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The lasting legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

The lasting legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

(OSV Information) — On Dec. 31, the Vatican introduced the dying of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who left a long-lasting legacy over the course of his lifelong service of the Church and who, in 2013, grew to become the primary Roman pontiff in 600 years to resign the papacy.

At his normal viewers on Dec. 28, Pope Francis introduced that Pope Benedict was “very sick” and requested that the trustworthy pray for his well being and “ask the Lord to console him and maintain him in his witness of affection for the Church till the very finish.”

After spending greater than 20 years as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Religion throughout the papacy of Pope St. John Paul II, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger succeeded John Paul as pope following the Polish pontiff’s dying in 2005. Cardinal Ratzinger grew to become the sixteenth pope to take the title Benedict. He reigned because the successor of St. Peter till his resignation on Feb. 28, 2013.

Whereas the present technology of Catholics will know Pope Benedict via his legacy as pope, it’s unlikely that he would have been entrusted with such a lofty place if it wasn’t for his immense and vital work as a priest-theologian — beginning, most notably, along with his work for the Second Vatican Council.

Ratzinger’s influences

Pope Benedict XVI’s lengthy, shut relationship to the Second Vatican Council had two distinct however on no account unrelated facets. Partly, it mirrored his position as a younger theologian at Vatican II. And partly, it arose from his implementation — and particularly from his interpretation — of the council as a landmark in Church historical past.

In each facets, Benedict’s decadeslong identification with the ecumenical council is a central a part of his legacy.

Held in 4 periods from 1962 to 1965, Vatican Council II was crucial occasion within the lifetime of the Church within the twentieth century — and a few would say crucial because the sixteenth century Council of Trent, a reforming council that positioned its stamp on the Church for 400 years.

Christopher Ruddy, an affiliate professor of theology on the Catholic College of America who has written usually on Benedict, considers “dedication to Church renewal” the trigger that particularly hyperlinks him and Vatican II. Central to it, Ruddy says, are two complementary driving forces: “‘aggiornamento’ — an updating of the Church in response to the indicators of the instances — and ‘ressourcement’ — a return to the sources of the Church’s traditions.”

Totally to know Benedict the theologian, it’s crucial to know the position performed in shaping his theological stance by St. Augustine, who with St. Thomas Aquinas is without doubt one of the two most influential thinkers in Church historical past. Beginning in 1954 along with his first e book, on Augustine’s theology of the Church, it may be seen a half-century later in his first encyclical as pope, Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”), which displays what one author calls Augustine’s “absorption within the concept of affection.”

“Being a Christian,” Benedict writes there, “just isn’t the results of an moral selection or a lofty concept, however the encounter with an occasion, an individual” — Jesus Christ. That realization, central to his theology, is primary to the “passionate need to know the love of Christ,” which Ruddy and others discover in his writing.

Vatican II

Father Joseph Ratzinger was 35 when Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, Germany, selected him to be his peritus (or theological adviser) on the ecumenical council that Pope St. John XXIII, stunning many, had convoked in early 1959, shortly after his election.

Cardinal Frings, president of the German bishops’ convention, was a strong determine on the council as considered one of its cardinal-presidents, and his youthful theologian was propelled right into a heady position as one of many theological progressives working to form the meeting. This was a bunch that included such luminaries of that day as Yves Congar, OP, Edward Schillebeeckx, OP, Henri de Lubac, SJ, Hans Kung and — most influential of all throughout Vatican II — Karl Rahner, SJ.

Though the council’s paperwork have been the work of many fingers, Father Ratzinger had an vital half in writing the Dogmatic Structure on the Church, Lumen Gentium (“The Gentle of Humanity” — that’s, Christ). This was of specific significance in that Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s theological centerpiece, offered the conceptual foundation for different council paperwork on topics comparable to ecumenism, the position of bishops and the position of the laity.

Father Ratzinger’s particular contribution was understanding the theological underpinnings of “collegiality” — the concept bishops in communion with the pope make up a single physique or “faculty” answerable for governing and instructing the common Church. He additionally drafted the theological part of Advert Gentes, the Decree in Missionary Exercise, which declares the Church to be “by its very nature missionary.”

Though he was a workforce participant along with his theological colleagues whereas the council was in progress, his place seems to have shifted because it neared its finish. In his Vatican II historical past, “The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber,” Father Ralph Wiltgen, SVD, writes that Father Ratzinger gave “virtually unquestioning help” to Karl Rahner’s views whereas Vatican II was underway, however “because it was drawing to a detailed, he admitted that he disagreed on varied factors, and stated he would start to say himself extra after the council was over.”

And so he did.

Discovering his voice

Between periods of the council, he had written articles for a German newspaper discussing developments there. Collected and printed in e book kind below the title “Theological Highlights of Vatican II,” this materials stays an exceptionally clear and informative account from a real insider.

Within the introduction to the e book’s English version, printed in 1966, he touched on a significant issue he already noticed taking form. “We might misunderstand the council’s instructing,” he wrote, “have been we to take it as a sudden switchover, a sudden shift from ‘conservatism’ to ‘progressivism.’” Not solely that, he added, utilizing the phrases “conservative” and “progressive” with their political connotations is itself a mistake when talking of the Church’s renewal. As an alternative, he insisted, “the measure of the renewal is Christ [and] the target is exactly that Christ might turn out to be understood.”

In 1968, he printed considered one of his greatest identified books, “Introduction to Christianity,” which Catholic creator Robert Royal calls “a superb apologetic.” In its preface, Father Ratzinger expresses rising concern concerning the state of religion, “enveloped immediately in a larger fog of uncertainty than at virtually any precedent days in historical past.” His intention, due to this fact, was to assist relieve that situation by explaining Christian religion “with out altering it into the small coin of empty discuss painfully laboring to cover an entire religious vacuum.”

One other stage in the identical mission got here 4 years later. Progressive theologians for a while had been accustomed to expound their views in a journal referred to as Concilium. In 1972, Father Ratzinger joined Father de Lubac and Father Hans Urs von Balthasar in founding a brand new journal, Communio, as a discussion board for these focused on theologizing in continuity with the Catholic custom.

Doctrine of the Church

Upon accepting Pope St. John Paul II’s 1981 invitation to turn out to be prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Religion, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger grew to become one of many pope’s closest collaborators. As head of the CDF, he was concerned within the preparation of official paperwork on controversial points comparable to homosexuality and the ordination of girls as clergymen.

Two CDF paperwork of the Ratzinger years critiqued liberation theology, then recognized particularly with some Latin American theologians and thought to offer a theological foundation for revolution in society and upheaval within the Church. The primary doc, showing in 1984, criticized Marxist components in liberationist pondering, together with endorsement of sophistication battle and this-worldly utopianism. The second, two years later, harassed constructive facets. “Liberation is at first liberation from sin,” Cardinal Ratzinger declared.

The yr 1985 introduced publication of “The Ratzinger Report,” a book-length interview during which the cardinal mentioned most of the aberrations plaguing the Church. Whereas many readers appreciated his readability and candor, Church liberals usually noticed it as yet another black mark towards him.

From 1986 to 1992, he headed the fee answerable for writing the brand new Catechism of the Catholic Church — the primary normal catechism in 400 years. Some Church liberals, wanting doctrine to stay in flux, opposed the mission. However the brand new catechism was efficiently accomplished and printed in 1992, and is now thought of one of many enduring achievements of the hold forth of Pope St. John Paul II.

A successor of St. Peter

Following Pope John Paul’s dying in 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger preached the homily on the Mass attended by cardinals getting ready to enter the conclave at which they might elect John Paul’s successor. It was then that he spoke of the “dictatorship of relativism” that he noticed infecting not solely secular society however the Church. The cardinals responded by selecting him as pope.

The hostility and suspicion towards him that his opponents had fomented for years carried over into the brand new hold forth, with some media predicting the Panzerkardinal can be a reactionary, repressive pope. The encyclical Deus Caritas Est, due to this fact, got here as a shock to many, emphasizing because it did “the love that God lavishes on us and that we, in flip, should share with others.” CUA’s Ruddy calls it “an try to point out to a skeptical modernity that God just isn’t the enemy of human flourishing, however its very risk and success.”

Amongst different issues, the encyclical cautioned towards a monopoly of works of charity by the all-encompassing trendy state. Pope Benedict wrote:

“There’ll all the time be struggling that cries out for comfort and assist. There’ll all the time be loneliness. There’ll all the time be conditions of fabric want the place assist in the type of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable. The state that would supply every thing, absorbing every thing into itself, would in the end turn out to be a mere paperwork incapable of guaranteeing what the struggling individual — each individual — wants: specifically, loving private concern” (No. 28).

As for the charitable exercise of the Church, Benedict insisted it’s “unbiased of events and ideologies.” He added, “It’s not a way of adjusting the world ideologically, and it isn’t on the service of worldly stratagems, however it’s a method of constructing current right here and now the love that man all the time wants.”

A pope of reform

Grounded in his expertise rising up within the Catholic tradition of Bavaria, Benedict for years had expressed deep curiosity in and appreciation for the liturgy. Partially, this took the type of criticism of liturgical improvements that he seen as abuses.

Thus, it was no shock when in 2007 he restored the pre-Vatican II type of the Mass, which had been nearly suppressed after the council. The brand new kinds, launched with little advance preparation in 1970, would stay the “extraordinary” kind within the Western Church, however the outdated kind might be utilized by any priest who wished. Each, he emphasised, have been merely completely different types of the one Roman Ceremony of the Mass.

Equally, as pope he continued to advertise what he seen as the proper understanding of Vatican Council II, along with his fullest exposition coming in his 2005 Christmas tackle to the Roman Curia. Right here he blamed difficulties in implementing the council on battle between competing interpretations of the occasion that he referred to as “two opposite hermeneutics.” He described them like this:

“On the one hand, there’s an interpretation that I might name ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has continuously availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media and likewise one development of recent theology. On the opposite, there’s the ‘hermeneutic of reform’, of renewal within the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.”

He left little doubt that the hermeneutic of reform is the suitable one. And he quoted Pope St. John XXIII’s tackle opening the council in 1962 during which John harassed the necessity to go on Church doctrine “pure and integral, with none attenuation or distortion” whereas on the identical time performing “that work which our period calls for of us.” Thought-about this fashion, Benedict stated, real reform within the Church requires “innovation in continuity … [a] mixture of continuity and discontinuity.” The place this has occurred, he added, “new life developed and new fruit ripened.”

To understand Benedict’s method to Church renewal, Ruddy says, it’s important to have in view its “robust Christological focus” — as on this from a e book referred to as “God and the World”: “God is not simply in heaven … he’s now additionally the One who’s close to us, who has turn out to be recognized with us, who touches us and is touched by us, the One whom we are able to obtain and who will obtain us.”

If he may have his method, this reserved, religious mental whom occasions thrust into a lifetime of excessive drama and no little controversy would possible be glad to have that stand as his most lasting legacy to the Church.

Russell Shaw is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Customer. This story was reprinted with permission of Our Sunday Customer.

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