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.”
The Pope Emeritus responded to a question about the differences between the missionary mindset of the successful evangelists of the 16th Century, in contrast to modern evangelical thought, as Servais asks, “…in recent decades, there has been a kind of ‘development of dogma “of which the Catechism should definitely take into account?”
“There is no doubt that we are faced with a profound evolution of dogma. The Fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages could believe that the whole human race had, in substance, become Catholic and that paganism existed only on the margins, but the discovery of the New World…has radically changed prospects. The second half of the last century has fully affirmed the understanding that God does not let all of the unbaptized go to hell…The great missionaries of the 16th Century believed that the unbaptized were forever lost, and this explains their fervor. After Vatican II that conviction was finally abandoned, which precipitated a kind of deep double-crisis: on the one hand, it affected the missionary’s motivations — why you should try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved, even without it? But another issue also emerged: faith becomes problematic when it is compulsory, in how it is lived in a life. …the Christian himself it is linked to the demands of the Christian faith and its morals. But if faith and salvation are not interdependent, even faith becomes unmotivated.
…the problem is not completely resolved,” Benedict acknowledged, “but this is actually the essential insight that so touches the existence of the individual Christian. Christ, is the One who is and was, for all, and Christians — in the grand statement of St. Paul — constitute his body in this world; they are not for themselves but with Jesus, for others. This does not mean there is a kind of special ticket to enter eternal bliss, but there is the vocation to build up the world, and all in it What the human person needs for salvation is the intimate openness to God, the intimate expectation of him, and loyalty to him. And this, conversely, means that we — together with the Lord we have met — must go to others and try to make visible to them, the advent of God in Christ. It is clear that we must reflect on the whole question.”