While I am a sincere fan of Pope Benedict’s writings, sometimes they do have a reputation for being complex, and dense with meaning to be unpacked. Sometimes I have to read the same sentence a few times. But the “Last Testament” interview of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald (the interviewer in “Light of the World,” Ignatius Press 2010) was a real treat, a very personal sensing of the humanity of a gentle, humble, self-effacing yet candid papal figure. The book just “moved along.” And, as expected, the Pope Emeritus did not say much at all regarding the person of Jorge Bergoglio.
On page 201, I read a statement by the interviewer: “The reauthorization of the Tridentine Mass is often interpreted primarily as a concession to the Society of St. Pius X.” It is not phrased as a question (although the interviewer’s comment could of course have been edited). However, on turning the page, I was very surprised, perhaps shocked is a better word, by the Pope Emeritus’ reply, which is straightforward regarding the matter at hand, but then changes, quite frankly, to a barely related closing five lines of significant import:
Those last five lines are worth reading a few times. To me, it seems the closest that the Pope Emeritus has come to a criticism, gentle but well-founded. To me, also, “those people” is interesting usage, for the people most lead astray, who need to be led back into unity (“if possible!!!) are Cardinals and bishops and priests. Would that they would hear in these words the admonition of Christ Himself!
There are several other interesting or charming or spiritually revealing comments in Last Testament, worth sharing as long as we have the book ‘open.’
+ When asked if he has ever had a crisis of Faith, the Pope Emeritus says no, adding that he “has always been held firm ” i.e. not that he has always held firm. He witnesses to being in God’s Hand, adding “Thanks be to God.” p 207
+ Diminishing his own insight, intense study and depth of understanding, he states “… when I thought I had the fundamental insights, new things were given to me again.” Thus, the brilliant scholar acknowledges it all comes to him from God. p 207
+ The Pope Emeritus makes an interesting case for volunteerism being healthier in a church community than paid employees. Much of that problem, I believe, exists in the U.S. where insurance considerations, e.g., have led to rejecting or over-regulating volunteers. The example he uses is the excess of money in Germany to pay these employees (p 217), due to the tax deductions paid out to the various churches, enriching them beyond need. It was particularly interesting to read of the Pope Emeritus’ criticism of excommunication of people in Germany if they fail to pay into the fund for the Church.
February 28, 2013 — Pope Benedict’s helicopter lifts off to take him to Castel Gandolfo, and the next stage of his life.