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The immensity of Joseph Ratzinger

The immensity of Joseph Ratzinger

Benedict XVI has died. Facts, comments, insights and an analysis of Benedetto Ippolito, historian of philosophy and Catholic intellectual

Farewell to Ratzinger.

“It is with pain that I inform you that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away today at 09:34 in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican. More information will follow as soon as possible." This was stated by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni.

From Monday 2 January the body of the Pope Emeritus will be in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican for the greeting of the faithful.

"A simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord", he said looking out for the first time from the balcony of St. Peter's Square. A great and rigorous theologian, capable of making very complex topics accessible, Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope three days after his birthday, April 19, 2005, after only four votes on the second day of the conclave (three ballots and one day of , only for Pius XII it took so little, ed ).

He announced in Latin, during an ordinary consistory, his resignation from the Petrine ministry on 11 February 2013, becoming the eighth Pope to do so, if we consider the cases of Clement I, Pontianus, Silverius, Benedict IX, Gregory VI, Celestine V and Gregory XII (of which we have certain or very reliable historical sources).

He has been Pope emeritus since 28 February 2013. Ratzinger has never repented of his resignation from the papacy, at least according to his personal secretary and prefect of the papal household, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein who in a documentary made by a German television stated that "the his resignation was a long, well-praised and suffered decision, which he never regretted” and that the “Pope emeritus is completely at peace with himself”.

(Start Magazine editorial staff)


The Church, by definition evangelical and apostolic, is an authority not derived from history but functional to the community of believers, i.e. constitutive and foundational of the People of God. This fact separates her from any other type of existing religious society. Therefore the Romans persecuted it in the first centuries, and everywhere the same happens today: because the Pope, who is its architrave, answers to no one but God.

It is worth repeating. His authority, which is not political, derives from God, and for this very reason he is able to recognize any other political authority that does not have the same origin.

Therefore, in his own, i.e. in the things of God, the Pope does not respond to power, he exercises authority. But, evidently, he does not do it as a reigning person, but it is the office that the reigning person holds for a fixed time that authorizes and legitimizes, imposing specific duties in conscience. The time limit, in fact, is usually death, but, as we have seen, it can also be renunciation precisely in conscience, under the conditions prescribed by the Code of Canon Law.

Good. The Church is therefore a divine authority whose pivot is the Vicar of Christ and whose determination is the so-called “romanitas”. Gregory VII, in his Dictatus papae in the 11th century, expressed this immanent transcendence of Petrine authority in the bishop of Rome thus: “Ecclesia romana a solo Deo est fundata”. Which means that only the Church of Rome derives from God; the rest of the Church also derives from God, but only through the legitimacy that the Pope transmits. Other than historical heritage, dear Mancuso, is Matthew 16, 18: it is the Gospel which indicates that the End of Salvation passes through the Sacred Function that the Pope performs for humanity, the so-called Keys that Christ entrusted to Peter, which , it will be recalled, they dissolve and bind the things of Heaven on Earth: definitions perfectly explored by Leo I the Great and Gregory I the Great, not by a 21st century Formiche commentator.

In non-Catholic circles, on the other hand, they are so accustomed to the ignorance of Catholics that they think they are telling us things as they please, not as they are in themselves.

Second observation. The Church is not only a divine institution. It is also a human organization, that is, a social reality, an "equipment" that men legitimized first of all by baptism and then by the priesthood have the task of managing. This is where good and evil come in. That is, that phenomenon that Scalfari calls pastorality takes over, but which I would instead call power, for better or for worse: that is, ambitions, selfishness, desire to emerge, etc., etc., but also solidarity, social generosity, care for the poor, subsidiary donation, etc., etc. .

From these long premises, I will draw a brief conclusion. In short, if the Church is both a divine institution and a human organization, Benedict XVI's humble and grandiosely courageous stepping aside is by no means the passage from eternity to history, the disappearance of the divine for the human, and the final celebration of a secularization of the theological, as Carl Schmitt would have said, much desired in certain circles. No. Least of all is the victory of pastoral power over divine authority, as Mancuso says. Far from it.

With this free decision of his, in the face of a Church probably dominated by situations that Nietzsche would define as "human, all too human", Ratzinger said no to himself, to the weak perpetration of his own impotence; he said no to a system of power and government that doesn't work; saying yes to God, to the authority of the Pope, to his independence, to his freedom to dominate power with the legitimate strength of his intrinsic authority.

With this act, perhaps in the face of so many situations that in recent years he has seen, known and touched in their gravity, the man Ratzinger has decided to step aside for someone else who can humanly grasp the divine scepter after him, reaffirm the primacy of the Church, of her institution over human organization, of her authority over power, giving a jolt to the whole of Christianity.

Convince me otherwise, if not. On the other hand, the meaning of my discourse is simple, perhaps even banal. Without power one cannot oppose the excessive power of worldly and ecclesial relativism. And the present world needs just that: to fight against dissipation. And in the Church the only legitimate power that can do such a thing is not the personalist abuse of offices but the strong and decisive expression of government by the Vicar of Christ, a spiritual primacy that does not need military and economic means to overcome corruption, hypocrisy and lukewarmness, but only with holiness and the strength of faith.

Joseph Ratzinger remains a cardinal in the Church, not one defeated by life; in the same way that the pontifical institution always remains the same, above the Church and above the cardinals, regardless of everything and everyone.

Benedict Hippolytus




In the years of his Pontificate, Ratzinger starts a real revolution in terms of transparency, contributing to a change of course against pedophile priests. Already in March 2005, less than a month before his election to the Petrine throne, the future Pope denounced, during the Good Friday procession, the rampant scourge of pedophilia within the clergy.

Like Benedict XVI he then meets the victims of abuse in the Vatican, the USA, Australia, Malta, Great Britain and Germany. In 2010 he wrote a public letter to the Catholics of Ireland destined to go down in history in which he expressed shame, dishonor and remorse on behalf of the Church.

The three encyclicals

In almost eight years as Pope, Joseph Ratzinger drafted three encyclicals: 'Deus caritas est' (December 25, 2005), 'Spe Salvi' (November 30, 2007), 'Caritas in veritate' (June 29, 2009). Four apostolic exhortations: 'Sacramentum Caritatis: post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, source and summit of the life and mission of the Church' (February 22, 2007), 'Verbum Domini: post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Word of God in the life and in the mission of God in the life and mission of the Church' (September 30, 2010), 'Africae munus: post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Church in Africa at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace' (November 19, 2011) and 'Ecclesia in the Middle East: post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Church in the Middle East, communion and witness' (September 14, 2012). Dozens of trips in Italy and abroad.

The vocation and the path in the Church

The son of a policeman and a cook, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in Marktl am Inn, in the territory of the diocese of Passau, Germany, on April 16, 1927. His childhood was marked by the war. He entered the seminary at the age of 12, following in the footsteps of his older brother Georg, but was forced to wear a military uniform because he was recruited into the Luftwaffenhelfer program, reserved for all young students.

He was later drafted into the ranks of the Wehrmacht. He experiences the brutality of Nazism up close: his cousin suffering from Down syndrome is killed , in the ideology of the pure Hitlerian race and his parish priest beaten by the Nazis before the celebration of a mass.

Only with the end of the war did Ratzinger return to his beloved books and on June 29, 1951, at the age of 24, he was ordained a priest. A year later he began his teaching activity in the same school in Freising where he had been a student. After his thesis in theology (1953), he embarked on a brilliant academic career. He teaches at the Universities of Bonn, Munster and Tübingen. In 1969 he returned to his native Bavaria at the University of Regensburg, where he was offered the chair of dogmatics and history of dogma and where he also assumed the position of vice-rector.

The intense academic and scientific activity leads him to carry out important positions in the German Bishops' Conference, in the International Theological Commission. Notable is the contribution that Ratzinger gives to the Second Vatican Council (which opens its works in October 1962) and as an "expert" he assists Cardinal Joseph Frings, archbishop of Cologne.

He was appointed archbishop of Munich and Freising by Paul VI on 25 March 1977. He received episcopal ordination on 28 May of the same year: the first priest, after 80 years, to assume the pastoral government of the large Bavarian diocese. He chooses as episcopal motto: 'Collaborator of the Truth'.

On June 27, 1977, the same Pope assigned him the presbyteral title of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino, appointing him cardinal. The following year he then participated in the conclave that elects Pope Albino Luciani (John Paul I), on 26 August and 16 October of the same year, in the one that elected Karol Woytjla to the Petrine throne. It will be John Paul II who will ask Ratzinger to return to Rome. In 1981 (November 25) he appointed him Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith (a position that lasted 23 and a half years), president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission.

In the years of loyal collaboration with John Paul II, his dissent on the Pope's "frontier" choices leaked out on several occasions, such as the World Day of Prayer for Peace on 27 October 1986 which gathered in Assisi the leaders of all the religions of the world. And equally Cardinal Ratzinger does not share the choice of the "mea culpa" that Pope Wojtyla decides to pronounce on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of 2000. Non-public dissent on the part of the then Cardinal Ratzinger also with regard to the establishment of the Day of Mercy, which by decision of the previous Pontiff is celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter .

But these "reservations" of the guardian of orthodoxy do not undermine the relationship of trust that binds him to the Pontiff, for which he has "made order" on the subject of Liberation theology, with documents and provisions that have practically eradicated this too horizontal vision of Christian life by the official Church of Latin America, however leaving the field free to fundamentalist religious sects who promise more solidarity against injustice.

Wojtyla also appointed him in 1986, president of the Commission for the preparation of the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'.

In 2002 the cardinals elected him Dean of the College of Cardinals. Among his publications particular echo is 'Introduction to Christianity' (1968), a collection of university lectures on the "profession of apostolic faith". In 1973 the volume 'Dogma and Predication' collects the essays, meditations and homilies dedicated to pastoral care. His publications constitute a point of reference for those who are engaged in the in-depth study of theology. Think of the volume 'Report on the faith' (1985), 'The salt of the earth' (1996), 'Alla scuola della Verita” published on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

As Pontiff he wrote 'Jesus' of Nazareth' in several volumes, an essay on the historical figure of Jesus Christ. In his first general audience (April 27, 2005) he explains the reason for the name: “I wanted to call myself Benedict XVI to ideally refer to the venerated Pope Benedict XV, who led the Church in a troubled period due to the First World War. He was courageous and an authentic prophet of peace and worked with strenuous courage first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its harmful consequences ".

On September 12, 2006, his meeting with representatives of science at the University of Regensburg, Germany. The speech dedicated to the dialogue between faith and reason initially provoked alarmed reactions throughout the world and marked relations with Islam for weeks.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/mondo/limmensita-di-ratzinger/ on Sat, 31 Dec 2022 10:33:58 +0000.