The years of collaboration first with Professor Ratzinger, then with Cardinal Ratzinger, and then with Pope Benedict, were for me a true gift of spiritual fatherhood.
Benedict XVI is “of that class of great teachers who endure,” said Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in a statement to the press, hours after the death of the Pope Emeritus on December 31, 2022. The 77-year-old Archbishop of Vienna recalled his friendship with the German pope, with whom he worked from 1987 to 1992 on the preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published under the pontificate of John Paul II.
He also recalls Pope Benedict’s historic resignation as a “courageous” act that made the papal ministry “more human” and opened “a door for the future of the papacy.” Here are his words:
For me Pope Benedict was and remains above all a great teacher. I was his student, and I benefited a lot from his teaching. But I’m not the only one: He was a teacher for the whole Church with his theology full of wisdom, light, and clarity. In addition to what he was for me as a teacher, he was, I dare say, a father figure, because a teacher is not only an educator.
He is, as a human being, someone who guides, who leads, who opens, who gives horizons. And the years of collaboration first with Professor Ratzinger, then with Cardinal Ratzinger, and then with Pope Benedict, were for me a true gift of spiritual fatherhood.
I put the works of Pope Benedict next to the works of Saint Augustine
And then over the years, a true friendship grew. This is what I personally owe to Pope Benedict. What will remain of Pope Benedict is above all his work. He is, after centuries, a theological pope, a master theologian, and I put him next to the great Doctors of the Church, the Fathers of the Church. In my library I put the works of Pope Benedict next to the works of Saint Augustine. Because I think he will remain one of the greats of the 20th century, remembered in the centuries to come, as Newman is remembered for the 19th century, as St. Thomas, as St. Bonaventure is remembered for the 13th century. I think he is of that breed or class of great teachers who endure.
February 11, 2013, will remain in the memory of the Church
February 11, 2013, will remain in the memory of the Church: Pope Benedict announced that he was giving up the Chair of Peter to live henceforth as a man of prayer, retired. It was obviously an upheaval, a shock, but I welcomed it from the first moment as a personal decision to be respected and honored, and I think this act did something for the papacy, for the Petrine ministry.
In a way I would dare to say that this act, this step of resignation, has made the Petrine ministry more human. The simple fact that the Pope was able to say, “I no longer have the strength, the challenges before us are too great, a younger person must take over,” is a very courageous, very humble act, and at the same time it opens a door for the future of the papacy, which may be important for the future.