Since his resignation, Benedict XVI has emerged several times from the silence he has imposed on himself, to freely express his opinion on points that are close to his heart.
Five years ago, on February 11, 2013, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick, Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the Petrine ministry because of his failing strength. Since then, the Pope Emeritus has emerged several times from the silence he has imposed on himself, to freely express his opinion on points that are close to his heart.
For example, on February 26, 2014, in a letter addressed to the Italian daily La Stampa, the German Pope Emeritus describes as “absurd” the speculations regarding his renunciation, stating that he has “no doubt” about its validity. He assures those who are puzzled by his new title of “Pope Emeritus” that there can be no doubt about “who is the true pope.”
In the preface to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s book Faith and the Common Good, published on May 10, 2015, the Pope Emeritus also encourages the Catholic Church to dialogue with non-believers. The Church, he suggests, must “go out of itself” and share its reflections on the questions of our time, in order to assume its responsibility “for humanity as a whole.”
Mercy, a “sign of the times”
In March 2016, Pope Francis was criticized for launching the Year of Mercy; some feared that with so much focus on mercy, justice might be forgotten, especially in the realm of the family. Benedict XVI then said during a conference that he sees “as a sign of the times” the fact that the mercy of God is becoming an increasingly central subject in the Church, and welcomes the insistence of the Argentine pope on this subject.
On June 28, 2016, on the occasion of a celebration of the 65th anniversary of his priestly ordination, Benedict XVI paid tribute to Pope Francis: “Your kindness, since the first day of your election, at every moment of my life here, touches me, and carries me really, internally.” In his meditation, the Pope Emeritus also testifies to his desire to unite himself with Christ to “assist in the transubstantiation of the world, that it may be a world not of death, but of life; a world where Love has conquered death.”
In the month of September 2016, Benedict XVI entrusted his Last Conversations to the German journalist Peter Seewald. The Pope Emeritus gives an account of his pontificate and pays tribute to his successor, Pope Francis: “the election of a Latin American cardinal means that the Church is in motion, is dynamic, open, with prospects ahead of it for new developments.”
An explosive situation
On the occasion of a conference organized on April 18, 2017, by the Polish bishops, a text by the Pope Emeritus was read aloud. The text states that “the opposition between radically atheistic conceptions of the state and the occurrence of a radically religious state in Islamist movements is leading our time to an explosive situation…”
“These radicalisms urgently require that we develop a convincing idea of the state,” adds the Pope Emeritus in this text, unveiled by the Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation.
On May 17, 2017, in the preface he wrote for Cardinal Robert Sarah’s second book, The Power of Silence, the Pope Emeritus says that with Cardinal Sarah, “a master of silence and of interior life, the liturgy is in good hands.” Benedict XVI also said, in a subtle way, that one must “be grateful to Pope Francis for having appointed such a spiritual master at the head of the Congregation which is responsible for the celebration of the liturgy in the Church.”
Obscuring the priority of God
In July of the same year, Benedict XVI sent a message to the Archdiocese of Cologne, on the occasion of the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, former shepherd of that diocese. The Pope Emeritus salutes the memory of the prelate, to whom he was close, and who, according to him, knew how to “resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the time.” But there are two other sentences that were highlighted at the time: those where Joseph Ratzinger says he is “impressed” by the confidence of Cardinal Meisner, which reflected a profound certainty “that the Lord is not abandoning his Church, even if sometimes the barque is almost about to capsize.”
Three months later, in October, the Pope Emeritus wrote the preface to the Russian edition of the volume of his Opera Omnia dedicated to the liturgy. The true cause of the crisis of the Church, he writes, “lies in the obscuring of the priority of God” in the liturgy. The German Pope deplores the “misunderstanding of the liturgical reform” that followed the Second Vatican Council, because of which “human activity and creativity” were given pride of place, making people “forget the presence of God.”
Benedict XVI also signed, in December 2017, the preface to a collection of theological contributions published for the 40th anniversary of the priesthood of Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. On July 1, 2017, at the end of Müller’s term as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis did not renew him for another term. The Pope Emeritus said that Cardinal Müller will continue “to publicly serve the faith,” adding that “a priest, and certainly a bishop and a cardinal, is never simply retired.”
Recently, on February 7, 2018, the Pope Emeritus declared in a letter addressed to the Corriere delle Serra that he is “on pilgrimage toward the House” of the Father. Benedict XVI says in his letter, “It is a great grace for me to be surrounded on this last stretch of road, which sometimes is a little tiring, by such love and kindness as I could never have imagined.” AF, AdP, AP