Monday, November 28, 2016

Pope Benedict XVI's "Last Testament"

Pope Benedict's Last Testament: In His Own Words is a fascinating retrospective and summation of the life of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, a welcome ending to Peter Seewald's prior book-length interviews, Salt of The Earth (1997), God and The World (2002) and Light of The World (2010).

Of particular interest to me was the Pope Emeritus' recollections of his intellectual interactions with fellow academics in philosophy and theology, his experience as a peritus at Vatican II, and his appraisals of political figures he encountered in the course of his pontificate.

Throughout the interview his character shines through as a man of genuine faith, conviction and humility -- who regardless of his impressive theological stature and academic legacy is nonetheless capable of receiving criticism and correction from colleagues ("he reproached me many times, which is possible and proper among friends"), appreciative of those instances in life in where one is "made small" as opportunities for Christlike self-mortification ("That does someone good: to recognize once again one's utter poverty").

Likewise as Pope, cognizant of very clear ethical disagreements with political leaders (Obama, Castro, Putin), was able to see their humanity as well:

"I got to know these people, and not only from their political and tactical sides. What was generally impressive about these encounters was discerning that -- although these people indeed think very differently to us on many issues -- they certainly try to see what is right."
And so with respect to agnostics, professed atheists and left-wingers, "if they think and speak honestly. Of course there are fanatics, who are only functionaries and just dispense their working slogans. But if they are human beings, one can see that they are somehow restless inside..."

Above all, and as with prior interviews, he comes across as one whose life -- and pontificate -- "put God and faith at the center [and] Holy Scripture in the foreground"; sought "to discover God again, to discover Christ again, and so find the centrality of faith again" -- and for whom "the important thing is that the faith endures today. I see this as the central task. All the rest is just administrative issues..."

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