“Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” —Pope Benedict XVI on the day of his inauguration as Pope, April 24, 2005, in his inauguration homily. The full text, which is important to read, is here. Who exactly the “wolves” are that Benedict refers to has never been clarified

    Letter #15, 2021, Friday, April 16: Happy Birthday Pope Benedict

    Happy Birthday, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI!

    Today, April 16, Pope Benedict XVI turns 94.

    Born in 1927, Benedict became Pope in 2005 on April 19, at the age of 78. He resigned his ministry on February 28, 2013, after just under 8 years as Pope, at the age of 85.

    Pope Francis, who was elected Pope at the age of 76, is now 84. Francis has now been Pope a bit more than 8 years, so Francis’s pontificate (2013-present) has just recently become longer than Benedict’s (2005-2013).

    It is curious to note that Benedict’s health seemed very fragile in 2013, so fragile that it seemed he was constrained to resign his post in part due to ill health and physical weakness. Now, more than eight years have passed — more years than he was active as Pope — and his mind still seems very clear indeed, despite his increasing frailty.

    Ad moltos annos vivas (“May you live for many more years”), Pope Benedict, ad moltos annos vivas. (link and link in Italian, with many photos)

    P.S. I also think this video is of considerable interest. It shows Pope Benedict on the day he announced his resignation, on February 11, 2013. He is speaking in Latin, and announces that he must resign his papal ministry due to his advancing age. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who clearly had already been informed of the announcement and so was ready with a brief speech, which he reads (you can see the speech in his hands), and then embraces Pope Benedict. The video is only one minute and fifty seconds long. (link) This other link has the same Latin speech with a simultaneous English translation, so you may hear for yourself what the Pope said at the moment of his resignation. (link)

    Below are three articles from other writers and news agencies:

    (1) Hannah Brockhaus of Catholic News Agency gives an overall roundup on Benedict’s birthday;

    (2) Father Raymond de Souza of the National Catholic Register speaks of Benedict’s theological career and his key importance as a figure who has helped “hold back” the seemingly ever more imminent departure from the traditional faith of the Church of the increasingly “progressive” Catholic Church in Germany; and

    (3) CNA writers in an article in May 2020 give a quite interesting account of Benedict’s own understanding of his life and work found in the magisterial, official biography by German author Peter Seewald. In a wide-ranging interview at the end of the 1,184-page book, Benedikt XVI — Ein Leben (“Benedict XVI — A Life), the Pope Emeritus tells Seewald that the greatest threat facing the Church is a “worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies.”

    In the phrase “worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies,” the key word is “seemingly.”

    Benedict is saying that the worldwide dictatorship now “the greatest threat facing the Church” is a group of ideologies (which we may perhaps understand as “powers and principalities,” that is, spiritual forces, not mere “flesh and blood”) which are “seemingly” “humanistic,” but are not, in fact, humanistic at all, that is, not interested in the good of human beings, the good of mankind, at all…

    Note re our website: A friend has put me in touch with a web site programmer who is now working steadily to discover the cause of the recent “hack” of our website, resulting in the breaking of many links to articles posted at InsidetheVatican.com. He is making real progress, and is giving us great hope that all issues will soon be resolved. (We do need support to ensure that we may continue to keep our site secure.) —RM

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI./ Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

    Benedict XVI turns 94 years old (link)

    By Hannah Brockhaus

    Vatican City, Apr 16, 2021 / 10:13 am America/Denver (CNA).

    Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was born 94 years ago today in the town of Marktl, Bavaria. More than eight years after he announced his retirement from the papacy in 2013, Benedict continues to live a retired life in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery on Vatican grounds.

    Despite growing feebleness, the retired pope is in good health, and has marked his April 16 birthday each year, sometimes in the presence of family and friends.

    This is Benedict’s first birthday since the death of his older brother Georg Ratzinger on July 1, 2020 in Bavaria.

    The pope emeritus was able to say a last goodbye to his brother during a four-day trip to Germany at the end of June.

    Benedict’s birthday in 2020 was marked quietly, as Italy was under lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. His personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, told Vatican News Benedict XVI’s 93rd birthday began with Mass in the monastery chapel, and included prayer and reading.

    The pope emeritus also listened to a few traditional songs from his homeland of Bavaria. Since he could not have visitors, Benedict received many emails, letters, and phone calls wishing him a happy birthday.

    In 2018, Benedict was treated to a private concert by the Swiss Guard band.

    The day after the retired pope’s 90th birthday in 2017, he was thrown a Bavarian-style party, complete with pretzels and German beer.

    The Schützen association, which re-enacts a 19th-century Tyrol military, played music for the party; guests included Georg Ratzinger and the Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer.

    This party is the origin of iconic photos of Benedict XVI holding a large stein of beer, though the manager of an Austrian restaurant near the Vatican said Benedict usually preferred to drink orange soda, known by the brand name Fanta, on his frequent visits to the eatery as a cardinal.

    Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

    Since his retirement, Benedict’s birthday celebrations have sometimes included visits or messages from Pope Francis.

    In 2008, in a speech to the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Benedict XVI reflected on the place of grandparents in society and warned that an individualistic mindset is injuring the elderly.

    “In the past, grandparents had an important role in the life and growth of the family,” he said. “Even with their advancing age they continued to be present with their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren, giving a living witness of caring, sacrifice and a daily gift of themselves without reserve. They were witnesses of a personal and community history that continued to live on in their memories and in their wisdom.”

    Today, he continued, “the elderly, including many grandparents, find themselves in a sort of ‘parking area:’ some realize they are a burden to their family and prefer to live alone or in retirement homes with all the consequences that such decisions entail.”

    “Unfortunately, it seems that the ‘culture of death’ is advancing on many fronts and is also threatening the season of old-age,” Benedict said. “With growing insistence, people are even proposing euthanasia as a solution for resolving certain difficult situations.”

    The pope encouraged Catholics to join together to defeat “all forms of marginalization, for it is not only they — grandfathers, grandmothers, senior citizens — who are being injured by the individualistic mindset, but everyone.”

    “If grandparents, as is said often and on many sides, are a precious resource, it is necessary to put into practice coherent choices that allow them to be better valued,” he said.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2013 (Photo: Vatican Media)

Pope Benedict XVI, the Anchor That Kept Germany Rooted in Christ (link)

By Father Raymond de Souza

    COMMENTARY: In the late evening of his life, Ratzinger/Benedict can be understood as the Catholic Church’s singular, multi-generational response to the reforming agenda of German theology.

    Did the Church place too many of her theological eggs in one Bavarian Easter basket?

    The question occurs as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI — born on Holy Saturday and baptized the same day in the newly-blessed Easter water — celebrates his 94th birthday tomorrow, April 16.

    With the death of Father Hans Küng, 93, during the Easter Octave, the generation to which Joseph Ratzinger belongs is passing away.

    Ratzinger, the Bavarian, and the Swiss Küng were 30-something theological wunderkinds, both part of what Ratzinger called the “Rhine alliance” of northern European theologians who would definitively shape the work of the Second Vatican Council.

    The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber was the title of one of the more famous books on Vatican II, and Cardinal Ratzinger flowed farther than anyone, becoming, as it were, the Tiber itself upon his election as supreme pontiff in 2005.

    The current theological chaos in Germany, where the “binding synodal path” raises the possibility of schism, invites renewed attention to German theology, one of the most influential forces in ecclesial life in the past century. For 60 years, from his ordination in 1951 to his abdication in 2013, Joseph Ratzinger was at the center of it. Indeed, he became something of an anchor in stormy seas. After his abdication, the boat began to drift.

    In the late evening of his life, Ratzinger/Benedict can be understood as the Church’s singular, multi-generational response to the reforming agenda of German theology. Would that reform be Catholic, returning to the great and wide tradition, or Protestant, diverging from it?

    For generations a great number of German bishops have been on the Protestant side of many questions. Ratzinger/Benedict kept them Catholic. Since he departed in 2013, the Protestantizing wing has been in ascendance.

    Peter Seewald, who was Ratzinger’s privileged interlocutor for four interview books, published last year Volume I of his definitive biography, Benedict XVI: A Life (1927-1965). Volume II will be published later this year.

    The splendid Seewald biography admirably captures the theological ferment in which the young Father Ratzinger was immersed. The Counter-Reformation theology dominant in Rome had become sluggish and complacent. The challenges of modernity posed new questions that Roman officialdom was ill-equipped to engage. The bold reforms that Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) had launched in recovering the originality of Thomistic philosophy and supporting an authentic renewal in biblical studies were bearing fruit. All of this was awaiting the mature judgment and encouragement of an ecumenical council, the first really since the 16th-century Council of Trent, given that Vatican I (1869-1870) had to be prematurely abandoned due to political strife.

    If his friends in the Cracovian Rhapsodic Theatre would tease their friend as “Karol Wojtyla, future saint,” the classmates of Joseph Ratzinger, ordained in 1951, knew that he was a future scholar, destined to take his place sooner rather than later in the theological firmament. Within a year of ordination, he was appointed a seminary professor; he would also take his turn hearing confessions in the cathedral.

    “It was mostly seminarians who came,” the Pope Emeritus told Seewald. “I was especially popular with them because I was so broad-minded.”

    With other broad-minded scholars, Father Ratzinger rocketed up the theological circles in Germany and, by the time of the Council, emerged as a key adviser (peritus) to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne.

    In advance of the Council, Cardinal Frings gave a landmark address in Genoa, setting out a framework. Pope St. John XXIII summoned Frings to the Vatican to tell him that he had said what the Pope had wanted to say, but had not found the right words.

    Father Ratzinger had written the entire Genoa speech. Not yet 35 years old, he was key in shaping the thought of one of the most influential Council fathers.

    Along with others in the “Rhine alliance,” Father Ratzinger brought zeal and zest to the reforming wing of the Council, finding allies among other intellectuals, including Bishop Wojtyla from Krakow, who sought to update the expression of the ancient deposit of faith, bringing it into a conversation with modern thinking. The mission was to encounter the modern world in order to convert it.

    In 1965, the “Rhine alliance” launched a new theological journal (Concilium) to promote the implementation of Vatican II, and its founders included the theological giants of the day, all priests: Johann Baptist Metz, Dominicans Yves Congar and Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesuits Henri de Lubac and Karl Rahner, and Servant of God Hans Urs von Balthasar. Father Küng, a brilliant scholar who was more a spin doctor than a theological contributor to the Council itself, was also a founder.

    Father Ratzinger’s skepticism, meanwhile, grew about the Conciliumdirection of reform, which appeared to breach the limits of Catholic orthodoxy. In 1971, Father Küng would publish his book denying Catholic teaching on papal infallibility. In 1972, de Lubac and Congar would leave Concilium to found a new journal, Communio, to be faithful to Catholic tradition and the true teaching of the council. Joseph Ratzinger would be a co-founder with them.

    Ratzinger and Küng were thus established as the great avatars of their generation of German-speaking theology. Ratzinger advocated breathing new life into the Catholic tradition; Küng preferred to change it. For the next several generations, Küng would carry much of the theological and institutional consensus in the German world.

    Ratzinger would become Rome’s man to contain German theology within the Catholic tradition. In 1977, Pope St. Paul VI would make Professor Ratzinger the new archbishop of Munich and create him a cardinal. In 1979, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would remove Father Küng’s license to teach Catholic theology.

    Munich’s Cardinal Ratzinger sided with Rome on the Küng affair, and further intervened to block Father Metz’s appointment to a theology chair in Munich. Cardinal Ratzinger was the most credible and articulate expositor of Catholic tradition, then apparently a minority position in German theology.

    In 1981, St. John Paul II appointed Cardinal Ratzinger as prefect of the CDF. The battle between Rome and the German party — both in the academy and among the bishops — would be led in Rome by the preeminent German theologian-bishop faithful to Tradition. For the next 24 years, Cardinal Ratzinger would be the Vatican’s answer to preserve the goodness in the “Rhine alliance” while correcting its errors.

    This would be done from inside that theological movement, as Cardinal Ratzinger was one of its leading proponents. And for more than two decades of deliberations about an immense variety of challenges, the Polish pope and the CDF prefect would speak in German.

    Cardinal Ratzinger would be at the heart of disputes with the “Rhine alliance” over an extended period:

    —liberation theology (1984 and 1986)

    —the appointment of a new archbishop in Cologne (1988) and subsequent “Cologne Declaration” of non-confidence in John Paul and Ratzinger (1989)

    —the instruction on the vocation and mission of the theologian, Donum Veritatis (1990)

    —the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992)

    —the encyclical on moral theology Veritatis Splendor (1993)

    —the dispute over Holy Communion for the civilly divorced-and-remarried with German Bishops Karl Lehmann and Walter Kasper (1994)

    —abortion counseling in Germany (1998)

    —the Joint Declaration on Justification with the Lutherans (1999)

    —the declaration Dominus Iesus, on the uniqueness of salvation in Jesus Christ (2000)

    —the debate over the primacy of the universal Church over the local Churches with Cardinal Kasper (2001)

    Cardinal Ratzinger was in his person the Vatican response to the German challenge, backed up by the formidable St. John Paul II, who himself had done his doctoral work on the German philosopher Max Scheler.

    John Paul’s approach was not to exile the German alternatives; he made both Karl Lehmann and Walter Kasper cardinals. Yet with Cardinal Ratzinger as his chief lieutenant, he was confident that the ship would continue on course.

    His election as Pope Benedict XVI put Ratzinger at the absolute center of the ongoing German challenges. In his third and final visit to Germany in 2011, 18 months before his abdication, Benedict delivered this devastating assessment to the Central Committee of German Catholics, the driving force behind the current “synodal path”:

    The Church in Germany is superbly organized. But behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in the living God? We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective.

    In 2012, having already taken the decision to abdicate, Pope Benedict sought to replace himself in the role he had played since the 1970s. In July 2012, he appointed Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the German bishop in charge of publishing the Ratzinger collected works, prefect of the CDF. Who better from the German world to take over his role?

    After February 2013, Benedict would withdraw from being at the center of ecclesial affairs for 35 years. The anchor had been lifted, and the German Catholic world would begin to drift.

    Cardinal Müller would do his best, but unlike the Wojtyla-Ratzinger alliance of world-class scholars and courageous pastors, Pope Francis paid less attention to Cardinal Müller’s efforts, unceremoniously sacking him in 2017.

    With Cardinal Müller in retirement, the leading cardinal theologian from the German world became Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Ratzinger protégé who served as general editorial secretary for the most important project of Ratzinger’s long career, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The transformation of Cardinal Schönborn from stalwart defender of an affirmative Catholic orthodoxy to cheerleader for the initiatives of the German Central Committee is the most remarkable demonstration of what happens when the Ratzinger anchor is lifted.

    Pope Francis has made repeated and dramatic efforts to stop the runaway train of the German “synodal path.” To date, the Central Committee apparatus and its sympathetic bishops have paid him no need. The future of the Francis pontificate, and the future of the Church in Europe, depends upon whether the Holy Father manages to stave off a putative schism, to stop the Protestantizing of the Catholic faith.

    How, though, will he do it without Joseph Ratzinger, the Church’s answer to the German question for 60 years?

 Pope Benedict XVI Holds His Final General Audience, Feb 27, 2013 Credit: Mazur www.thepapalvisit.org.uk

    In new biography, Benedict XVI laments modern ‘anti-Christian creed’ (link)

    CNA Staff, May 4, 2020 / 10:45 am America/Denver (CNA).

    Modern society is formulating an “anti-Christian creed” and punishing those who resist it with “social excommunication,” Benedict XVI has said in a new biography, published in Germany May 4.

    In a wide-ranging interview at the end of the 1,184-page book, written by German author Peter Seewald, the pope emeritus said the greatest threat facing the Church was a “worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies.”

    Benedict XVI, who resigned as pope in 2013, made the comment in response to a question about what he had meant at his 2005 inauguration, when he urged Catholics to pray for him “that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

    He told Seewald that he was not referring to internal Church matters, such as the “Vatileaks” scandal, which led to the conviction of his personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, for stealing confidential Vatican documents.

    In an advanced copy of Benedikt XVI — Ein Leben (A Life), seen by CNA, the pope emeritus said: “Of course, issues such as ‘Vatileaks’ are exasperating and, above all, incomprehensible and highly disturbing to people in the world at large.”

    “But the real threat to the Church and thus to the ministry of St. Peter consists not in these things, but in the worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies, and to contradict them constitutes exclusion from the basic social consensus.”

    He continued: “A hundred years ago, everyone would have thought it absurd to speak of homosexual marriage. Today whoever opposes it is socially excommunicated. The same applies to abortion and the production of human beings in the laboratory.”

    “Modern society is in the process of formulating an ‘anti-Christian creed,’ and resisting it is punishable by social excommunication. The fear of this spiritual power of the Antichrist is therefore only too natural, and it truly takes the prayers of a whole diocese and the universal Church to resist it.”

    The biography, issued by Munich-based publisher Droemer Knaur, is available only in German. An English translation, Benedict XVI, The Biography: Volume One, will be published in the U.S. on Nov. 17.

    In the interview, the 93-year-old former pope confirmed that he had written a spiritual testament, which could be published after his death, as did Pope St. John Paul II.

    Benedict said that he had fast-tracked the cause of John Paul II because of “the obvious desire of the faithful” as well as the example of the Polish pope, with whom he had worked closely for more than two decades in Rome.

    He insisted that his resignation had “absolutely nothing” to do with the episode involving Paolo Gabriele, and explained that his 2010 visit to the tomb of Celestine V, the last pope to resign before Benedict XVI, was “rather coincidental.” He also defended the title “emeritus” for a retired pope.

    Benedict XVI lamented the reaction to his various public comments since his resignation, citing criticism of his tribute read at the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner in 2017, in which he said that God would prevent the ship of the Church from capsizing. He explained that his words were “taken almost literally from the sermons of St. Gregory the Great.”

    Seewald asked the pope emeritus to comment on the “dubia” submitted by four cardinals, including Cardinal Meisner, to Pope Francis in 2016 regarding the interpretation of his apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

    Benedict said that he did not want to comment directly, but referred to his last general audience, on Feb. 27, 2013.

    Summing up his message that day, he said: “In the Church, amid all the toils of humanity and the confusing power of the evil spirit, one will always be able to discern the subtle power of God’s goodness.”

    “But the darkness of successive historical periods will never allow the unadulterated joy of being a Christian … There are always moments in the Church and in the life of the individual Christian in which one feels profoundly that the Lord loves us, and this love is joy, is ‘happiness’.”

    Benedict said that he treasured the memory of his first meeting with the newly elected Pope Francis at Castel Gandolfo and that his personal friendship with his successor has continued to grow.

    Author Peter Seewald has conducted four book-length interviews with Benedict XVI. The first, Salt of the Earth, was published in 1997, when the future pope was prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was followed by God and the World in 2002, and Light of the World in 2010.

    In 2016, Seewald published Last Testament, in which Benedict XVI reflected on his decision to step down as pope.

    Publisher Droemer Knaur said that Seewald had spent many hours talking to Benedict for the new book, as well as speaking to his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

    In an interview with Die Tagespost April 30 [2020], Seewald said that he had shown the Pope Emeritus a few chapters of the book before publication. Benedict XVI, he added, had praised the chapter on Pope Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge.

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