"A Revolutionary of the Christian Type" | Peter Seewald | The Preface to "Benedict XVI: An Intimate
Portrait" | Ignatius Insight
"A Revolutionary of the Christian Type" | Peter Seewald | The Preface to Benedict XVI: An Intimate
What is it like to sit opposite a man like Joseph Ratzinger for many hours,
alone in a monastery, and discuss things with him, asking a thousand questions?
We were high up in our monastery, often in reality above the clouds, and there
was always something that gave you the feeling there was a good spirit there.
At any rate, I came to know Joseph Ratzinger as a great man for patience, as a
spiritual master who can give answers. Here was someone who simply understood
people, who had retained the liveliness of youth. Someone who did not burn out
quickly but in some way remained whole--and most impressive in his attitude of
humility, with which he makes small things seem great.
Joseph Ratzinger is a born teacher, but he did not want to become pope. Even
after the conclave, on the loggia of Saint Peter's, his face showed the traces
of an inner struggle. And he probably felt like crying, so disturbingly moved
was he by the condescension of the great God who entrusted him, at the end of
his path, with the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
The man from Bavaria--contrary to all the projections dumped onto his
shoulders--is a revolutionary of the Christian type. Seeking out what was lost
and saving it is the constant element in his life. An inconvenient man who can
seize on the spirit of the times, who warns people against the aberrations of
modern life. Anyone who really wants change, he cries out, needs a change in
his consciousness and his personal behavior--anything else is insufficient.
Now, as Benedict XVI, the most powerful German at the beginning of the new
millennium may offer a new opportunity for Europe and, especially, for his
homeland. And Peter's successor has given his own people an exciting motto for
this: "We are not working to defend a position of power", he says.
"In truth we are working so that the streets of the world may be open for
Christ." That would mean, then, something like a "Benedictinizing"
of the Catholic Church, a healthy revitalization of mercy, of the origin of the
This is an approach based, not on activism or considerations of feasibility,
but on faith. And the pontifex in Rome could find himself helped not only by a
reawakened longing for meaning and a new consciousness that truth is
indispensable, but also by a new generation of young Christians, whose desire
is to live out their faith in all its vitality and fullness once more, piously
and without inhibitions. "The Church is certainly not old and
immobile", declared the new pope enthusiastically; "no--she is
young." And it was also untrue, he said, that youth is merely
"materialistic and egotistic: young people want an end to be put to
injustice. They want inequality to be overcome and for everyone to be given his
share of the good things of the world. They want the oppressed to be given
their freedom. They want greatness. They desire goodness. And that is why the
young ... are once again wide open for Christ."
And then he added, just like a rebel of earlier times. "Anyone who has
come to Christ seeking what is comfortable has indeed come to the wrong
address." And, quite certainly, anyone who seeks that with Pope Benedict,
Abbey of Benedictbeuern
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Peter Seewald was an editor and a writer for two major German newspapers and a magazine for twelve years. Now a free-lance journalist and writer, he has written seeral best-selling books,
including the internationally acclaimed book-length interviews with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) entitled
Salt of the Earth and
God and the World. He is also the main author of
Pope Benedict XVI: Servant of the Truth.
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