“Pope Benedict was closely connected with Klosterneuburg Abbey”

“Pope Benedict was closely connected with Klosterneuburg Abbey”

Only a few people know that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on New Year’s Eve. was in direct contact with Klosterneuburg Abbey through the Pius Parsch Institute. NÖN asked canon and director of the institute, university professor Andreas Redtenbacher, how this connection came about and what it means for Klosterneuburg.

NÖN: Since when has the Pope Emeritus been in contact with you and the Pius Parsch Institute and how did the contact take place?

Andreas Redtenbacher: I met Joseph Ratzinger personally in the late 1970s while studying in Rome. At that time he was still Archbishop of Munich and descended on his visits to Rome at the German-Austrian preparatory college of “Anima”. Each time there was a stimulating discussion with him in a small circle, in which I could participate.

What was this?

Redtenbacher: It was about God and the world, about the interplay between faith and reason, about issues of theology and church development. There were always eye-level discussions where he would argue with us in a modest and very human way. He met me and I met him personally.

Did that connection continue?

Redtenbacher: To my great surprise, I found out – at home after my Ph.D. – that he had “secretly” asked me to work in Rome under then Dean Koberger. There he had become Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fortunately, the dean refused. The process was later repeated a second time – now not “secretly” but “in person” during my habilitation studies in Trier. There he gave a brilliant – far from conservative – lecture on the liturgical reform of the Council, for which, as is well known, Pius Parsch did the most important preliminary work at Klosterneuburg. He asked me bluntly: Don’t you want to come to Rome now? This time I refused myself so as not to jeopardize the completion of my driver’s license. He understood this very well. Apparently, he also had a strong personal memory.

Does that sound more like a break in contact?

Redtenbacher: Exactly the opposite was the case. In May 2004, the monastery celebrated the 50th anniversary of Pius Parsch’s death. At the same time, it was the founding year of the ‘Liturgy-scientific Society Klosterneuburg’, combined with the new edition of the Parsch classic ‘Folk Liturgy’. Its Meaning and Extent’. On recommendation, we also sent a copy to Cardinal Ratzinger.

And how did he react?

Redtenbacher: I received – again to my surprise – enthusiastic feedback. He wrote: Today one can hardly imagine the importance that Pius Parsch’s works had in the 1920s to 1940s: they had a crucial liturgical conscience formed by the universal church. And so he is happy that Pius Parsch’s writings can speak to us again today.

More than recognition for the achievements of Klosterneuburg…

Redtenbacher: More recognition for Pius Parsch and the Klosternneuburg monastery was not possible – a few months later he was elected pope. You will understand that this is a huge encouragement for the work of our institute here at Klosternneuburg Abbey. Then we put the last international research symposium on Parsch in February 2021 under this same motto: ‘Shaping the Church’s Liturgical Consciousness’.

There was Benedict XVI. long retired as pope?

Redtenbacher: Several events overlapped. With Francis, a new pope has long been in office. The monastery temporarily received a papal delegate as director – but the ideal and personal connection with the Klosterneuburg monastery continued. The delegate was Bishop Josef Clemens, who had been Cardinal Ratzinger’s secretary for many years. He reported to his former boss about his new assignment for Klosterneuburg. Benedict XVI’s first reaction. was that he spontaneously handed him a book on Pius Parsch with the words: This is basic reading to prepare for your work in Klosterneuburg. The delegate, then, arrived here just in time for the said symposium in February, and brought with him the Pope Emeritus’s express wishes for success, the promise of his prayers for success, as well as his personal blessing.

A successful symposium and a lasting connection to Rome?

Redtenbacher: Yes, the symposium was really a complete success. For Pope Benedict XVI In any case, Klosterneuburg remained closely linked to the work of Pius Parsch until the end and, above all, to its importance for the ‘liturgical conscience of the Church’.

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