith community does not create itself.It is not an assembly of men who have some ideas in common and who decide to work for the spread of such ideas. Then everything would be based on its own decision and, in the final analysis, on the majority vote principle, that is, in the end it would be based on human opinion.A Church built in this way cannot be, for me, the guarantor of eternal life nor require decisions from me that make me suffer and are contrary to my desires.No, the Church is not self-made, she was created by God and she is continuously formed by him.This finds expression in the sacraments, above all in that of baptism: I enter into the Church not by a bureaucratic act, but through the sacrament.And this is to say that I am welcomed into a community that did not originate in itself and is projected beyond itself. The ministry that aims to form the spiritual experience of the faithful must proceed from these fundamental givens.It is necessary to abandon the idea of a Church which produces herself and to make clear that the Church becomes a community in the communion of the body of Christ. The Church must introduce the individual Christian into an encounter with Jesus Christ and bring Christians into His presence in the sacrament.Fr. Servais: When you were Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, commenting on the Joint Declaration of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the Doctrine of Justification of October 31, 1999, you pointed out a difference of mentality in relation to Luther and the question of salvation and blessedness as he had posed it. The religious experience of Luther was dominated by terror before the wrath of God, a feeling quite alien to modern men, who sense rather the absence of God (see your article in Communio, 2000, 430). For these, the problem is not so much how to obtain eternal life, but rather how to ensure, in the precarious conditions of our world, a certain balance of fully human life. Can the teaching of St. Paul of justification by faith, in this new context, reach the “religious” experience or at least the “elementary” experience of our contemporaries?Pope Benedict XVI: First of all, I want to emphasize once again what I wrote in Communio (2000) on the issue of justification.For the man of today, compared to those of the time of Luther and to those holding the classical perspective of the Christian faith, things are in a certain sense inverted, or rather, is no longer man who believes he needs justification before God, but rather he is of the opinion that God is obliged to justify himself because of all the horrible things in the world and in the face of the misery of being human, all of which ultimately depend on Him.In this regard, I find it significant that a Catholic theologian may profess even in a direct and formal way this inverted position: that Christ did not suffer for the sins of men, but rather, as it were, had “canceled the guilt of God.”Even if most Christians today would not share such a drastic reversal of our faith, we could say that all of this reveals an underlying trend of our times. When Johann Baptist Metz argues that theology today must be “sensitive to theodicy” (theodizeeempfindlich), this highlights the same problem in a positive way.Even prescinding from such a radical contestation of the Church’s vision of the relationship between God and man, the man of today has in a very general way the sense that God cannot let most of humanity be damned. In this sense, the concern for the personal salvation of souls typical of past times has for the most part disappeared.However, in my opinion, there continues to exist, in another way, the perception that we are in need of grace and forgiveness. For me it is a “sign of the times” the fact that the idea of the mercy of God should become more and more central and dominant — starting from Sister Faustina, whose visions in various ways reflect deeply the image of God held by the men of today and their desire for the divine goodness.Pope John Paul II was deeply impregnated by this impulse, even if this did not always emerge explicitly.But it is certainly not by chance that his last book, published just before his death, speaks of God’s mercy. Starting from the experiences which, from the earliest years of life, exposed him to all of the cruel acts men can perform, he affirms that mercy is the only true and ultimate effective reaction against the power of evil.Only where there is mercy does cruelty end, only with mercy do evil and violence end.Pope Francis is totally in agreement with this line. His pastoral practice is expressed in the fact that he continually speaks to us of God’s mercy.It is mercy that moves us towards God, while justice frightens us before Him.In my view, this makes clear that, under a veneer of self-assuredness and self-righteousness, the man of today hides a deep knowledge of his wounds and his unworthiness before God. He is waiting for mercy.It is certainly no coincidence that the parable of the Good Samaritan is particularly attractive to contemporary man. And not just because that parable strongly emphasizes the social dimension of Christian existence, nor only because in it the Samaritan, the man not religious, in comparison with the representatives of religion seems, so to speak, as one who acts really so in conformity with God, while the official representatives of religion seem, as it were, immune to God.This clearly pleases modern man.But it seems just as important to me, nevertheless, that men in their intimate consciences expect the Samaritan will come to their aid, that he will bend down over them, pour oil on their wounds, care for them and take them to safety. In the final analysis, they know that they need God’s mercy and his tenderness.In the hardness of the technologized world in which feelings no longer count for anything, the expectation however increases of a saving love that is freely given.It seems to me that in the theme of divine mercy is expressed in a new way what is means by justification by faith. Starting from the mercy of God, which everyone is looking for, it is possible even today to interpret anew the fundamental nucleus of the doctrine of justification and have it appear again in all its relevance.When Anselm says that Christ had to die on the cross to repair the infinite offense that had been made to God, and in this way to restore the shattered order, he uses a language which is difficult for modern man to accept (cfr. Gs 215.ss iv).Expressing oneself in this way, one risks likely to project onto God an image of a God of wrath, relentless toward the sin of man, with feelings of violence and aggression comparable with what we we can experience ourselves.How is it possible to speak of God’s justice without potentially undermining the certainty, deeply established among the faithful, that the God of the Christians is a God “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4)?The conceptuality of St. Anselm has now become for us incomprehensible. It is our job to try again to understand the truth that lies behind this mode of expression.For my part I offer three points of view on this point:a) the contrast between the Father, who insists in an absolute way on justice, and the Son who obeys the Father and, obedient, accepts the cruel demands of justice, is not only incomprehensible today, but, from the point of view of Trinitarian theology, is in itself all wrong.The Father and the Son are one and therefore their will is intrinsically one.When the Son, in the Garden of Olives, struggles with the will of the Father, it is not a matter of accepting for himself a cruel disposition of God, but rather of attracting humanity into the very will of God. We will have to come back again, later, to the relationship of the two wills of the Father and of the Son.b) So why the cross and the atonement? Somehow today, in the contortions of modern thought we mentioned above, the answer to these questions can be formulated in a new way.Let’s place ourselves in front of the incredible amount of evil, violence, falsehood, hatred, cruelty and arrogance that infect and destroy the whole world. This mass of evil cannot simply be declared non-existent, not even by God. It must be cleansed, reworked and overcome.Ancient Israel was convinced that the daily sacrifice for sins and above all the great liturgy of the Day of Atonement (Yom-Kippur) were necessary as a counterweight to the mass of evil in the world and that only through such rebalancing the world could, as it were, remain bearable. Once the sacrifices in the temple disappeared, it had to be asked what could be opposed to the higher powers of evil, how to find somehow a counterweight.The Christians knew that the temple destroyed was replaced by the resurrected body of the crucified Lord and in his radical and incommensurable love was created a counterweight to the immeasurable presence of evil. Indeed, they knew that the offers presented up until then could only be conceived of as a gesture of longing for a genuine counterweight.They also knew that in front of the excessive power of evil only an infinite love was enough, only an infinite atonement. They knew that the crucified and risen Christ is a power that can counter the power of evil and save the world.And on this basis they could even understand the meaning of their own sufferings as inserted into the suffering love of Christ, and included as part of the redemptive power of such love.Above I quoted the theologian for whom God had to suffer for his sins in regard to the world. Now, due to this reversal of perspective, the following truths emerge: God simply cannot leave “as is” the mass of evil that comes from the freedom that he himself has granted. Only He, coming to share in the world’s suffering, can redeem the world.c) On this basis, the relationship between the Father and the Son becomes more comprehensible.I will reproduce here on this subject a passage from the book by Henri de Lubac on Origen which I feel is very clear:“The Redeemer came into the world out of compassion for mankind. He took upon himself our passions even before being crucified, indeed even before descending to assume our flesh: if he had not experienced them beforehand, he would not have come to partake of our human life.“But what was this suffering that he endured in advance for us?“It was the passion of love. But the Father himself, the God of the universe, he who is overflowing with long-suffering, patience, mercy and compassion, does he also not suffer in a certain sense? ‘The Lord your God, in fact, has taken upon himself your ways as the one who takes upon himself his son’ (Deuteronomy 1, 31). God thus takes upon himself our customs as the Son of God took upon himself our sufferings. The Father himself is not without passion! If He is invoked, then He knows mercy and compassion. He perceives a suffering of love (Homilies on Ezekiel 6:6).”In some parts of Germany there was a very moving devotion that contemplated the Not Gottes (“poverty of God”). For my part, that makes pass before my eyes an impressive image representing the suffering Father, who, as Father, shares inwardly the sufferings of the Son.And also the image of the “throne of grace” is part of this devotion: the Father supports the cross and the crucified, bends lovingly over him and the two are, as it were, together on the cross.So in a grand and pure way, one perceives there what God’s mercy means, what the participation of God in man’s suffering means. It is not a mater of a cruel justice, not a matter of the Father’s fanaticism, but rather of the truth and the reality of creation: the true intimate overcoming of evil that ultimately can be realized only in the suffering of love.Fr. Servais: In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola does not use the Old Testament images of revenge, as opposed to Paul (cfr. 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-9); nevertheless he invites us to contemplate how men, until the Incarnation, “descended into hell” (Spiritual Exercises n. 102; see. ds iv, 376) and to consider the example of the “countless others who ended up there for far fewer sins than I have I committed” (Spiritual Exercises, n. 52).It is in this spirit that St. Francis Xavier lived his pastoral work, convinced he had to try to save from the terrible fate of eternal damnation as many “infidels” as possible. The teaching, formalized in the Council of Trent, in the passage with regard to the judgment of the good and the evil, later radicalized by the Jansenists, was taken up in a much more restrained way in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cfr. § 5 633, 1037). Can it be said that on this point, in recent decades, there has been a kind of “development of dogma” that the Catechism should definitely take into account?Pope Benedict XVI: There is no doubt that on this point we are faced with a profound evolution of dogma.While the fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages could still be of the opinion that, essentially, the whole human race had become Catholic and that paganism existed now only on the margins, the discovery of the New World at the beginning of the modern era radically changed perspectives.In the second half of the last century it has been fully affirmed the understanding that God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized and that even a purely natural happiness for them does not represent a real answer to the question of human existence.If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost — and this explains their missionary commitment — in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned. From this came a deep double crisis.On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic.If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself become unmotivated. Lately several attempts have been formulated in order to reconcile the universal necessity of the Christian faith with the opportunity to save oneself without it.I will mention here two: first, the well-known thesis of the anonymous Christians of Karl Rahner. He sustains that the basic, essential act at the basis of Christian existence, decisive for salvation, in the transcendental structure of our consciousness, consists in the opening to the entirely Other, toward unity with God.The Christian faith would in this view cause to rise to consciousness what is structural in man as such. So when a man accepts himself in his essential being, he fulfills the essence of being a Christian without knowing what it is in a conceptual way. The Christian, therefore, coincides with the human and, in this sense, every man who accepts himself is a Christian even if he does not know it.It is true that this theory is fascinating, but it reduces Christianity itself to a pure conscious presentation of what a human being is in himself and therefore overlooks the drama of change and renewal that is central to Christianity.Even less acceptable is the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion, for which all religions, each in their own way, would be ways of salvation and in this sense, in their effects must be considered equivalent.The critique of religion of the kind exercised in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and in the early Church is essentially more realistic, more concrete and true in its examination of the various religions. Such a simplistic reception is not proportional to the magnitude of the issue.Let us recall, lastly, above all Henri de Lubac and with him some other theologians who have reflected on the concept of vicarious substitution. For them the “pro-existence” (“being for”) of Christ would be an expression of the fundamental figure of the Christian life and of the Church as such. It is possible to explain this “being for” in a somewhat more abstract way. It is important to mankind that there is truth in it, this is believed and practiced. That one suffers for it. That one loves. These realities penetrate with their light into the world as such and support it.I think that in this present situation it becomes for us ever more clear what the Lord said to Abraham, that is, that 10 righteous would have been sufficient to save a city, but that it destroys itself if such a small number is not reached.It is clear that we need to further reflect on the whole question.Fr. Servais: In the eyes of many secular humanists, marked by the atheism of the 19th and 20th centuries, as you have noted, it is rather God — if he exists — not man who should be held accountable for injustice, the suffering of the innocent, the cynicism of power we are witnessing, powerless, in the world and in world history (see. Spe Salvi, n. 42) … In your book Jesus of Nazareth, you echo what for them — and for us — is a scandal: “The reality of injustice, of evil, cannot be simply ignored, simply put aside. It absolutely must be overcome and conquered. Only in this way is there really mercy” (Jesus of Nazareth, ii 153, quoting 2 Timothy 2:13). Is the sacrament of confession, one of the places where evil can be “repaired”? If so, how?Pope Benedict XVI: I have already tried to expose as a whole the main points related to this issue in my answer to your third question. The counterweight to the dominion of evil can consist in the first place only in the divine-human love of Jesus Christ that is always greater than any possible power of evil.But it is necessary that we place ourselves inside this answer that God gives us through Jesus Christ.Even if the individual is responsible for a fragment of evil, and therefore is an accomplice of evil’s power, together with Christ he can nevertheless “complete what is lacking in his sufferings” (cfr. Colossians 1, 24).The sacrament of penance certainly has an important role in this field.It means that we always allow ourselves to be molded and transformed by Christ and that we pass continuously from the side of him who destroys to the side of Him who saves.
Mar 22 16 6:20 PM
Catholics can no longer believe that all Muslims, Hindus, atheists and so on are going to hell. We have this on the authority of the former Pope Benedict XVI, who gave a long interview a couple of years ago that has only just surfaced in English. Benedict’s view must be definitive, not just because he was a pope, but because he was a notably conservative one.Remove the threat of hell for people who are honestly mistaken, and you have a problem: if you don’t have to be a Christian to be saved, what is the point? This is a question that really troubles Benedict. It has led, he says, to a “deep double crisis” in the church. First, it takes away the inspiration for the heroic missionary efforts of the past, and indeed takes away the point of being a missionary in the future. Worse than that, though, it raises the question of why anyone already a Christian should bother to keep it up when they are going to heaven anyway.The pope emeritus is not the first person to raise this question. It is a commonplace of the sociology of religion that hardline sects, which really do believe that everyone outside them is damned, can demand much greater commitment than those that simply think it would be nice if everyone were right. One reason that the world is full of intolerant fanaticism is that it works. Believing wicked things gives you the energy to propagate them too.But the old pope can’t go back. He can’t believe that untold millions are being tormented forever by a loving God just because the same loving and omnipotent God arranged for them to be born in countries that are not Christian. So what can he believe? The answer is quite incomprehensible to me, but before he gets there, he considers and rejects two perfectly straightforward and popular explanations. The first is the idea of the “anonymous Christian”, which comes from the German theologian Karl Rahner. This says essentially that anyone who sincerely opens themselves to God has grasped and is practising the essence of Christianity. Since God, in this view, is the essence of humanity, “The Christian … coincides with the human and, in this sense, every man who accepts himself is a Christian, even if he does not know it.”But that’s not good enough for Benedict because it takes no account of the need for conversion, for “the drama of change and renewal that is central to Christianity”.Still less will he tolerate what many people actually believe, which is that all religions walk a path towards the same God. He prefers the straightforward view of the Bible and the early church, that all other gods are idols or in fact demons, something that inspired a wonderful passage in Paradise Lost where the fallen angels leave hell to take the form of gods and to corrupt the world – “First Moloch, horrid King, besmeared with blood of human sacrifice and parents’ tears” – but if this is taken literally it’s very hard to see how these demon worshiperscould be saved.In the end, Benedict seems to take refuge in the idea that God keeps the world going because of Christians, and that we are all here because some people at least have grasped the true religion: “It is important to mankind that there is truth in it, this is believed and practised. That one suffers for it. That one loves. These realities penetrate with their light into the world as such and support it. I think that in this present situation it becomes for us ever more clear what the Lord said to Abraham, that is, that 10 righteous would have been sufficient to save a city, but that it destroys itself if such a small number is not reached.”It’s easy to laugh at this, but in some form his dilemma is shared by all universalist theories about what people really need to be happy in a world that is profoundly multicultural. Traditionalists such as the pope believe that liberal self-actualisation is a delusion that can only lead to misery; feminists and egalitarians are sure that no one can be completely fulfilled in a patriarchal and hierarchical society. It’s not just popes who find it hard to believe that there are many ways to salvation. We are all guilty.
Mar 25 16 1:46 AM
When you’re doing the laundry, the rinse cycle generally comes ahead of the spin. In the media world these days, however, sometimes it seems all we’ve got is the spin cycle, without the clarifying rinse that allows things to be seen for what they actually are.On the Vatican beat, we’ve had several examples in recent days of developments or statements that have been spun in a variety of ways, and which are probably overdue for a rinse.To begin, there’s an interview with emeritus Pope Benedict XVI released last week, one of the rare times he’s broken his public silence since his resignation in February 2013. In it Benedict reflects on the doctrine of justification, and in particular about a “deep double crisis” he sees facing the faith today.Benedict observes that Catholicism has lived through a “profound evolution of dogma,” from once believing that no one outside the Church can be saved, to now holding that “God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized.”That evolution, he noted, has had two negative consequences: First, it’s reduced the motive for missionary work, and second, it’s raised the question of why one should be Christian if you can get to Heaven without the demands it imposes.In some quarters, people assumed Benedict was calling for a return to the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, meaning “outside the church there is no salvation,” and therefore that he was critiquing both the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis.In fact, that’s not the story. Benedict says the idea of salvation outside the Church has been “fully affirmed,” and he was simply noting that it has had some unforeseen results. He finds the approach of Henri de Lubac and other theologians promising; they see Christian life as a form of “being for” the world, bringing it truth and light, and says “it is clear that we need to further reflect on the whole question.”As far as Francis goes, Benedict also had words of praise for his successor’s focus on mercy, linking it to that of St. John Paul II. This, too, generated a wave of spin, especially among people who are on pins and needles for the forthcoming apostolic exhortation Francis is set to issue on the family, in which he’s expected to address the question of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.Some thought Benedict was trying to influence the outcome of that document, others that perhaps he was trying to soften the blow of a decision that will rile conservatives by offering Francis an implied thumbs-up.Those bits of spin, however, are also likely overheated. This interview actually took place in October 2015, and was released last week only because that’s when a new book in which it appears was released.To connect the timing directly to the exhortation, therefore, is a stretch. - Not too much of a stretch given who manages Benedict "news cycle" and what the manager's views are.
Jun 28 16 11:14 PM
Nov 26 16 9:23 AM
As the Church enters the liturgical season of Advent, a time of expectation and anticipation of Christ’s return in glory, it’s perhaps timely to publish here for the first time Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's recent thoughts on the Last Things.In this extract from the new book, Last Testament – In His Own Words — Pope Benedict XVI With Peter Seewald, the Pope Emeritus discusses his approach to death, judgment and how close he feels to Jesus as he reaches the end of his earthly life.He also reflects on the “dark night” of the soul, dealing with the problem of evil, and his expectations of the life to come. PETER SEEWALD: The central point of your reflections was always the personal encounter with Christ. How is that now? How close have you come to Jesus?BENEDICT XVI: [Deep intake of breath] Well, naturally that is relative to different situations, but in the liturgy, in prayer, in contemplations for Sunday’s sermon, I see him directly before me. He is of course always great and full of mystery I now find many statements from the Gospels more challenging in their greatness and gravity than I did before. Indeed, this recalls an episode from my time as a chaplain. One day Romano Guardini was a guest of the neighboring Protestant parish, and said to the Protestant pastor, ‘in old age it doesn’t get easier, but harder’. That deeply impacted and moved my then priest. But there is something true in it. On the one hand, in old age you are more deeply practiced, so to speak. Life has taken its shape. The fundamental decisions have been made. On the other hand, one feels the difficulty of life’s questions more deeply, one feels the weight of today’s godlessness, the weight of the absence of faith which goes deep into the Church, but then one also feels the greatness of Jesus Christ’s words, which evade interpretation more often than before. Is this connected to a loss of God’s nearness? Or with doubt?Not doubt, but one feels how far one is removed from the greatness of the mystery. Of course new insights are opened up again and again. I find this touching and comforting. But one also notices that the depths of the Word are never fully plumbed. And some words of wrath, of rejection, of the threat of judgment, certainly become more mysterious and grave and awesome than before. One imagines that the Pope, the representative of Christ on earth, must have a particularly close, intimate relationship to the Lord.Yes, it should be that way, and I did not have the feeling that he was far away. I am always able to speak with him inwardly. But I am nevertheless just a lowly little man who does not always reach all the way up to him.Do you experience the ‘dark nights’ of which the saints speak?Not as intensely. Maybe because I am not holy enough to get so deep into the darkness. But when things just happen in the sphere of human events, where one says: ‘How can the loving God permit that?’, the questions are certainly very big questions. Then one must maintain firmly, in faith, that He knows better. Have these ‘dark nights’ existed in your life at all?Let’s say they’ve not darkened the whole, but the difficulty so often with God is the question of why there’s so much evil and so forth; how something can be reconciled with His almighty power, with His goodness, and this certainly assails faith in different situations time and again. How does one deal with such problems of faith?Primarily by the fact that I do not let go of the foundational certainty of faith, because I stand in it, so to speak, but also because I know if I do not understand something that doesn’t mean that it is wrong, but that I am too small for it. With many things it has been like this: I gradually grew to see it this way. More and more it is a gift; you suddenly see something which was not perceptible before. You realize that you must be humble, you must wait when you can’t enter into a passage of the scriptures, until the Lord opens it up for you. And does He open it up?Not always. But the fact that such moments of realization happen signifies something great for me in itself. Does a Papa emeritus fear death? Or fear dying at least? In a certain respect, yes. For one thing there is the fear that one is imposing on people through a long period of disability. I would find that very distressing. My father always had a fear of death too; it has endured with me, but lessened. Another thing is that, despite all the confidence I have that the loving God cannot forsake me, the closer you come to his face, the more intensely you feel how much you have done wrong. In this respect the burden of guilt always weighs on someone, but the basic trust is of course always there.What bears heavily on you?Well, that you have not done enough for people, not treated people rightly. Oh, there are so many details, not very significant things – thanks be to God – but just so many things where you have to say that something could and should have been done better.So when you stand before the Almighty, what will you say to him? I will plead with him to show leniency towards my wretchedness. The believer trusts that ‘eternal life’ is a life fulfilled.Definitely! Then he is truly at home. What are you expecting?There are various dimensions. Some are more theological. St Augustine says something which is a great thought and a great comfort here. He interprets the passage from the Psalms ‘seek his face always’ as saying: this applies ‘for ever’; to all eternity. God is so great that we never finish our searching. He is always new. With God there is perpetual, unending encounter, with new discoveries and new joy. Such things are theological matters. At the same time, in an entirely human perspective, I look forward to being reunited with my parents, my siblings, my friends, and I imagine it will be as lovely as it was at our family home. Eschatology, the doctrine of the ‘last things’ – death, purgatory, the dawn of a new world – is one of the fundamental themes of your work, what the book you consider your best is about. Are you able to profit from your theology today, when you personally stand immediately before these eschatological questions?Indeed, especially what I considered about purgatory, about the nature of pain, the meaning it has, and also about the communal character of beatitude. I think about these because it is very important to me to believe that one is immersed in a great ocean of joy and love, so to speak. Do you consider yourself one of the enlightened?No I don’t! [Laughs] No. But is enlightenment, next to holiness, not also a definite goal of the Catholic life in Christ?Now, the concept ‘enlightened’ has something a little elitist about it. I am an entirely average Christian. Naturally Christianity is about a concern to recognize the truth, which is light. By virtue of faith a simple man is enlightened, because he sees what others, who are so clever, cannot perceive. In this sense, faith is enlightenment. Baptism in Greek means a photism, an enlightenment, a coming into the light, becoming one who sees. My eyes are then opened. I see this dimension which is wholly other, something it is not possible for me to perceive with the eyes of the body alone.
Dec 7 16 8:02 AM
I had thought, and you probably did too, that along with the pains of age came some advancement in the more important things. Your knee may hurt for mysterious reasons, and you may feel the burden of all your mistakes and all you did not do, but you find prayer easier and feel more instinctive sympathy for people you used to dislike. You gain insight into people, life, yourself.That’s true, says Pope Emeritus Benedict in his latest and last book, The Last Testament. “In old age, you are more deeply practiced.” We’ve learned to do what we do and we do it better than we did when young. The gains of aging balance the losses. So there’s that.Not easier, but harderBut he doesn’t leave it there. There’s another movement in the other direction. He quotes the great Catholic theologian Romano Guardini, who said, “In old age, it doesn’t get any easier, but harder.” Benedict gives an example of his own: “One feels the difficulty of life’s questions more deeply.”What questions does he mean? Two kinds: Big questions, like why God allows so much evil, and the smaller, practical questions of life in a fallen world, like “How can I help him?” and “Why doesn’t he get better?”That’s the getting harder part. For me, this means that you believe what you did when younger, but feel less comfortable with it because you know more about the world. You find yourself saying “Yes and no,” when as a younger person you would have pointed to a line in the Catechism and walked away thinking you’d settled the matter. To put it a different way, you become more merciful when before you’d been more moralistic. You see yourself in the bad guys in Jesus’s parables.This is my experience, anyway. And you also feel more deeply the world’s pain. It “complicates the narrative,” as an academic might say. Words that once seemed to settle the matter don’t comfort you anymore.I won’t claim any great advance in charity, but I do see better now how much pain there is in the world. I see more clearly how many people have suffered deep wounds that help explain why they keep doing things they shouldn’t. My own need for mercy from other people as well as from God has become much clearer to me, along with the knowledge that it’s not as clear as it should be. I know better why Jesus said “Judge not.”In other words, feeling the difficulty of life’s questions more deeply, you’re not nearly so insufferably smug and confident as you were — as I was, anyway — as a youth. You have some wisdom, when before you had only some knowledge, which you misapplied.Another side to Guardini’s insightBummer, you may be thinking. Not only will your knee hurt but you’ll feel the world’s pain more deeply, and have a keener feeling of your own failings and sins, of the things wrongly done and the things wrongly left undone. But Benedict says something that turns the whole thing around. There’s another side to Guardini’s insight that life gets harder as you get old, not easier.We may feel the difficulty of life’s questions more deeply, he says, “but then one also finds the greatness of Jesus Christ’s words.” Jesus is “always great and full of mystery. The depths of the Word are never fully plumbed.”Benedict gives examples from his own life: “I now find many statements from the gospels more challenging in their greatness and gravity than I did before. … Some words of wrath, of rejection, of the threat of judgment, certainly become more mysterious and grave and awesome than before.” Even in old age, he adds, the truth “comes close to you as something completely new.”In other words, life becomes harder because we see more clearly, but we also see more deeply into the Gospel, which makes life easier. I think the reality of mercy is one of those things. We get to know our Lord better and in ways we could not when young. I suspect this is true of the saints, but it’s certainly true of us un-saints.“It is a gift,” he says. As, I would add, is Benedict.
Apr 21 17 2:51 PM
Zenit - The confrontation between radically atheist conceptions of the State and the rise of a radically religious State in Islamist Movements, leads our time to an explosive situation, whose consequences we experience every day.” Four years have passed since Benedict XVI’s renunciation of the pontificate, but his clear political as well as theological vision continues to enlighten.Bendict expressed himself thus in a letter to the participants in a Symposium in his honour, entitled “The Concept of State in the Perspective of the Teaching of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI,” which was held April 19, 2017, in Warsaw. The event, held on the occasion of Joseph Ratzinger’s 90th birthday, was organized by the Polish Bishops and sponsored by the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda.Benedict XVI was moved, grateful and happy for this recognition. And in his missive he sketched an analysis of the challenges of today’s politics. He speaks of the “explosive situation” in connection with the confrontation between atheism and Islamic fundamentalism, and launches an appeal to Christians: “These radicalisms exact urgently that we develop a convincing conception of the State, which supports the confrontation with these challenges and can go beyond them.”The task for those who today govern nations and Christian religious institutions is to pick up Ratzinger’s testimony, looking at “two great figures” that “Poland has given to humanity”: Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Saint John Paul II. In his message, Benedict XVI stresses that these two men of the Church “not only reflected on this question, but assumed themselves the suffering and the living experience and, therefore, continue to indicate the way to the future.”Pope Francis was appreciative of the Symposium in honor of Benedict XVI, sponsored by the Ratzinger Foundation and the Polish Cathoic Kai agency. The reigning Pontiff also sent a message, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, in which he stressed “the meritorious work of his beloved Predecessor.” Bergoglio hoped that the event would arouse a “renewed commitment to a respectful and fruitful dialogue between State and Church in view of the building of the civilization of love.”Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, former Director of the Holy See Press Office and President of the Ratzinger Foundation, opened the works at Warsaw, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, being among those who took part. Father Lombardi clarified that the objective of the Symposium was to “render homage” to Benedict XVI and to thank him for his service to the Church, “keeping alive the legacy of his thought and his spiritual inspiration.”The Jesuit recalled the years spent by the German Pope’s side, during which he was able to “understand ever better how his perspective of service, although oriented primarily to the community of Catholic faithful, was not at all limited to it, but was extended to the good of every human person, seen as image of God, to the respect and promotion of his lofty dignity, to his defense from all forms of contempt, unlawful acts violence.”In this perspective was “his warning,” pronounced in September 2011 in the German Parliament, “on the terrible consequences of an exercise of power free from the awareness of its relative nature, which, therefore no longer recognizes itself responsible in relation to an objective moral order, to a superior and inalienable foundation to power itself.”The former Vatican spokesman recalled also that Benedict XVI addressed these subjects with courage, highlighting how “the denial or forgetfulness of God, the marginalization of religion from public life and from every perspective of transcendence of the culture are, in reality, causes of a very negative process and grave risks for the life of society and for the defense of the dignity of every human person.” The German Pope confirmed this often, at the cost of not receiving applause but rather “strong opposition,” but “in the conviction that it was his precise responsibility in addressing the present cultural evolution of European society and the role of Europe in face of the history of the world.”See then, recalled Father Lombardi in regard to Ratzinger’s thought, that State and Church must share ”the commitment” to reach truth though “human reason.” Hence the latter “must not shut itself in the limitations of positivism but, precisely to be able to find and do justice and peace in this world, must remain confidently and courageously open to the great horizons of the human, of its meaning and its foundations.” It is about a profitable collaboration between faith and reason. “In this, faith offers its help to reason, and reason in turn protects religion from the grave risk of fundamentalisms,” concluded Father Lombardi.
I was greatly moved, grateful and happy to learn that an academic conference on the topic of “The Concept of the State From the Perspective of the Teachings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI” (Pojęcie Państwa w perspektywie nauczania Kardynała Józefa Ratzingera/Benedykta XVI), attended by the representatives of Poland’s government and Church and organized under the patronage of the president of the Republic of Poland, was held to coincide with my 90th birthday.The topic of the conference brings government and Church officials into common dialogue on a topic that is of key significance to the future of our [European] continent. The contrast between the concepts of the radically atheistic state and the creation of the radically theocratic state by Muslim movements creates a dangerous situation for our age, one whose effects we experience each day. These radical ideologies require us to urgently develop a convincing concept of the state that will stand up to the confrontation between these challenges and help to overcome it.During the agony of the previous half-century, Poland gave the world two great figures — Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Pope St. John Paul II — who not only reflected upon these issues, but also carried within themselves suffering and vivid experiences; thus they continue to give us guidelines for the future.I give my blessing to all of you and would like to express my sincere gratitude for the work that you do in these circumstances.Benedict XVIVatican, April 15, 2017
May 19 17 2:06 AM
Ever since I first read the Letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in the 1950s, one passage from his Letter to the Ephesians has particularly affected me: “It is better to keep silence and be [a Christian] than to talk and not to be. Teaching is an excellent thing, provided the speaker practices what he teaches. Now, there is one Teacher who spoke and it came to pass. And even what He did silently is worthy of the Father. He who has truly made the words of Jesus his own is able also to hear His silence, so that he may be perfect: so that he may act through his speech and be known through his silence” (15, 1f.). What does that mean: to hear Jesus’s silence and to know him through his silence? We know from the Gospels that Jesus frequently spent nights alone “on the mountain” in prayer, in conversation with his Father. We know that his speech, his word, comes from silence and could mature only there. So it stands to reason that his word can be correctly understood only if we, too, enter into his silence, if we learn to hear it from his silence.Certainly, in order to interpret Jesus’s words, historical knowledge is necessary, which teaches us to understand the time and the language at that time. But that alone is not enough if we are really to comprehend the Lord’s message in depth. Anyone today who reads the ever-thicker commentaries on the Gospels remains disappointed in the end. He learns a lot that is useful about those days and a lot of hypotheses that ultimately contribute nothing at all to an understanding of the text. In the end you feel that in all the excess of words, something essential is lacking: entrance into Jesus’s silence, from which his word is born. If we cannot enter into this silence, we will always hear the word only on its surface and thus not really understand it.As I was reading the new book by Robert Cardinal Sarah, all these thoughts went through my soul again. Sarah teaches us silence—being silent with Jesus, true inner stillness, and in just this way he helps us to grasp the word of the Lord anew. Of course he speaks hardly at all about himself, but now and then he does give us a glimpse into his interior life. In answer to Nicolas Diat’s question, “At times in your life have you thought that words were becoming too cumbersome, too heavy, too noisy?,” he answers: “In my prayer and in my interior life, I have always felt the need for a deeper, more complete silence. … The days of solitude, silence, and absolute fasting have been a great support. They have been an unprecedented grace, a slow purification, and a personal encounter with … God. … Days of solitude, silence, and fasting, nourished by the Word of God alone, allow man to base his life on what is essential.” These lines make visible the source from which the cardinal lives, which gives his word its inner depth. From this vantage point, he can then see the dangers that continually threaten the spiritual life, of priests and bishops also, and thus endanger the Church herself, too, in which it is not uncommon for the Word to be replaced by a verbosity that dilutes the greatness of the Word. I would like to quote just one sentence that can become an examination of conscience for every bishop: “It can happen that a good, pious priest, once he is raised to the episcopal dignity, quickly falls into mediocrity and a concern for worldly success. Overwhelmed by the weight of the duties that are incumbent on him, worried about his power, his authority, and the material needs of his office, he gradually runs out of steam.”Cardinal Sarah is a spiritual teacher, who speaks out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us.We should be grateful to Pope Francis for appointing such a spiritual teacher as head of the congregation that is responsible for the celebration of the liturgy in the Church. With the liturgy, too, as with the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, it is true that specialized knowledge is necessary. But it is also true of the liturgy that specialization ultimately can talk right past the essential thing unless it is grounded in a deep, interior union with the praying Church, which over and over again learns anew from the Lord himself what adoration is. With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands.
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