Though we hope to see Benedict and extend our greetings on the occasion of the anniversary of his ordination in person—and to receive his blessing in turn—it may not be possible. His health may be too fragile. If we do not see him, we will be able to send him word that we are in Rome to celebrate with him the anniversary of his ordination, and we are certain, at the very least, to receive a note of gratitude in response!
While on pilgrimage, we will be reading his writings, studying them, and coming to understand better his mind and heart. In particular, we will read Dominus IIesus, a text he published at the request of Pope John Paul II in the year 2000. In it, he reaffirmed many “unpopular” ideas, including the central teaching of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Benedict was a somewhat “liberal” theologian originally, but he became more conservative after 1968. His prolific writings defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. During his papacy, Benedict XVI advocated a return to Christian faith to counter the increased secularization of many Western countries. He has said that relativism’s denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, is the central problem of our time. He revived a number of traditions, including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position. He loved music, especially Mozart, he promoted the use of Latin, and he reintroduced traditional papal garments, for which reason he was called “the pope of aesthetics.” He has been described as “the main intellectual force in the Church” during the past half-century. Though the readings I myself am choosing, we will be able to glimpse the essence of his thought.
After we leave Rome we will go from his “second home” to his “first home”: Bavaria, in southern Germany. For six days we will visit the places where he was born, grew up, studied, preached and worked as a bishop. We will visit his birthplace (Marktl-am-Inn in southern Germany), the little towns he lived in as a boy when his father, who was a policeman, was forced to move house to take new postings—all in Bavaria (Traunstein, Tittmoning, Auschau)—and then the places he himself visited on pilgrimages with his mother, brother and sister, especially Altoetting, a Marian sanctuary that is one of the most beautiful places in the world, a place of peace and profound holiness. We will visit the church where he was ordained 65 years ago, and the places where he taught as a university theologian, in Regensburg and in Munich. In Regensburg, we are scheduled to meet with his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, and to talk with him about his younger brother the former Pope, and their life together over the decades — the two still spend several weeks each year together.
In my opinion, there may be no better way to get to know the mind and heart of Pope Benedict than to join us on this pilgrimage.
I believe the trip will be a blessed time of reading, reflection and prayer for all of us, visiting the places of Emeritus Pope Benedict, in early summer, where each place we will see will be more beautiful and peaceful than the last…
Please consider joining me on this very special pilgrimage “In the footsteps of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI”. I sincerely hope you will join me on this profound spiritual journey.
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Inside the Vatican magazine