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New Book By Ganswein On BXVI

January 26, 2023 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

Part 2

Upon his death we shared the witness that Pope Benedict lived in the words he uttered. Archbishop Georg Ganswein’s book Nothing But the Truth recounting his life with the great Pope is now out in bookstores. Here I share some vignettes of that volume from an advance unofficial English translation.
In October 1978 the future Benedict XVI shared the following words at a Munich requiem for John Paul I, sentiments which, the world would soon witness, he himself lived.
“The only greatness in the Church is to be saints. And her saints are the pillars of light that show us the way. Henceforth he too will be a part of these lights. And from what was granted to us for only thirty-three days emanates a light that can no longer be taken away from us.”
To George Weigel, biographer of JPII, he confided this concerning the conclave resulting in the election of JPI:
“We were convinced that the election had taken place in harmony with the divine will, not simply with the human will….And if, a month after Albino Luciani were elected with the divine will, he had died, God intended to communicate something to us.”
Later from Ratzinger we gained this insight:
“Luciani’s election was not a mistake. Those thirty-three days of pontificate had a function in the history of the Church. That sudden death also opened the door to an unexpected choice. That of a non-Italian Pope. In the previous Conclave this was also discussed. But it was not a very real hypothesis, also because there was the beautiful figure of Albino Luciani. Later it was thought that something absolutely new was needed.”
Though all too brief, the reign of JPI served to set the stage for the first non-Italian Pope in many years.
Though both were involved through preparation or participation in the deliberations of Vatican II they did not meet in that context. The future JPII had encountered the future BXVI, as have so many others, through his writing and, what’s more, had valued his wisdom so greatly that he, as Ratzinger recollected, drew from the latter’s work while preaching a retreat for a previous Pope.
“Of course, I had heard of his work as a philosopher and pastor, and I had long wanted to co-know him. For his part, he had read my Introduction to Christianity, which he had also quoted at the spiritual exercises he preached for Paul VI and the Curia in Lent 1976. So it is as if inwardly we were waiting to meet.”
The newly elected JPII almost immediately called on Ratzinger to assist him in the administration of the Church at Rome but the archbishop of Munich-Freising begged off, claiming a need for more time as a yet fairly new father to his flock in Germany. JPII demurred, choosing Cardinal Baum of Washington for the role of prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education while making clear his intention to renew his request at the next opportunity.
Later Ratzinger would agree to come to Rome and work for JPII if he could continue to write and publish theology under his own name. JPII agreed and the two were to become close collaborators for many years.
Some might see this as hubris, as Ganswein allows, but remaining intellectually active in theological inquiry was, for Ratzinger, a connatural and life-giving outlet.
“Forty years ago, to pose such a condition to the Pontiff might have seemed a sin of hubris, of pride, an attitude quite contrary to Ratzinger’s style. In fact, even then he saw in his own nonfiction production a gift to be exploited to make it a pastoral tool. The vainglory of the great theologian was not at stake, but rather an awareness of the service that could be rendered to the Church. He would have experienced giving up this possibility to influence on a personal level in the theological debate as an amputation, harmful to himself but also to others.
“I had occasion to understand his motivations further by reasoning with him about the criticisms that were made of him when he published volumes on Jesus Christ: Benedict XVI was adamant in challenging those who asserted that the time he devoted to writing was being taken away from the government of the Church, since this should have been his primary task. Referring to St. Bonaventure and his own Predecessor Benedict XIV, he always stressed to me that that of Scripture is also a form of government, since it gives spiritual food to the faithful, in addition to magisterial acts.”
Ganswein shares also what BXVI divulged about his theological work:
“For me, writing is not a commitment, but a liberation that is good for me. It does not take away my strength, but rather generates it for me. These are two different energies, and both must be exercised.”
Ratzinger debuted as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1982 after emotional farewells among his Bavarian flock.
As prefect, Ratzinger’s style of leadership was based on true dialogue and mutual understanding. Ganswein describes it:
“The prefect had the last word, but he was always respectful of the different opinions, which he listened to to the end. If the proposed solution convinced him, he accepted it with pleasure; if not, he elegantly repeated in summary what the collaborator had hypothesized and concluded, ‘You have evaluated according to a perspective that in itself is right, but perhaps it is not complete. There is this other aspect that could lead to a different solution, in this way. . . .’ In this way he never humiliated anyone, and the final result [appeared to] everyone the best.”
“The pastor and the theologian” as Ganswein describes JPII and Ratzinger shared a unique collaboration that was also a friendship which both acknowledged. Ganswein relates:
“I give thanks to God for the presence and help of Cardinal Ratzinger, who is a trusted friend”: words carved in stone, those by which John Paul II, in his 2004 memoir Get Up, Let’s Go, recalled his decades-long relationship with the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To the point of inspiring Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Pope Wojtyla’s historic spokesman and confidant, with an emblematic comment: “The words that the Pontiff wrote a year before his death, where for the first time he mentions with explicit and very eloquent praise a living collaborator, to whom he expresses gratitude for sincere friendship, are unprecedented. Precisely this suggests a very close relationship.”
Benedict benefited from a unique and privileged intimacy with the great and lengthy papacy that defined the latter half of the twentieth century. He internalized and then later made his own the role of Christ’s Vicar on Earth when called despite his own yearning for the quiet life of professor and intellect.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@TruthSocialPadre

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