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Benedict: “What the human person needs for salvation is the intimate openness to God”

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Aleteia - published on 03/16/16

In interview with theologian Jacques Servais, Pope Emeritus says, “It is mercy that steers us towards God"

[This was a fast-translation culled from several sources and meant to summarize the remarks of the Pope Emeritus. To read a full translation of the interview, please click here and read Benedict’s extremely interesting and instructive remarks – Ed]

“Only where there is mercy does cruelty cease to exist, do evil and violence cease to exist. Pope Francis fully shares this line. His pastoral practice finds expression in his continuous references to God’s mercy”

So speaks the Pope Emeritus in a just-published, book-form interview with Jesuit theologian Jacques Servais. Not yet available in English, the book is entitled Per mezzo della fede. Dottrina della giustificazione ed esperienza di Dio nella predicazione della Chiesa (roughly translated as “Through the faith. Doctrine of the justification and experience of God in the preaching of the Church”), and it contains Benedict’s thoughts on the importance of evangelical witness, and the sacraments, to the life of faith.

“…faith is a deeply personal communication with God, which touches my very core and places me in direct contact with the living God so that I can talk to Him, love Him and enter into communion with Him. At the same time, this highly personal experience is inextricably linked to the community: becoming one of God’s children in the community of pilgrim brothers and sisters is part of the essence of the faith. Paul teaches us that faith comes from listening (fides ex auditu). Listening, meanwhile, involves having a partner. …In order for me to believe I need witnesses who have met God and make Him accessible to me.”

Responding to another question, the Pope Emeritus speaks about the central importance of mercy. “Mankind today has this vague sensation that God cannot let the majority of humanity head into perdition. As such, the concerns people once had regarding salvation have for the most part disappeared. In my opinion, however, there is still a perception that we are all in need of grace and forgiveness, it just exists in a different way. I believe it is ‘a sign of the times’ that the idea of God’s mercy is becoming increasingly central and dominant – starting with Sister Faustina, whose visions in various ways deeply reflect God’s image among today’s mankind and its desire for divine goodness…”

“Pope Francis,” Benedict XVI continued, “fully shares this line. His pastoral practice finds expression in his continuous references to God’s mercy. It is mercy that steers us towards God, while justice makes us fearful in his presence. I believe this shows that beneath the veneer of self-confidence and self-righteousness, modern man conceals a profound knowledge of its wounds and unworthiness before God. We await mercy. It is certainly no coincidence that people today find the parable of the Good Samaritan particularly attractive. And not just because it strongly highlights the social aspect of human existence, nor just because in it the Samaritan, a non-religious man, seems to act according to God’s will towards religious representatives, while official religious representatives have become immune, so to speak, to God.”

“Clearly the people of today like this, but I also find it equally important that deep down, humans expect the Samaritan to come to their rescue that he will bend down and pour oil on their wounds, take care of them and bring them to safety. Essentially, they know they need God’s mercy and gentleness. In today’s tough and technified world where feelings no longer count for anything, expectations are growing for a redeeming love that is given freely. It seems to me that in divine mercy, the meaning of justifying faith is expressed in a new way. Through God’s mercy – which everyone seeks — it is possible even today to interpret the crux of the doctrine of justification, fully ensuring its relevance.”

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FaithPope Benedict XVI
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