“Benedict XVI has the culture of a companion and the sanctity of a first communication”

Author of the biography of Benoît XVI, Nicolas Diat admires the intellectual who did not let time dictate its law to the Church.

This Saturday, December 31, at 9:34 in the morning, Benedict XVI passed away in his room in the small monastery where he lived in the middle of the Vatican gardens. His successor was the first to know. And he immediately left to get himself in front of the lips.

In April 2005, the day of his election, Joseph Ratzinger chose the name of his reign, to pay homage to Saint Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine order, whose motto is “ora et labora”. He also wanted to pay tribute to his predecessor, Benedict XV, who was consumed by World War I, to pull poor Europe out of the deadly conflict in which it found itself.

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During the Te Deum at St. Peter’s Basilica on the very night of the Pope Emeritus’ death, Francis spoke of Benedict XVI saying he was “a very noble man.” Then he said the touching words: “Only God knows the value and strength of his intercession, of his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church.”

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The days of mourning begin and, under the dome, the words of the hymn “Adeste fideles”, “run up faithful”, happy and full of strength, are ironic…

Benedict XVI is a meek, humble man who exudes simplicity

Benedict XVI is a meek, humble man who exudes simplicity. His blue gaze speaks of the childlike spirit he always maintained, and the vast intellectual acuity of the professor of theology. At the dawn of his pontificate, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, one of his best friends, confessed to a French monk: “He is as wise as twelve professors, and as pious as a first communicant.”

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In a one-and-a-half-page letter, written in German, and dated February 6, 2022, he spoke candidly about his own mortality: “Soon I will find myself before the last judge of my life. Although, looking back over my long life, I may have great cause to fear and tremble, yet I am in good spirits, for I believe that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and the brother who has also suffered for my mistakes, and therefore is my advocate, my Paraclete. In the light of the hour of judgment, the grace of being a Christian becomes clearer to me. He gives me the knowledge, and even the friendship, of the judge of my life, and thus allows me to pass through the dark door of death.

A filial love for his beloved Bavaria

His legacy will never be separated from his son’s love for his beloved Bavaria, land of high Catholic tradition, and Gregorian liturgies. There, in Tübingen or Regensburg, the professor of fundamental theology already placed the dialogue between faith and reason at the heart of his teaching.

Vacationed in Bressanone in Tyrol, Italy, in August 2003.

© Publifoto/ABACA

This was the best year of his life. Because he didn’t want to go to Rome. John Paul II had to pour all his energy into convincing her to join him. He was for twenty-three long years his most faithful partner, as prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

“Let us only reform the Church by suffering for her.” Georges Bernanos’ sentence in “The Predestined” is so close to what Benedict XVI thought about the exercise of power in the Church that I chose these words to open my biography, “The man who does not want to be Pope”.

Benedict XVI spoke in France about the monks saying, “Behind the temporary, they seek the certain.”

On September 1, 2013, on the occasion of the annual meeting of his former students, the famous Ratzinger Schülerkreis, the former pope declared: “In history, everyone is looking for the right place: at the stage of life, everyone wants find his place. But the question is: which place is right and which is right? The first place can quickly become a very bad place, and that is not only in the Last Judgment but on earth.

Five years earlier, in September 2008, in his best speech, at the Bernardine College, Benedict XVI spoke in France about the monks, saying: “Behind the temporary, they look for the certain.”

On September 12, 2008, at the Collège des Bernardins, in Paris

On September 12, 2008, at the Collège des Bernardins, in Paris

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He was not interested in the order. He is not a leader but a contemplative. His theological, literary and intellectual work is of a rare density. Such is the tragedy of Joseph Ratzinger: the rejection of facilities, good intentions, compromises, adjustments crosses his existence, contrary to the ephemeral and perishable present ready to wear, the pretensions of a strong spirit or pettiness of “minus habens”.

In “The Christian faith yesterday and today”, written in 1968, Joseph Ratzinger emphasized that, from its origins, Christianity declared itself “for the god of philosophers against the God of religions”. This research, following Saint Augustine, fascinated him more than anything else.

For him, when the supernatural disappears, the natural cannot be changed.

In Benedict XVI, there is no contempt for the things of this world. This man neither knows nor wants to defend himself. He rejects ad hominem attacks. The effacement of the Ratzinguerian ego is elegance and politeness.

In the mind of this pedagogue, remaining deep in his heart as a Benedictine, the disappearance of the question of God is a tragedy with infinite consequences. In this sense, he was one of the thinkers who made the most accurate analysis of the crisis of the European question; for him, when the supernatural disappears, the natural cannot be changed.

A pope who, today, would not be the subject of criticism would fail in his duty vis-à-vis this time

Joseph Ratzinger

Joseph Ratzinger was fascinated by the quiet grandeur, ancient liturgy and cruel humility of the Carthusian order. One Sunday in October 2011, he visited the monks of the Charterhouse where Saint Bruno passed away in 1101. That day, his words were a magical prospect of the night of his own existence: “Abandon the momentary truth and strive to seize the eternal. In this expression of the letter addressed by your founder to the provost of Reims, Rodolphe, contains the heart of your spirituality: the intense desire to enter into the unity of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything which prevents this communion and self-informedness. to be overcome by the immense love of God in order to live only from this love.”

Joseph Ratzinger, with the Cardinal of Munich in May 1977.

Joseph Ratzinger, ordained Cardinal of Munich in May 1977.

DPA/ABACA / © DPA/ABACA

Many years ago, in August 1978, the young Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger made a memorable tribute to the successor of John XXIII, who had just died. In the cathedral of Munich, his very shy and strong voice rose: “A pope who, today, will not be the object of criticism, will fail in his duty vis-à-vis this time. Paul VI opposed telecracy and opinion polls, the two current dictatorial powers. He was able to do this because he did not take success and approval as parameters, but rather conscience, measured by truth, by faith.

Others changed, not me!

With his German compatriots, the division was recorded in 1985 when his book “Entretien sur la foi” was published. He spoke of “the release, within the Church, of hidden, aggressive and centrifugal forces; and abroad, of the impact of a cultural revolution in the West: the assertion of a superior middle class, the new middle class of the tertiary sector, with the liberal-radical ideology of the individualist, rationalist, hedonist class”.

In the form of a joke, he also lectured journalist Vittorio Messori: “Others have changed, not me!” His concern for the future of German Catholicism was profound. In the spiritual testament, signed on August 29, 2006, and announced on the night of his death, he remained precise: “I am grateful to the people living in my homeland because they have always allowed me to experience the beauty of faith. I pray this, that our nation may remain a land of faith and pray to you: beloved countrymen, do not allow yourselves to stray from the faith.”

To Benedict XVI, it is still fair to say: “Omnia munda mundis”, everything is pure for the pure heart

Pope Francis knows everything. His courage in the face of sex scandals, financial excesses, unbridled ambition and curiosity. His emotion at announcing the loss did not surprise those who knew his sincere admiration for the former pope. The words of the testament do not allow opposition: “For sixty years I have accompanied the path of theology, especially the path of biblical studies, and I have seen the collapse, in generations, of theses which seemed unshakable and became only hypotheses: the liberal generation (Harnack, Jülicher, etc.), the existentialist generation (Bultmann, etc.), the Marxist generation. I saw and I see how, in the tangle of assumptions, the reason for faith arises and arises again.” In Benedict XVI, it is more accurate to say: “Omnia munda mundis”, everything is pure for the pure heart.

Benedict XVI died while the world was watching the festivities on December 31

Shouldn’t the last word go to this religious who is very close to him without ever wanting to appear in the light: “Pope Benedict’s legacy? In our nihilistic, frivolous and permissive age, greatness and simplicity can still coexist because they are both reflections of God. Of God incarnate in a child on Christmas Eve.” He added, “Now he is free.” Benedict XVI died while the eyes of the world were on the feast on December 31. Which he looked exactly like. It was sometimes whispered in the Vatican that he wanted to die without anyone knowing. In the monastic life, prayer and work, music and silence, solitude and mediation are irrevocably united in a perfection which is the essence of the monastic commitment. Benedict XVI’s admiration for these hidden men, who continue to seek God, does not change.

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