1672701456 Pope Ratzinger Intervention by Monsignor Paglia quotWhen he felt the

Pope Ratzinger, Intervention by Monsignor Paglia: "When he felt the papacy slipping from his hands"

Pope Ratzinger Intervention by Monsignor Paglia quotWhen he felt the

Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, January 2, 2023

The collective memory – the comments of these hours confirm it – will probably remain locked in the still image of the resignation, leaving the evocation of the figure to the small chronicle of photo opportunities and malicious speculation about the shadow papacy. Both sound a little dissonant with the profile of a man – a Christian, a priest, a pope – of aristocratic frankness and humble simplicity, certainly not media-oriented, certainly not polemical. There are, and must be, many reflections on the man and his work, including, of course, the gesture of his resignation. Who knows, maybe he felt the papacy was getting out of control. And he made the – unprecedented – decision to return it to the cardinals. We will have to go even deeper.

Among the most important things he leaves us as a legacy and as a task if we are to live up to him, there are two qualities to which I would like to devote a few words: frank disinterest in any intended means of building a controlled self-image; the painful disappointment over the painful image of a church permeated by party hatred. He has not courageously fulfilled his duty as the custodian of the Catholic faith, he has not docilely sought to prevent even more painful fractures.

His own resignation was the teaching, it is remarkable, of a believer who holds the papacy, not himself, indispensable to the church. And for that reason, all respect and support must be accorded to the papacy, whosoever wields it. Now that Heavenly Father welcomes him into his bosom, we owe him at least this: to put down the arrogance of biased censors who take on the role without having any authority; and apologize for the offensive language that dares to present itself as a protection of the faith. This concerns the style and the man: they must be appreciated in a very different way than the more usual one.

As for the actual doctrinal legacy, apart of course from the tremendous richness of his theological thought and cultural intelligence of the time, it makes sense to focus first on two reasons that I believe may accompany Christianity’s transition into the new era that has opened up.

The first reason is this: faith is essentially an act of love. For Benedict XVI faith is not a surrender of reason, not a salvation toll, not an apology for a doctrine, not a recruitment project. It is first and foremost an act of love: one agrees with Jesus for it; for this one follows Jesus; Jesus is testified to that. Everything else comes in abundance. Not for nothing were his last words – as reported -: “Jesus, I love you”. He leaves us a “little treasure” of intense meditations on the theological virtues, in which charity – the love of God – features twice. Deus caritas est; Caritas in Veritate, Spe Salvi. And finally Lumen fidei, the draft of which was largely taken over from Francis’ first encyclical Lumen fidei. This rediscovery brought about a veritable upheaval in the Aristotelian logic on which we still so often rely today when we speak of truth. And it can instead be understood as the most creative force available to contemporary culture at this moment: held hostage by a refined version of self-love that tends to leave us indifferent to the goal of the afterlife and excited about it empties abysses of human love.

The second reason captures the state of the Church at this moment: the experience of exile in faith becomes creative. In the period of exile, ancient biblical Israel discovered the treasures of the wisdom of God in human affairs, in dialogue with culture, in the transformation of the electoral community into a community of affection around the irrevocable covenant of love of God, which for centuries was Christianity itself. After its political Adventure—certainly full of lights, not just shadows, through the European culture that has fertilized it—returns to Christianity at this time in history.

Benedict XVI was the first to recognize with serene determination the biblical typology of this historical passage. Today, more than the time of the Exodus, we are in the time of exile. And Benedict XVI. wisely invited believers to embark on this adventure of faith – while stepping out of their usual comfort zone – with love, passion and a creative spirit. Not an “Indian reserve” to defend, but a performative leaven that changes history. God also knows how to draw inspiration from the consequences of sin for an unprecedented opening of grace. Without the diaspora, the universal vocation of God’s people would not have been recognized and lived out with faith, hope and love. It would happen to us sinners too. And Benedict XVI. accepted, like the prophets sent by God on the cusp of exile and in support of hope – with his style of “the humble worker of the Lord” to indicate his mercy.