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ENCOUNTERS WITH THE FUTURE POPE: Stories about Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope

Ultimo Aggiornamento: 23/11/2008 15.43
10/12/2005 05.30
 
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This space is for anyone who had the good fortune of meeting Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope, and whom we invite- nay, beg - to share that memory with us. It will also accommodate published accounts by or about those who knew Ratzi in the past or had some contact with him.

Paparatzifan started a new thread called "Memories.." in the main forum, because she tells the story of the first time she saw Ratzi up close.

For those who do not know it yet, Paparatzifan is an Argentinian of Italian descent and lives in Italy now, but she still has family in Buenos Aires. She went home recently for a short time, after her November 9 attendance at the General Audience, and broke back with her some items from her "archives" in Buenos Aires.

Equally of interest, she created and moderates papaluciani.com, a beautiful website dedicated to the memory of John Paul I, the smiling Pope, who was her Patriarch in Venice before he was elected Pope. It is her connection to Papa Luciani's family that led to the fascinating episode she recounts below.

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PAPARATZI'S FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH RATZI

After 14 months of absence from my country, one of the first things I did was to go through my archive and look for any material that I had on our Ratzi.

The earliest thing I kept was a yellowed copy of the Osservatore Romano from October 15, 1978. I had to pick it up gingerly with two fingers in order to scan it, so it would not fall apart.
[IMG]http://img524.imageshack.us/img524/9856/ratzi2conclave19789zb.jpg[/IMG]

Then the photos from the 1997 edition of “La mia vita” (Italian edition of Ratzi’s autobiography), [IMG]http://img391.imageshack.us/img391/3302/lamiavita7pp.jpg[/IMG]


and from “Cardinals of the third millenium” published in 1996 by Grzegorz Galaszka (the very same photographer who took our pictures during the November 9 audience recently!).
[IMG]http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/2219/ratzi16zp.jpg[/IMG]
There's a series of pictures from this book, taken on that now-famous red sofa, which can be seen in "Foto da Cardinale"
]

Finally, I also found two notebooks, written in August 1986 to July 1987 when I was studying in Italy. Thanks to Notebook-1, I could re-live the first time I came close to Ratzi with details that I had already forgotten.

It was September 1986. I was in Rome at the invitation of Edoardo Luciani (brother of John Paul I) to attend the Mass for the 7th anniversary of the deaths of Paul VI and John Paul I, to be celebrated by John Paul II at St. Peter’s. I was joined by two other friends of Edoardo, a married couple, Valeria and Vittorio. Here is what I wrote at the time:

“We finally arrived at the big gate which gave access to the Vatican, beside the Palace of the Holy Office. Edoardo presented himself to the Swiss Guard on duty, who greeted him mistakenly with “Oh, you are Signor Luciano.” So Edoardo had to say, “I am the brother of the dead Pope.”… And so we were allowed to come in. Then there was another man who asked us if we had tickets. We walked on towards an entrance door to the Basilica. [Obviously, she is referring to one of the side entrances not accessible to the general public.] Cardinal Poletti, driving up in his car, arrived at about the same time.

Inside, we passed right next to the Great Baldachin. There was already a huge crowd inside. Edoardo and his sister Antonia, to whom I was introduced, were to be in the first row of seats for laymen, to the right of the altar. We were given seats in the same sector but a few rows behind. In front of Edoardo, I could see Cardinal Sin [a Filipino cardinal] seated. Farther from us, I could see Cardinal Ratzinger and another cardinal. Soon Cardinals Casaroli, Etchagaray and others started to arrive.

Then the Pope appeared, robed in black. He greeted as many as he could see, and he lingered a bit longer in our sector because Edoardo was there.

As the Mass went on, our emotions were rising. Valeria was recording it on her Walkman. During the homily, she handed me a picture of John Paul I. This, along with the Pope’s words, moved me to tears.

Before the Communion, Edoardo came to tell us that the Pope himself would give us Communion. Valeria and I were tremulous with surprise and anticipation!…We were asked to fall in line – Edoardo, Antonia, Valeria, myself, Vittorio… We were to be the first to receive Communion! As I stood in line, I was right next to Cardinal Ratzinger who was still seated. Then the Holy Fahter approached. When my turn came, I looked the Pope in the eye until I received the Host, and he looked back at me as he said “The Body of Christ..”(unlike other priests who look at your mouth as they give you the Eucharist). I answered “Amen”, and I went back to my seat, still unbelieving that this was happening to me!

[IMG]http://www.papaluciani.com/ita/papa_nro1.jpg[/IMG]

I offered my thanks to the Lord, still trembling from head to foot. My legs were literally shaking... After the Mass, the Pope descended to the grottoes to pray before the tombs of his predecessors. Edoardo and Antonia must have gone with him, because we could not find them when we went out through the door we had come in.

Cardinal Deskur in his wheelchair passed by us. Farther ahead, there was Cardinal Ratzinger who was chatting with another cardinal. I wanted to approach him BUT….. ACCURSED BUT! (I DID NOT!)…As we walked away, I also saw Cardinal Pironio (Argentine), and I greeted him, reminding him where we had met. We had a picture taken together, but he was rather uneasy because it started to rain. Soon after we said goodbye, the downpour came. We all ran for cover. We found shelter under the colonnade, and from there, we took part in the Angelus.”

PS: You see, girls. I had forgotten that detail that I had wanted to approach Ratzinger. If I had been just a little more courageous, I would have been able not only to greet him but to have a picture taken with him. So I can only say what I had written that time …ACCURSED BUT!!! If at that time, I was already regretful, what about now? Clearly, in my account at the time, it was not important what was happening while I was waiting to receive Communon and Ratzinger was right next to me. The important thing was meeting John Paul II face to face.

But I have already told some of you what I knew of Ratzinger at the time:
“In those years, I admired him for his work at the CDF. In Latin America, the topic of Liberation Theology was polemical, and I was very proud of the steps taken by the Prefect against it because I always wanted a clarity of doctrine in my Church. So, to find myself next to a Cardinal whose work I admired was not an everyday matter. Therefore, when I recognized him, I thought to myself. “Ohhh, the famous Cardinal Ratzinger!” Meanwhile, he was looking at the cardinal who was seated to his left. But while I was staring at him, he turned suddenly and caught me looking at him. He had a half-smile and had an almost funny expression with an eyebrow raised!…” [Have we not seen that expression in some pictures?]

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 11/12/2005 3.40]

[IMG]http://i601.photobucket.com/albums/tt96/MARITER_7/2011-1/2011-MISCELLANEOUS/0-MTM-FIRMA-1303012_zps59672c47.jpg[/IMG]
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10/12/2005 05.49
 
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RATZIGIRL'S CHAGRIN
Hard to believe, but Ratzigirl was far from ready for Ratzi when she had the chance!
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I have scant memories – Unfortunately, as many of you already know, my agnostic phase coincided with the years of Ratzi’s maximum splendor, maximum visibility and maximum accessibility.

I have one single memory that is etched in my mind, if only because it is a memory that keeps me awake, and every time it comes to mind, I would gladly beat my head against the wall, and I would much rather forget it ever happened.

I think it was 1996, I had just turned 17, and it was a Friday afternoon (I remember because we had come to St. Peter’s to do nothing!). We left our motorbikes parked at one end of via della Conciliazione and we proceeded to the Piazza on foot, towards the fountains. The sun was starting to set, it may have been around 6:30 p.m. At that time, I had not been to Church in a long time, I did not know any Church figures except the Pope and Ratzinger,in fact, as my mother had met him several times on the street. Sometimes, we would see him on TV, and my mother would say how she admired his calmness, whereas my father would say he could not stand him. And I was completely indifferent.

That afternoon, I was seated on the steps of the fountain, with my legs stretched in front of me, I was smoking a cigarette while we waited for someone (I don’t remember who now). Then for some reason, I don’t know how or why, I turned to look in the direction of the colonnade, when about 5-6 meters away, I saw a figure all dressed in black, with a black beret, approaching at a sustained pace.

I recognized him by face and I told my friend, “Oh, look, that’s Ratzinger!” Then I added, “But what a nasty type!.."
At the very least, I hope he did not hear me, though I think not, because when I said it, he was no longer near us…
But oh, how I regret those words now! I wish I had never said them! They were thouightless words said by a stupid girl just for the sake of saying something…But to have been that close to him and yet to have kept away from him – it makes me feel sick now! …I can only hope that one day I can make up for that mistake!
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Paparatzifan writes:

What a bad nightmare! I can understand why you feel terrible. But I think that even if it is not the same thing, you have already made up for that mistake, you have more than made up for it by creating this forum. Of course, you will want to tell him face to face that you love him - because I think that is what you need to do to cancel that terrible memory altogether.
But it should also console you that the love that we all have for Ratzi, not just us but so many others everywhere, more than makes up for all the unkind words that he has ever received before and may continue to receive.
----------------------------------------------------------------

Before today, I had already been planning to translate some of the accounts found in the main forum about how each one "discovered" Ratzi or been initially struck by the Benedict effect, and Ratzigirl's account was one of the most moving! So I'll be posting the translations in the "Experience of April 19" thread as soon as I can turn them out!

[IMG]http://i601.photobucket.com/albums/tt96/MARITER_7/2011-1/2011-MISCELLANEOUS/0-MTM-FIRMA-1303012_zps59672c47.jpg[/IMG]
10/12/2005 16.01
 
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Memories
Both stories are very touching, I have the tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for translating, TERESA!

@Ratzigirl
Please don't worry about what you've said.

1. You changed your mind in the meantime, and that's what counts.

2. Everybody who comes to this forum knows how much you love him.

Love

Jil
11/12/2005 03.44
 
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THEY BOARDED TOGETHER
Thanks to Emma in the main forum for providing this item from Corriere Romagna, a newspaper in central Italy. The item appeared 4/21/05.
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“I am sure that the name Benedetto is a homage to St. Benedict of Norcia, founder of Western monasticism, who brought this continent together in the Christian faith. He formulated the rule ‘Ora et labora’ (prayer and work), which the new Pope incarnates to perfection, as A ‘simple worker in the vineyard of the Lord.’”

This was the testimony of Don Giorgio Sgubbi, professor of Theology in the University of Emila-Romagna in Bologna, who also serves as priest in the diocese of Imola. Don Giorgio spent 8 months with Joseph Ratzinger when both were lodgers at the Collegio Teutonico in Rome in 1991-1992. They talked to each other in Italian as well as in German.

“He is a gentle man, warm and welcoming, never impulsive, with a highly-developed sense of justice,” says Don Giorgio. But how did he, an Italian, get into the German seminary in Rome? “In fact, I was the only Italian there at the time. I was recommended by the Bishop of Stockholm, under whom I had studied in Tuebingen. But I had no problems. The rector said I was a Prussian!”

Ratzinger was lodging at the Collegio because his sister, who had taken care of him, had just died.

“We celebrated Mass together several times, “ says Don Giorgio. “And we often engaged in long conversations. I was left with the impression that he wished above all to reconcile transcendence and daily life. For him, the faith is not a matter of looking up at the heavens. According to him, theology should be able to see the presence of God in everything. I admired above all his ability to focus sharply on any topic.”

It is an admiration that has persisted through the years. “From that time on, we have been in touch every so often. We have exchanged letters. Every time he had a new book, he would send me a copy. I did the same. We have never failed to exchange greetings at Christmas.”

[IMG]http://i601.photobucket.com/albums/tt96/MARITER_7/2011-1/2011-MISCELLANEOUS/0-MTM-FIRMA-1303012_zps59672c47.jpg[/IMG]
11/12/2005 04.00
 
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INTERESTING BUT CONFUSING

That is an interesting account about Papa boarding for 8 months at the Collegio Teutonico after his sister died in Nov. I read previously that Ingrid left her university position in mid-term to work for him immediately after his sister died. This article indicates he was at the Collegio till June if he moved there right after Maria's death. Can anybody clarify the timelines?
11/12/2005 04.54
 
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TERESA BENEDETTA
[Non Registrato]
RATZINGER WAS HIS PROFESSOR
Don Paolo Molteni, parish priest of San Sicario in northern Italy, wrote this memoir for a Church newspaper, “Chiesa Oggi” in April 2005. Don Paolo remembers the Ratzinger who was his professor at the University of Bonn, where he earned his degree in Dogmatic Theology.

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The invitation (to write this article) by Brother Lupo, who edits this page, reached me at a happy moment. I was taking part in the 23rd convocation for “Renewal in the Holy Spirit.” It was happy because the meeting being held so close to the election of our new Pope, the inherent fervor of the movement was further inflamed by this new manifestation of the Holy Spirit, confirmed at a high level by some things said to us by Cardinal Bertone about the Conclave.

He told us of the serenity with which Cardinal Ratzinger had accepted his election by his brother cardinals. He said it was a “Yes” which sounded very much aware of the magnitude of the task he was accepting but rendered “luminous and certain” by an interior attitude that had been trained to place Christ’s will above one’s own.

Against that background, I have reviewed and re-read Ratzinger’s canonical itinerary: his teaching career in Bonn, Munester, Tuebingen and Regensburg; his archiepiscopal experience in Munich; his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was a course that led to something always one step higher, something that was also experienced to the fullest.

At this time, the whole conference was very much aware of him. Eery time his name was mentioned, long rounds of applause followed, and among the younger participants, the new chant, “Be-ne-det-to, Be-ne-det-to!”

I first met him in autumn of 1959, at the University of Bonn, practically at the start of his academic career. He had just started to teach fundamental theology at the Catholic faculity of theology (there was a separate faculty for Evangelical theology). The influence and fame of these faculties depended on individual professors. Ratzinger had earned his professor’s chair after he published a study on St. Bonaventure.

I have a very clear memory of him: I can see him, as he was, beside the lectern, with a face that was always ready to smile. He carried with him only a small notebook, which he hardly opened. But he would lecture for three-quarters of an hour – a continuous flow. I was always impressed by his ability to speak without ever having to search for a word. And it was that way, day after day, presenting a comprehensive vision that was radiant, almost like an actual image.

And so he was a total success as a professor. The largest lecture halls were made available for him, and they were always full to overflowing. The students looked on him as a new star- if only for the novelty of his formulations, his arguments, even the language he used….

He lived with his sister, whom I never saw. But I always imagined – I don’t know why – that it must have been an “angelic” household.

I never met him one on one until the final exams. Then I found him to be exactly as I had imagined: a good man, affable, cordial, understanding, smiling. That was my last impression of him that I have jealously kept in my memory. So you can imagine my joy today that he is the Pope.

My assignment ends here. Others have said and will say what kind of Pope he will be. I can only offer a few considerations.
We knew nothing about Papa Wojtyla when he became Pope. (We think) we know everything about Ratzinger. We know therefore that the anti-Ratzinger front will be ready and militant, and that it won’t always be easy going.

Among the laity, so-called devout atheists have come forth – those who profess atheism but ask about the possibility of maintaining the essential course of our civilization, the inviolable dignity of every human being, even while doing away with Christianity. I think they can be good allies. And I think that the new Pope also addressed them when he asked “Do not leave me alone.”





18/12/2005 21.33
 
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A MEMOIR FROM STUPOR-MUNDI
Earlier, I posted a translation in "Chatter" of stupor-mundi’s casual recollection of how she first saw Cardinal Ratzinger in person when she was attending the Catholic University in Milan in 1992. She has now decided to flesh out that recollection and two add two other episodes which are equally memorable. Herewith, a translation-

After several years, I now find the time – and the right spirit – to write down and share, through this brief note, my personal impressions of the encounter I had with Cardinal Ratzinger back in 1992.

The Catholic University had organized a conference to present the Cardinal’s new book, “Una svolta per l’Europa” (A Turning-Point for Europe). I was then finalizing my thesis and my adviser, who was also chairman of our faculty, asked me and the other thesis students if we wished to attend. I immediately said Yes with enthusiasm.

I looked forward to hearing the Cardinal “live”, since I had heard him so often described as the “strict custodian of the Faith”, and I obviously wanted to see how true this was – I had no preconceptions, although if I had to judge by the impressions I had from reading his writings, he seemed to be anything but the Grand Inquisitor painted by the press.

Well, the first thing that struck me was how he arrived without fuss at the university – in a blue car (I don’t even recall what model it was), probably provided by the Archdiocese of Milan, and accompanied only by a secretary. Immediately, I compared it to visits made here by Cardinal (Carlo Maria) Martini [former Archbishop of Milan and considered to be Ratzinger’s “progressive” opponent for the Papacy last April] that I had witnessed – Martini was literally inaccessible, surrounded by a great many prelates and by an entourage…

Soon afterwards, the Cardinal arrived at the Aula Magna (Great Hall), at which the Rector (Bausola, now deceased) and some journalists were also present. The Cardinal’s addresss was clear and simple, and impressed everybody, even when he spoke extemporaneously. The hall was packed, and particularly numerous were members of Communion and Liberation.

After the conference, I worked up my courage and told my two companions that I wanted to go up and greet the Cardinal, but they were reluctant. I said I would try anyway, so they went with me – one of them was from the Alto-Adige region (the Italian Tyrol, next to Austria) and planned to greet him in German…

Finally, as my companions hung back, petrified, I went forward towards the Cardinal…and for an instant, I had a mental block, so I sputtered something like “Your Eminence, congratulations and thank you for coming here.” He looked at me and smiled, I shook his hand and gave a respectful bow… He continued to smile, then turned and walked towards the lobby.

That night, I came home and told my mother, “Mamma, do you know that today I met Cardinal Ratzinger – that’s the German cardinal whom we see on TV once in a while.” …”Really? He seems to be quite a person (una brava persona)!”….And I answered: “Yes, I believe he is!”

I would like to add two other remembrances to the above. The first happened in 1999. I was in Rome, and as always, I took the time to go to St. Peter’s Basilica for a visit. I was not aware that it was a Wednesday morning – it was in winter. I sat myself at the first pew in front of the Bernini altar, on the left side.

Suddenly, there was an announcement that the Holy Father had just finished his general audience in the Sala Nervi and would come to greet those who were in the Basilica. Within a few minutes, John Paul-II arrived. He did not walk. He was standing on some sort of rolling platform, leaning on a crossbar, with two men helping him, and Monsignor Dziwisz looking after him close by.

The Pope passed two meters in front of me, and the moment will stay in my mind all my life. His face was contracted and immobile, absoluitely expressionless, but the eyes, behind two slits, seemed to me quite lively. He looked at me for a moment. What I most remember was that the moment he appeared, I perceived clearly a Presence, a very clear sensation that pervaded the place the whole time he was among us. After having passed through the central aisle, the figure in white retreated towards the sacristy.

I recall that encounter with Papa Wojtyla and the vivid impression I have recounted because I felt a similar sensation of a transcendental Presence the first time I had occasion to see Joseph Ratzinger as Pope. I think that this sensation is the same that others, before me, have described in this forum.

My first experience with Ratzinger as Pope was at an Angelus. The appearance of the White Figure evoked the identical sensation I had felt 6 years earlier (with John Paul), and I believe it is because both times, the Source was identical.
I can say now that being Pope changes the person. This was the same Joseph Ratzinger I had seen 13 years earlier, but it seemed to me like he was also somebody else – someone whose own personal charismic qualities had now found their maximum expression.

Lastly, I wish to share my memories of another day which will always be etched in my mind as, I believe, it is in those of many others. April 19 2005.

That day, in the late afertnoon, I was at the hospital. I was visiting my father who had undergone testing, and we were anxiously awaiting the results. We watched TV together in his hospital room. Finally, the smoke was white and crowds were gathering in St. Peter’s Square.

Since John-Paul died, I had been hoping that the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, would have a new Pope who would be a beacon, a man of God, and only one man came to my mind (who met the criteria).

When I saw the white smoke, I prepared to leave and told my father I would come back the following day. I wanted to be at home to watch the new Pope come out on the Loggia of Benedictions. But my mother insisted, “Let us stay, and let us all watch the blessing together.”

I agreed. The waiting lasted more than usual, but at a certain point, the cardinal proto-deacon finally appeared.... At the words “…eminentissimum ac reverendissimum dominum, dominum: Josephum…”, I burst out: “It’s Ratzinger!” I was almost in tears from joy…

After the new Pope’s blessing, I bid goodbye again to my father, saying I would be back the following day.

And the following morning, we were called in by the doctors – all the test results came back negative, and Papa could go home.

So I like to think that Benedict XVI may have worked his first miracle precisely for us.


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21/12/2005 07.24
 
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AN AUSTRIAN STUDENT IN ROME SPEAKS
Readers of "Inside the Vatican" may already have seen this. It remains very good reading because the "narrator" speaks from a unique perspective.

Monika Haas, 23, from Linz, Austria has studied bioethics at the Pontifical Athanaeum of Regina Apostolorum in Rome since 2001, where she met then-Cardinal Ratzinger several times during the Mass he said in German every Thursday morning at the Teutonicum inside the Vatican walls. Linz, where she grew up, is only 50 miles away from the Pope’s hometown.

Haas was interviewed by "Inside the Vatican" shortly after Ratzinger’s election.


Where were you when you heard that Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was elected? What did you do?
I was in St. Peter’s square waiting for the smoke signal. I had been all three times that the smoke came out black, and then on Tuesday at around 5:50 pm, white smoke at last! I didn’t actually expect an election so soon, so I was quite surprised and for the first couple of minutes I couldn’t believe it! We had a new Pope!

Then, when finally the bells started to ring and officially affirmed that the election was successful, I was overwhelmed by my emotions and broke out into tears. Finally, we weren't shepherdless any more! I started praying and thanking God for our new Pope, whomever it might be, and that He may strengthen him in his new service. A service that is tied essentially to the cross, as we all could witness with Pope John Paul II.

What was your reaction when you heard the announcement and when you saw him on the balcony?
Enthusiastic applause rose as Cardinal Estevez stepped out on the balcony and announced the great joy: “Habemus Papam!” The applause died quickly and the whole Piazza was silently waiting for the name to come. I was standing in the very first rows closest to the balcony, on my chair, crying with joy and ready to cheer for him – who ever it may be – because he was the one sent to us by God’s graces.

Immediately when I heard “Iosephum,” even before listening to the full name, I knew it was him: Joseph Ratzinger! I started clapping and cheering along with everybody else, but it took until I actually saw him coming out, vested with the papal stole, that I could really believe it: Joseph Ratzinger is our new Holy Father!

As I stood looking at him up there on the balcony, the first reaction I had was of great gratitude – what a gift to have in him the new Pontiff of the Catholic Church!

I also felt gratitude towards him for accepting this great responsibility of leading the universal flock to heaven. And it became clear to me that it must cost him so much – physically and spiritually – to stand there, this man, whom I came to know as one of the most humble persons imaginable, and have the crowd cheer and clap at him. I closed my eyes, which were filled with tears, and said silently “Danke” – Thank you.

Have you ever met Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI?
I am very lucky to have had several encounters with the Pope - then still Cardinal Ratzinger - during the three years I've been living in Rome. I tried to go as often as possible to his Thursday morning Mass in German at the Teutonicum.

I remember very well the first time. I did not know much about him as a person, but only what I read in journals and newspapers, which was usually a very lopsided opinion describing him as the “Great Inquisitor,” the hard-core traditionalist who allegedly tortures infidels and heretics in his free time.

What struck me most was the humble and welcoming tone in his voice as he began. I thought to myself: so this is the guy that everybody is so scared of? I watched this man, a servant of God, who said Mass with such a reverence and dignity that I couldn’t help thinking what a great man he must be and how blessed our holy Father is to have this man working for him, putting all his intelligence and love of God at the service of the Church.

It was always possible to stay after Mass and have a chat with him – no trace of the “inquisitor,” simply a man, a priest, a cardinal, who was actually really interested in who you were and where you were from.

I also saw him more than once walking over St. Peter’s square from where he lived to his office, always ready to stop and answer questions or pose for pictures with tourists and pilgrims. I remember very clearly his slow but steady walk, with a little briefcase in his hand, a kind-hearted smile on his face, emanating a reassuring peace with his rock-like presence.

What do Austrians and Germans think of Joseph Ratzinger?Unfortunately I think that most German-speakers have a distorted opinion about him, due to incomplete and incorrect information by the media. What the average Austrian or German knows about Ratzinger’s writings is little; hardly anybody would actually read what he writes, but rather take on the popular opinion given by print or TV, which present him as callous man, fervently defending dogmas believed by no one.

What challenges do you think he faces in the German- speaking world?
I think he will have a hard time fighting these prejudices against him, but I am confident that he will win for himself – and therefore for the Church – those who are ready and open to actually come, look at and listen to him.

How do you think young people, particularly in Germany and Austria, will react to Benedict XVI?
I am very excited about World Youth Day in Cologne this August. I am glad Pope Benedict confirmed that he will come and meet the young people in this great event, a tradition started by his predecessor John Paul and attracting thousands of young people, hungering for faith and truth – things which are not offered by the world.

I believe one major reason for the success of the WYDs is that our beloved late Holy Father John Paul knew what we wanted: not the easy way the world offers and that only leads to delusion and desperation, but authentic truth that will make us truly happy, even, or maybe because, it is demanding and brings out the best in us.

I can see Pope Benedict continuing this work, with a different charisma than John Paul II, but equally truthful, with the sincerity that young people want and seek.

My only hope is that we will manage to get as many young Europeans, and especially Germans and Austrians, to come to Cologne and see for themselves what a great Pope the heavens have granted us in this man born in a picturesque little village somewhere in green-meadowed Bavaria, who travelled far to withhold nothing from God in untiring service to the Church.

Do you think it’s providential that a German Pope was elected?
I think it’s very crucial to have a Pope from the heart of Europe, because Christian Europe is about to be lost. It is high time to recover Europe from an atheism and secularism that took hold of it slowly but steadily under the disguise of a false liberty and a maturity that pretends to have no need of moral teachings or any external guidance whatsoever.

Pope Benedict will have the hard job of making it clear to the European peoples that only the Church’s vision of man Guarantees a civilized society. I am confident Pope Benedict is ready for this challenge, especially with the help of our prayers, which he asked us for the very first time he spoke to us as Pope.
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13/02/2006 03.52
 
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BEFORE HE BECAME POPE
From the sampler of readers' letters published by Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, about public reaction to Pope Benedict's election, a few recalled meeting
the Cardinal before he became Pope. Here, in translation
-
---------------------------------------------------------------

A very humble, shy and sweet man
19 April 2005

Two years ago, I had the chance to meet Cardinal Ratzinger casually at St. Peter’s Square, while he was walking from the Sala Nervi to his home. He had come from greeting the new cardinals, created in John Paul’s last consistory, where they were receiving wellwishers at Sala Nervi.

He had stood in line himself like other wellwishers, and waited patiently until he could personally express his congratulations and convey his affection to his new brother cardinals.

As we came out of Sala Nervi, the friend who was with me, more courageous than I, noticed the cardinal and approached him without hesitation. I followed his example and I was therefore able to shake hands with the Cardinal.

I had the impression of a man who was very humble, shy and sweet; a man of great courtesy, who greeted and stopped to talk most amiably with two strangers. One other thing that struck me most were his eyes, which were very lively and had a sweet look.

Very happy at his election to be the successor of Peter and of John Paul the Great, I wish him all the best, that he may be able to convey that sweetness which is so characteristic of him to everyone who sees him, even if it is only on television.

Flavio Zeni

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My first Mass for the new Pope
19 April 2005

At 18:05 – a few minutes later than scheduled – I celebrated what must have been one of the very first Masses said for the new Pope, even if I still did not know who he was. After the white smoke, I waited for the bells of St. Peter’s to ring out, and soon, even the bells of my Church rang. Soon after, I started to say the Mass for the new Pope, to thank God in the certainty that we were about to know the man He had given us to be our Holy Father, brother in the faith and Pastor of the Universal Church.

I have a personal recollection of the new Pope. On September 6, 1991, I and my fellow priests who were celebrating the 25th year since our ordination, concelebrated Mass at Castel Gandolfo with John Paul II. We returned to Rome to pray at the tomb of Peter.

Under the colonnade, we met Catdinal Ratzinger, who was walking by himself, with a briefcase under his arm. We greeted him, and he stopped to talk to each of us, asking about our pastoral commitments, and asking us to convey his greetings to our Archbishop at Genoa, Cardinal Giovanni Canestri.

Papa Benedetto, Genoa was the birthplace of the last Benedict before you: Benedict XV (Giacomo della Chiesa), the Pope of Peace who lived through the tragedy of World War I and was a very “Marian” Pope.

Let us entrust the person and papacy of Benedict XVI to Mary. We wish him all the best. We will love him as we loved his predecessors, and with him, we will follow the wind of the Holy Spirit who will continue to guide the Church.

Don Bruno Macciò

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The mystery of the Holy Spirit
26 April 2005

I remember when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would come down from his Roman home and go to a nearby trattoria to dine with his sister, who later died. Afterwards, he dined alone. He would sit in a corner table, order a soup, and sometimes a second dish with vegetables, and then back home. I remember him as the ‘unknown’ cardinal who dined simply and humbly.

Today, he is Pope, and he could never go to a trattoria again even for just a cup of coffee, without thousands surrounding him and the place!

But why him? Why was this simple priest, dressed in black, not known to many, approached by a mysterious spirit, who for us Christians can only be Christ himself, who said to him, “Follow me!” I think it is because he is a man whom the crowds understand!

Antonio Stano
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13/02/2006 05.01
 
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Nice recollections, thanks Teresa [SM=g27811]
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26/02/2006 18.54
 
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HE WORKED WITH RATZI AT THE CDF
I posted this earlier in POPE-POURRI but it really belongs on this thread:

Beautiful anecdote about an American priest who worked with
Ratzi at the CDF from Rocco at
http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/ -
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Finishing up an 18-month stint at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- to which he was on loan in light of its efforts to work through the massive (18-month) backlog of sex abuse cases -- Pope Benedict has honored a Long Island canonist for his distinguished service.

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Photo: The Long Island Catholic

Msgr. Charles Guarino, a priest of the diocese of Rockville Centre, was named a Protonotary Apostolic -- the highest grade of the monsignorial classes -- earlier this week... He had already been a monsignor but, as the Protonotary distinction is rare outside of Rome, the elevation is notable.

Called "a delightful and humble priest," Guarino "was one of the two canonists assigned by the USSCB to the CDF to help clear up the backlog of misconduct cases submitted to Rome." The other, Msgr. Bob Deeley of Boston, "has been assumed indefinitely into the service of the CDF."

Guarino praised B16 -- his former boss -- in an April interview with the Rockville Centre diocesan newspaper, The Long Island Catholic:

“Whenever we got together as a staff he would always address us as ‘carrissimi amici,’ (Italian for ‘dearest friends’),” Msgr. Guarino said. “That day he said to us: ‘You are my family.’”

That was only the latest example for Msgr. Guarino of the kindness, gentleness, and thoughtfulness that he described as characteristic of the new Pope.

“Every week we met together. At first I was nervous because of his reputation for formidable intellect,” Msgr. Guarino said. That reputation proved an understatement. “Had I known how formidable, I would have been even more nervous.” Despite that, “from the beginning, I always found him to be a very generous, welcoming man, very appreciative of the work we were doing.

“He always spoke to me in Italian, which I think (he did) to force me to use my Italian,” Msgr. Guarino explained. When Msgr. Guarino gave his reports in English, the cardinal always understood the reports without difficulty, demonstrating his facility in different languages. “He always grasped everything.”

Msgr. Guarino said that Pope Benedict is a humble man, a good listener, and shows “a very good sense of humor. First and foremost, he is a priest, a pastor, with concern for people.

“He asked me last Christmas if I were going home for Christmas,” Msgr. Guarino explained. “I told him that all my family had gone to God so I was staying in Rome. He replied: ‘We’re your family now
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27/02/2006 00.57
 
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I read this on Rocco's blog. Lovely article. Its very sweet when Papa told the staff "You are my family" and when he told Msgr. Guarino "We're your family now" after he told him that all his fmaily had gone to be with the Lord [SM=g27819] Nice to hear about these great relationships w/ co-workers.

[Modificato da loriRMFC 27/02/2006 1.02]

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16/03/2006 14.55
 
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RATZINGER: THE EARLY YEARS
The Italian monthly magazine 30 Giorni has come out with a lengthy interview with someone who has known Joseph Ratzinger for 60 years now. The recollection and expressive clarity of the 91-year-old interviewee are admirable! Here is a translation...
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A new start that prospered in the ruins
Interview by Gianni Valente and Pierluca Azzaro
With Prof. Alfred Laepple

There are only two typewritten manuscripts, bound in red marocaine, of Joseph Ratzinger’s first work. The yellow lettering on the cover indicates it is a translation in German of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Quaestio disputata on the subject of caritas. One of the copies is in the author’s possession. The other is kept by Alfred Laepple in his house in Gilching, in the Munich suburbs.

Laepple recounts: “We translated it together, line by line. It was 1946. I remember how we looked for the original versions of all the citations from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine… Then, several years later, the manuscript was deteriorating, and my secretary retyped it, and I had two copies bound. I gave one copy to oJseph as a gift on March 14, 1979, when on the feast of St. Thomas, he came to Salzburg, at the Aula Magna where I was teaching, to give a master class on “The consequences of faith in creation”.”

(We interviewed the professor at) the end of January when the German press was still reporting on Deus caritas est. Professor Laepple, with the precious typewritten manuscript in his hand, observed: “When I first heard what the theme was for Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, it seemed to me very suggestive that it recalled his opus primum written when he had just started seminary in 1946. It means that at the start, in every new start for him, there is always love.”

There is snow here in Gilching, and over a great part of Bavaria. In the hills behind us, the young Ratzinger had served in an anti-aircraft battery during the second world war. The old professor with the young heart – who had a prestigious university career as professor of pedagogy and has written dozens of books on spirituality - has come out of his house today, in jacket and shirt, to shovel his garden path. We are told that at 91, he still drives his old BMW.

But today he is revisiting memories leading him back along the impassioned pathways of his life. In his sunlit living room, he reveals to us the secret of a friendship that has lasted over 60 years. Which is also the early history of a young man who would become the successor to Peter.

[IMG]http://www.30giorni.it/foto/1142275585784.jpg[/IMG]
Fr. Laepple celebrates his first Mass in Partenkirchen, in 1947.
with the young Joseph Ratzinger as his Mass server. Ratzi is 20!


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Left: The ruins of Munich's main cathedral, the Frauenkirche, in 1944.
Right: 1945 Corpus Domini procession through the streets of a ruined Munich.


When did you first meet Joseph Ratzinger?
It was January 4 or 5, 1946. I had just returned from an American POW camp. At the time I had to leave in 1939 to become a soldier of the Luftwaffe [the German air force], I only needed one more year to become a full priest. So as soon as I got back, I called the seminary in Freising to find out what I had to do. I spoke with the new rector Michael Hoeck, a priest who had survived 5 years in the concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Dachau where he was sent for having written articles against Hitler in the diocesan newspaper. I already knew him, because he had been my prefect of studies at the minor seminary.

What did Rector Hoeck tell you?
He said, “Dear Alfred, Iwas waiting for you, I have a nice assignment for you. You must be the prefect of studies for the new ones who have never been in a seminary before.” He took me to the largest hall that there was in the seminary, the Red Room, which was usually opened only for solemn celebrations. They had arranged the desks and chairs, and there were some 60 novices. Rector Hoeck told them: "Dear boys, here is the best man that I have found for you. You will be in good hands with him." Among those 60 boys were the Ratzinger brothers.

A few days later, during a break, this young man whom I had not yet met approached me. He said,"I am Joseph Ratzinger and I have some questions for you." Our work together started with those questions. It was the start of so many conversations, so many walks together, so many passionate discussions and so much work done together. That is how a great friendship started. We have never lost sight of each other. If we had something to say to each other, we phoned each other and we wrote each other a lot..

As prefect of seminarians you had an unusual background – the war and the POW camp. How did it go?
From 1939 to 1945 I was with the Luftwaffe, then I was taken prisoner by the Americans in Westphalia, near Hamm. From there I was deported to France and was about to be placed on a ship for the United States. But between April and May of 1945, the war came to an end and they transferred us to a POW camp near Le Havre.

There were almost half a million of us, divided into groups of a thousand each. I went around the camp with the American chaplain for whom I served as interpreter. I soon realized that the camp had a great many seminarians, priests, Protestant pastors, theology students. I even recognized some of them. I succeeded in getting them all together as a separate group. There were more than 300, Catholic as well as Protestant. We organized theology courses. Eventually, some of those lectures were even published. On the frontispiece I wrote a motto from Kierkegaard: “Christianity is not a doctrine, but the communication of a life.” I did not know Ratzinger yet but it was within this common view of Christianity that we met each other. These were the things we spoke to each other about so fervently.

You said you were almost a priest when you had to go to war. Where did you study?
I was born in 1915. After three years of theology and philosophy at the superior school in Freising, I started my university studies at the faculty of theology in Munich. Under the guidance of Professor Theodor Steinbuechel, I started to work on a dissertation on the theme of the conscience of the individual in the Church according to (Cardinal John Henry)Newman. But the Nazis closed down the faculty in 1939 because Cardinal Faulhaber had refused to accept a pro-Hitler professor, Dr. Hans Barion, who had been a member of the National Socialist Party since 1933. Then the war began.

A young man about to become a priest, who is passionately interested in Newman and personalism – in what spirit did you go to war?
With a divided heart. Today it is easy to say that we could have said no. But at that time, conscientious objection meant a death sentence. I was sent to officer school in Baden near Vienna, but I refused to become an officer. I thought: if Hitler wins, I will never be a priest. I will end up being a soldier in Norway or in North Africa. If I want to become a priest, then Germany must lose. That was my torment. That was the tragedy we faced. And whom many had the courage to recount soon after the war.

In what way?
I had just returned a few days from the POW camp, and in Munich I attended a lecture by the writer Ernst Weichert. I never forgot his words: “Consider this, my friends, and let it be that we can shout it out… We know that thousands turned their backs against the demons, and that little by little, these thousands became tens, hundreds of thousands, then millions… And I know that they did not have the courage to speak up because to do so would have meant death. They were obedient, silent, but every step that they took was like stepping on thorns. And at night, when no one saw, they lifted their hands to God and prayed for Germany’s enemies to triumph. Does the world know what such a prayer means? Does the world know what a people must have suffered in order to pray that way?”

Dachau is not far from here. Did you all know what happened there?
I had friends who had been sent to Dachau, so I knew something. But each of them said, Alfred, I cannot speak. If I say something, they will send me back there and I will never get out again.

And right here, behind your house, are the hills where the young Ratzinger served with an anti-aircraft battery in Gilching…
He tells of that period in his autobiography. Even he ended up in an Americna POW camp from where he was released on June 19, 1945. The date has remained in my memory because it is my birthday, and on that day, I turned 30.

Did the horror from which you all came condition the atmosphere in the newly reopened seminary?
In the newspapers we read every day an account of the trials in Nuremberg, or saw the pictures of the mountains of cadavers found in the concentration camps. We asked ourselves how all of this could have been possible. And all of it drew this reaction: that we must now start again from zero. To begin with, we were happy that the war was over, we could not take any more of it. We just wanted to become priests. So we were very happy to be able to begin our studies.

Without looking back?I
t was like starting from scratch. It was over, enough, it was necessary to stop talking about it. We knew that later, in the confessional, we would be listening to both victims and executioners. They would be telling us: I was in a concentration camp. Or I was a partisan. Or I was in the war and I killed partisans.

Excuse me if I insist. It was a new beginning for your seminary. You were preparing to bear witness to the Christian faith among men who had their lives upset by nazism and the war. Wasn’t there a common attempt to find out what exactly had happened?
I can only say that we were in a state of shock over what had happened. That Christians had been responsible for the concentration camps… There was nothing to discuss; none of our answers could have explained it. Hitler never left the Church…But it did not make sense to dig it all up among us. God had saved us, he had rescued us from the abyss, and only he with his forgiveness could heal hearts. It was as if the end of the war had given us back our lives, given us a second life. And we could thank God with our lives by being good priests. Then we would be serving the faithful not just for the moment but for always.

Ratzinger narrates that there were seminarians who were in their 30s and 40s, who had interrupted their studies to go to war and had lived through its horrors
There were even some who had a command role in the war. After I became a priest, they all started to confide in me, because I too had been in the war. They said, we cannot go to the rector, he was in a concentration camp, not out fighting the war, he would not understand…There was an unspoken pact among them: they would not ask each other where they were or what they did.

What did they tell you?
They would ask me: I did this, I did that. In all conscience, can I be a good priest? I remember one who had been a major and had killed. He said, I can’t become a priest. Every time I start Mass and say “Dominus vobiscum," someone could rise and shourt, you are an assassin. Another one, during the retreat from Russia, shot a companion who was wounded and had his leg amputated, who begged him to shoot him so his suffering would end. He asked me, Father, I killed him. Was that homicide?

And what did you answer?
I tried to comfort him. I said, if I had been in your place, I might have done worse things.

You said that even Joseph Ratzinger, when he first approached you, said he had questions. What did he ask you?
He asked: How were you able to keep your faith throughout the war?

And you answered?
I told him I owed it to the prayers of my mother, whom he later wished to meet. And that I knew that Christ loved me, and if I were to be saved, I would give my life to Christ.

How was was seminary life in Freising?
Half of the seminary was still being used as a hospital for lnjured Allied soldiers. But from the beginning, we tried to establish normal seminary routine. The boys slept in big rooms in groups of 40. Everyone had his own bed surrounded by a white curtain to provide some separation. They woke up at 5:30 a.m., then Mass, breakfast and lessons. Courses which had to do directly with pastoral work were held in the seminary. But the scientific courses were given at the Superior School of philosophy and theology, a state institution which was housed next to the seminary. After lunch, there was some free time, they would go for a walk, and then back to lessons. At night, after supper, there would be a meditation or perhaps a lecture. We went to bed happy. We did not have any heating, so we all hurried to get under the covers because the rooms could get chilly.

Did the Ratzinger brothers distinguish themselves in any way?
During lessons, they were always in the first row. The other students called them Orgel-Ratz and Buecher-Ratz, the Ratzinger of the organ and the Ratzinger of the books. Georg was already a musician even then.

What struck you the most about Joseph?
He was like blotting paper which absorbed everything almost with avidity. Whenever he found something during his studies that he could correct or that opened new avenues for him in relation to what he already knew, he was full of enthusiasm and could not wait to share it with others. He and I spent hours and hours discussing things while going on a walk. First one subject then another… I remember as though it were yesterday the time we discussed the sentence in which Nietszche said that Christians should have the faces of redeemed persons so that one can believe in their Redeemer.

He came to the Mass at which Cardinal Faulhaber ordained me as a priest on June 29, 1947 in Freising. And even that day, he had questions for me.

What did he want to know?
He asked: What happens at the moment of Consecration, during the Mass? Who is at work during this mystery? Is it I, the priest, who is doing it? Is there some sort of magic force at work? These were his questions that day, and then again after my First Mass in Partenkirchen, on July 6, 1947. We talked for hours that day, taking a walk near the ski slopes built for the Winter Olympics of 1936. I repeated a passage from St. John Chrysostom (I had read it during the spiritual exercises to prepare for my ordination) where he says that the priest lends Christ his being, his hands, his words, but it is Christ himself who works the miracle of changing bread and wine into his flesh and blood.

In 1997, when I celebrated 50 years of priesthood in Munich-Pasing, Ratzinger sent me a letter in which he recalled how important that day was for him.

Can we read it?
“On that festive day,” he wrote, remembering that walk, “I experienced much more than ever before what it means to be a priest in the Church of Jesus Christ. You yourself told me then how moved you were that you could say the same words that Jesus did for the transformation of bread and wine, giving him your voice, your words, your very being.” For that first Mass which I celebrated in my hometown of Partenkirchen, I asked Ratzinger to accompany me and be my ‘cerimoniere.’

At that time you were already a Newman scholar. Was it you who transmitted to Ratzinger his interest in this English cardinal theologian?
Newman was not just a topic like any other, He was our passion. The theme of my thesis was :”Conscience in Newman”. I did my doctoral exams in July 1951, one week after Ratzinger was ordained priest. He helped me. It was he who translated my thesis into classical Latin, a thesis that at the time had to be defended during a public session at the University of Munich in order to earn the doctorate.

Between us we shared this great liberty in looking at and judging things, the freedom of the sons of God that St. Paul writes about. So that was why Newman fascinated us – one who had lived as a free-thinking man in the context of anglicanism, how would such a man accept the Catholic doctrine of the primacy of the Church? Was it thinkable that he could accept this doctrine as a limit to his own liberty? It was I who read Ratzinger the sentence of Newman that he has often cited since…

Which is?
The famous sentence in his letter to the Duke of Norfolk: “Certainly if I had to offer a toast to religion after a meal – something which one is rarely called on to do – then I would toast the Pope. But first for conscience and then for the Pope.”

Did the young Ratzinger already begin showing his impatience during his seminary studies?
The philosopher at Freising then was Arnold Wilmsen, a neo-scholasticist. Ratzinger mever talked about it much to me, maybe because he did not want to be discourteous. But Wilmsen’s lessons had as much effect on him as water on a rainproof coat. He said, I am sorry for the time I am losing, it would be more useful for me to go for a walk with you….

What didn’t he like about neo-scholasticism?
He wrote about it in his book. Wilmsen, who had stuck to the neo-Thomism that he had learned in Rome, seemed to Ratzinger like someone who had stopped asking questions but only thought of defending - against every attempt to question it - the truth which he believed he possessed.

And why did this bother Ratzinger?
It wasn’t so much a question of contrasting philosophical doctrines. The question was: what is a man, after all? A man always asks questions, and when he thinks that he has an answer to one, he finds there is another greater question. It always bothered him for truth to be considered as a possessed object that had to be defended. He was not at ease with neo-scholastic definitions which appeared to him as barriers, in which whatever was within such definitions was the truth,and everything outside was error. But if God is everywhere, he argued, I cannot put up a barrier and say God is only here. And if Christ himself said that he is the way, the truth and the life, then truth is a You which loves us first. According to him, we do not know God because he is the summum bonum whom we can grasp and demonstrate with exact formulas, but because he is a You who comes to us and makes himself known to us. The intellect can construct concepts to define true content. But according to Ratzinger, that is a theology that would dissect the mystery, not a theology that kneels. And even then, that kind of theology did not interest him. In Bavarian we would say, it wasn’t his beer at all!

And what was his kind of “beer” in those days?
He was never interested in books with titles like “The essence of Christianity.” He was never interested in defining God with abstract concepts. An abstraction, he once said, does not need a mother. God did not come to us as an abstract concept, as a summum bonum, but as a You who loved me first, and we can thank him! You can only say thanks to a You. This same approach one finds for instance in Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher of personalism who said that the best discourse with God was to give him thanks. But even because of this, we loved Newman who chose for his episcopal motto “Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaking to heart).

After his studies in philosophy, Ratzinger began to study theology at the Theological faculty in Munich. What were you doing at that time?
After I became a priest, I was a chaplain for one year, and then in 1948, I returned to the seminary in Freising as lecturer in ministry and sacraments. But I still had to finish my theological studies and my doctorate thesis on Newman. That is how I found myself taking some theology courses with Ratzinger at the university. The campus had been destroyed by bombings and the theology faculty was temporarily housed in Fuerstenried, the former hunting lodge of the Bavarian kings, south of Munich. I remember we started out holding classes in the greenhouse, very warm in summer, and cold in winter.

The theology faculty of Munich had a prestigious tradition in which Christianity was principally approached as historical fact
Yes, but after it was closed down by the Nazis in February 1939 and after the war, it had to start all over. There was no longer an ‘organic’ theological school left. Very few remained of the old professors, and the new ones came from different theological faculties and diverse backgrounds. The teaching corps was very diverse internally. And in that atmosphere, even the students took liberties…

What do you mean?
Like they would enrol in a course, but if they found the professor’s lessons uninteresting, they would not come to class. They would assign someone to take notes and then they would share the notes. But in the libraries, they preferred to read books about new tendencies in theology.

Who were the big names in the faculty?
I thought the three most important ones were Gottlieb Soehngen, Michael Schmaus and Friedrisch Wilhelm Maier.

What do you remember of Soehngen, Ratzinger’s “teacher’?
He taught fundamental theology, and his way of lecturing was impressive. One could see that he had lived what he explained. He would come with a piece of paper, with 3 or 4 words written at the top folowed by a series of questions. He spoke extemporaneously, and if a striking idea came to him while he was lecturing, he would leave the lectern and come near the students, almost as if to speak to them tete-a-tete. He started out in philosophy, but he was destined for theology, as Ratzinger said in his homily at his funeral. His was not a theology of concepts, but an existential theology, a theology for the faith.

It was known that he and Schmaus did not get along.
Soehngen was very open to new influences coming from France. And he was a man from Cologne, sunny, happy, extroverted, fascinating. Schmaus on the other hand was the classic professor who is detached, all compressed and enclosed within that role. He came from neo-scholasticism, although he enlivened his exposition of Catholic dogma with references to the Fathers and to Scripture with limitless erudition. Soehngen maintained that Schmaus’s works were only rich compilations of citations from original sources on the various topics of theology, without having a vision that also took into account developments in modern philosophy and the questions these gave rise to. Schmaus wrote monumental works of dogmatic theology!

What were the theological differences between them?
For Schmaus the faith of the Church was communicated with definitive static concepts which stand for perennial truths. For Soehngen, the faith was a mystery and it was told through a story. At that time, the “story of salvation” was much talked about. It had a dynamic element which guaranteed openness and taking into account new questions.

What did Ratzinger learn from Soehngen?
Soehngen usually never made liquidatory judgments on any author. He never rejected a priori any new proposal brought forward, whoever it came from. His way was to gather and evaluate whatever was good that could be found in each author and in every theological perspective, in order to be able to integrate the new into tradition, and then move ahead, indicating the ulterior developments that could follow. But Ratzinger also saw in Soehngen a taste for rediscovering tradition, where this is understood as the theology of the Fathers of the Church. It was a taste for making theology by going back to the great sources: from Plato to Newman, passing through Tomas, Bonaventure, Luther, and obviously, Saint Augustine.

Who became Ratzinger’s favorite.
Ratzinger’s passion for Augustine began in the seminary. It was an existential passion. I remember a lesson in which Soehngen said that before Augustine, everyone – Plato, Xenophon, Julius Caesar – all spoke in the third person, The sainted Bishop of Hippo was the very first to say “I”. This was a breakthrough.

How was the relationship between teacher and student here?Soehngen was not in the habit of ‘forming” his pupils, of making them clones of himself. Ratzinger was always free in his relationship with his teacher. That can be seen even in his doctorate thesis.

In what way?
The point of departure was to seek to understand what would be the best definition of the Church. On June 29, 1943, Pope Pius XII published the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, which defined the Church as the mystical Body of Christ. Soehngen noted that such a definition could not be traced to the Bible. So he suggested to Ratzinger to verify whether St. Augustine had used other definitions for the Church.

What was wrong with the definiion of the Church as the mystical Body of Christ?
One of the questions for example was: If a man, entering the Church, comes as someone already involved in the mystical Body of Christ, then how can he continue to sin? And what is the purpose of liberty? Ratzinger’s discoveries surprised and enthused Soehngen.

And what did the pupil find?
Ratzinger found so much more than what his teacher asked him to look for. He documented with an incredible number of citations what St. Augustine meant when he defined the Church as the people of God. The same expression which would be proposed much later after the Second Vatican Council by Paul VI. But Ratzinger did not counterpose the two definitions of the Church, he reconciled them.

How did Soehngen take that?
He said: And now my student knows more about this than I whom am the teacher! Soehngen had great consideration for the person he considered his best pupil. Once he said he felt like Albertus Magnus, who in the Middle Ages said his pupil’s voice carried farther than his! And his pupil was, of course, Thomas of Aquinas. He, Soehngen, was very happy that someone knew how to develop his suggestions in an original and not predetermined way.

Ratzinger says in his autobiography that for his doctoral thesis on Augustine, you too influenced him in a determinative manner because in 1949 you gave him the book entitled Catholicism by he French Jesuit Henri de Lubac
I gave it to him because I thought it would be beautiful surprise. Indeed he writes that it became his reference text, which conveyed to him a new relationship with the thinking of the Fathers, as well as a new look at theology. In effect, more than one-third of that book consisted of citations from the Fathers.

And yet, it was precisely in those years that De Lubac, Danielou and the other Jesuits from Lyons were prohibited from teaching, and their books were listed in the Index. How did you all take it?
I remember when we got the news about the measures taken against them. Soehngen did not want to incite anyone so he didn’t give any indication of it during class. But I remember that day, Ratzinger and I, after class, went with him to his study where he had a grand piano, because Soehngen was also a musician who played like a concert pianist. That day, in front of us, he didn’t say a word, but he threw down his books on his desk, then sat at the piano and vented all his anger through the keyboard.

In his autobiography, Ratzinger writes that even then, exegesis was already at the center of his interests, and the point of departure for his theological work…
He has always cited Sacred Scripture. Even now one can see that in his homilies and his most beautiful catechetical lessons, he often starts from a passage in Scripture, commented on with citations from the Fathers referring to such passage. Because for him there cannot be a good explanation of an excerpt from the Bible if it does not begin with the interpretaiton that the Church has given to it through the Fathers. This for him is the Traditio vivens, the living transmission. It was the Church that defined the Canon, which has indentified the canonical books. He is not one of the exegetes of soli Scriptura. For him, one must start from the motto Christus praedicat Christum. The best exegete of Christ is Christ himself in the Church within which he works. And this brings with it maximum freedom, because as St. Augustine said: «In Ecclesia non valet: hoc ego dico, hoc tu dicis, hoc ille dicit, sed haec dicit Dominus».

Maier, who taught New Testament exegesis, lived through tough times himself.
When he was a youung scholar, before the first World War, he was an enthusiastic advocate of the exegetic thesis according to which the Gospel of Mark was the first to heve been written, providing the soutrce for the other synoptic Gospels. A thesis that was then commonly accepted, but subsequently, it was all branded as modernism. The pages with Maier’s arguments on the subject were ripped from the anthology in which they had been included. And he was prohibited from teaching. But things changed after the Second World War, and it was a great fortune to have Maier as a professor in Munich…

Ratzinger writes that Maier failed to assimilate the turning point that had been introduced to exegesis by Rudolh Bultmann and Karl Barth
Professor Maier continued to move within the horizon of historico-critical exegesis. But his drect approach, his way of posing questions without censoring them, created a new immediacy of the Biblical text.

Ratzinger also recounts his relationship with the so-called liturgical movement. What was he referring to?
In those years, the liturgical movement underscored the centrality of liturgy in Christian life, and aimed to rediscover the essential elements of liturgy, liberating it from the additions which had grown over it in layers down the centuries. Joseph Pascher, the professor for ministry, was also the director of the Gregorianum, the college where the students lived, and he was an enthusiastic supporter of the liturgical movement. He was influenced by French currents and in the discussions which were beginning then between those who support the theory that the mass is a sacrifice and those who think it is a meal, Pascher belonged to the latter group. But Romano Guardini had already expressed himself against reducing the Mss to a ritual repetition of the Last Supper….

And what position did Ratzinger take?
For him, the character of the Mass as sacrifice cannot be put aside, but that does not exclude that the Mass ritually repeats the Last Supper, the meal with which the disciples celebrated the Jewish Passover. This capacity of his to integrate both positions was demonstrated again in a meditation on this theme that the Pope gave during the last Bishops Synod. Nevertheless, Ratzinger respected Pascher and was influenced by his emphasis on making the daily celebration of the Mass the central point of his pupils’ education. He felt bad whenever he noticed that any professor, after a display of precise definitions in the classroom, showed himself hardly able to say Mass properly and moved about the altar unfamilarly. One time, while one of these types was saying Mass, he said, “Look, I don’t think he even knows what exactly is happening in the Mass.”

How did the Theological faculty in Munich greet the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950?
In general, it was critical. There was no objection to the content of the dogma, but about whether it was necessary to proceed to dogmatizxation. Soehngen underscored that in the Christian sources from the first century, there was no trace of a doctrine that Jesus’s Mother had been assumed physically into Heavenm. Schmaus found hiself called down both by Rome and the Archbishop of Munich because of a critical article he wrote for the diocesan newspaper.

And Ratzinger?
I think even he thought that dogmatization was not necessary. In our practice of the most traditional devotions we already believe and celebrate the Assumption of Mary, as in the Rosary, for instance. Lex orandi, lex credendi. We thought that at that time, the promulgation of a new dogma would create problems for the ecumenical dialog that was flourishing in Germany at the time.

In 1951, after his ordination, Ratzinger began his ministry as a chaplain. What do you recall of that time?
[IMG]http://www.30giorni.it/foto/1142275585940.jpg[/IMG]
Young Fr. Ratzinger says Mass in Ruhpolding, a mountain village.

He was assigned to the parish of the Most Precious Blood in Munich and he stayed there for a year. Before him, the parish had two martyrs who were victims of Nazism – the chaplain Hermann Joseph Wherle, killed in September 1944, and the Jesuit Alfred Delp, killed in February 1945. In that first year, he had to give 16 hours of religious instruction every week, too much for a beginner. He also guided Catholic youth movements in the parish. He then had to decide: should he continue his study of theology and undertake an academic career, or should he opt to become a pastoral priest in some parish. At that time, I did something which contributed to resolving the dilemma.

What did you do?
In 1952, I wanted to leave my assignment as lecturer on Ministry of the sacraments at the Seminary in Freising, I decided to see Bishop Faulhaber to tell him that the best person to succeed me at that post was Joseph Ratzinger. Who did, in fact, on October 1, 1952, take my post, and thus began his academic career. I never told him that I went to the bishop to propose his name. But I like to think that maybe that intervention of mine helped open him on his path.

So in 1952, Ratzinger goes back to live in Freising, and in 1953, he pases his final exams for his doctorate in Theology. Meanwhile, still under Soehngen’s guidance, he chooses his topic for the exam that in Germany one must pass in order to obtain Habilitation to become a lecturer. He chooses St. Bonaventure. What was the specific topic assigned?
Ratzinger was supposed to analyze Bonaventure’s viewpoint on Revelation. In those years, the debate about Revelation was heated. A new perspective considered Revelation as, above all, God’s action in history, in proceeding towards the story of salvation. And it could not be identical to the communication of some truths to reason via abstract concepts, as in the neo-scholastic way.

What did Ratzinger find out this time?
He realized that in Bonaventure’s medieval perception, Revelation was first of all an act, it always indicated an act in which God manifests himself at a given historical moment. Revelation was reflected in the Sacred Scriptures but was always greater than Scripture itself; it preceded Scripture and it was not identical to it, just as a fact precedes and is not identical to the account that is made of it. Therefore the formula of sola Scriptura was alien to the thought of Bonaventure, that concept in modern times which defines Revelation as the fixed and objective aggregate of what is contained in Holy Scriptures. Beyond that, in his analysis, Ratzinger noted that in this perspective, there is Revelation only when the act by which the Mystery is manifested ia perceived by someone. If God had spoken only in divine language, not comprehensible to any man, there would have been no Reveation at all.

Ratzinger then recounts how things became complicated. What happened?
In the autumn of 1955, Ratzinger submitted his work on Bonvaenture. Soehngen was very enthusiastic right away. But the thesis adviser was Schmaus because he was the medievalist in the faculty. Schmaus told Soehngen: Look, this is a modernist work, I cannot let it pass. So Soehngen warned Ratzinger, watch out because we can’t make it with this work, Schmaus thinks it is a modernist work. I think that some sentences may have appeared to Schmaus like dangerous subjectivism which would put the objectivity of Revelation into question.

But the thesis for the Habilitation of the future Pope was not rejcted because of suspected modernism……
No, the faculty council sent it back to him to rewrite, taking into account the corrections and criticisms that Schmaus had made on the copy.

But the size of the required changes would have required years of work. So Ratzinger resorted to a subterfuge
In Ratzinger’s thesis, Part 2 was dedicated to the theology if Bonaventure’s story, compared to that of Gioachino di Fiore, and Schmaus had not placed any critical judhgments on this part. This section was really autonomous and could be read as a complete text in itself. So even Soehngen advised Ratzinger to cut out the first part, which is causing all the problems, and just present Part 2.

So the Habilitation thesis is accepted, and on February 21, 1957 was the day of the public reading of the Habilitation theses at the Univerity of Munich, and in the Great Hall of the Faculty of Theology, there was a gathering such as for grand occasions. What do you remember?
Ratzinger made his exposition. Then Schmaus started by asking him if he thought that truth was satic and immutable or whether it was historical-dynamic. Ratzinger did not reply. Soehngen spoke up, and the two professors started to face off in what seemed like a great medieval disputatio. The public applauded Soehngen and seemed happy that Schmaus, the supercilious professor, was getting his comeuppance. Ratzinger did not say a word. Finally the rector arrived and said, Enough, time is up. So then, the examiners got up and said hurriedly, “OK, he passes…”

What happened afterwards? Ratzinger indicates some problems on the part of his detractors
Ratzinger took over the teaching of Dogmatic Theology at the School of Higher Studies next to the seminary in Freising, where he himself had studied. Meanwhile, rumors went around that Ratzinger would be sent to an institute of pedagogy in Pasing, in the periphery of Munich.

He talks of problems with the episcopal curia. What did he mean?Let us remember that throughout the war, there were no ordinations. In the dioceses and parishes, there was much work to do. One would hear, “First let us think of pastoral work, then let us think of theology and science.” The bishops were not happy whenever anyone asked to dedicate himself to scientific theology. But in Germany there is a law that if a priest is called on by a state university to teach theology, his bishop cannot oppose this.

And Ratzinger availed of this?
In the summer of 1958, Joseph received an offer from the University of Bonn to take the chair of fundamental theology. Shorly after, Cardinal Wendel, who was then Archbishop of Munich, called him and said: “Congratulations, I hear that you are going to the pedagogical institue in Pasing.” And Ratzinger replied: “I thank you very much, Lord Archbishop, but I have received an invitation from Bonn…” And he showed him the letter…

Finally, Professor, is there an episode in your long friendship that is particularly dear to you?
The day when Joseph and his brother Georg were ordained priests, June 29, 1951, at the Cathedral of Freising. Even me, after Cardinal Faulhaber, I joined the line of the other priests present to lay hands on the head of the new priest. At the moment I did this, he raised his head and said Thank you. After the Mass, he, his parents and his sister Maria went up with me to my room and I said, “Dear Joseph, now give me your blessing.” We embraced each other with an indescribable joy.
[IMG]http://www.30giorni.it/foto/1142275585800.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://www.30giorni.it/foto/1142275585846.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://www.30giorni.it/foto/1142275585534.jpg[/IMG]
Joseph Ratzinger's ordination as priest, 6/29/51: The cremony inside Freising Cathedral; Joseph and Georg as new priests; from Ratzinger family picture taken that day.

He does not know how to pretend. What makes him feel most bad is when someone is not sincere, when one is playing a role. It really makes him feel bad. That is why it displeases him when liturgy is turned into theater, because, he would say, that is not how one treats Jesus Christ.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 16/03/2006 18.30]

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16/03/2006 17.35
 
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WHAT A GREAT INTERVIEW!

How can somebody 91 years old remember all that detail? I can't remember what somebody said 2 minutes ago. It is really interesting to see how true to form Papa has been throughout his life, how focused his interests have been, how constant his methods, and how fascinated with learning and with the truth. Prof. Laepple deserves a lot of credit for directing Papa along the path he took.

Teresa, thanks for spending the hours it probably took to translate this really interesting interview.
16/03/2006 19.24
 
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What a feast!
Heartfelt thanks for this translation, Teresa. Amen to what Benefan had remarked. The 91-year old's memory is mind blowing.
16/03/2006 20.17
 
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KEEPING THE BRAIN IN SHAPE
You know what they say about exercising the brain. Given his background, I expect Fr. Laepple gives his brain a workout everyday and that keeps his in very good shape. And I expect he must have excellent genes. We know our Papa will keep exercising his brain and brain power to the max, so we have much to look forward to.

But I am really struck, as Benefan points out, at how consistent he has been on matters of the faith - especially his central insight that Christianity is about a person, God made man, who actually lived on earth to fulfill God's promise of redemption. And that in relating to God, we relate to an actual You, who loved us first and whose love we can only return...And all this he had already worked out when he was in his 20s...The revelation that his first "work" was actually about caritas, from 60 years ago, is just awesome.

We thank you, Lord, for Benedict XVI. Long may he guide us as you guide him to guide your Church.
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17/03/2006 05.20
 
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BORROWING THE INTERVIEW

I am going to have to snatch that interview to take to the workshop I go to on Sunday mornings where we discuss Papa's books. This Sunday will be our last discussion day on the encyclical and I'd love to show everyone how Papa wrote about caritas way back when. We have also read Milestones, Spirit of the Liturgy, In the Beginning, Salt of the Earth, and God and the World which all contain material reflected on by Fr. Laepple. I know my fellow group members will love this interview.







17/03/2006 06.07
 
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A DISCUSSION GROUP ON BENEDICT'S WRITINGS!
But how wonderful, Benefan! You must tell us all about it. What sort of co-discussants do you have, how did you all get started with the workshop, what are the sessions like...My goodness, you have a Benaddictine outreach right there in your church.
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17/03/2006 18.38
 
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Thank you so much Teresa for this translation, a magnum opus for anyone. There is so much to enjoy in it.

So moving: speaking of praying for one's country to lose a war
So joyful: the sweet hugs with Ratzi on his ordination day
so enlightening: the nicknames 'Organ-Ratz and 'Books-Ratz'. The Welsh also used to have this way of nicknaming people.
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18/03/2006 01.30
 
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MUSING ABOUT THE INTERVIEW
You're so right, Wulfrune! There is so much material in the interview, a new insight in almost every answer...It was so exciting to read it and to translate it, but afterwards, I was just so happy I finished the translation overnight so I could share it right away that I did not have an opportunity to sit back and muse about it.

For now, I will comment on one point:
I thought one of the best lines was Professor Soehngen saying he felt like Albertus Magnus "whose pupil's voice carried farther than his," the pupil having been no less than Thomas Aquinas. Ratzi has been referred to in some articles as "the Aquinas of our day" - something about which I was ambivalent, knowing how our Papa is decidedly 'Augustinian' rather than 'Thomist'. But then again, his first "work" was a translation of Aquinas to German.

Can you imagine this 20-year-old first-year seminary student taking on a task like that? Out of sheer interest, looks like; it did not sound like it was a class assignment. And having the initiative to look up all the citations from their original sources, which meant scouring Greek, Latin and perhaps Hebrew texts...

And seeing pictures of the young Ratzi at that time, one can imagine those magnificent eyes, that beautiful face, alive and alight with the glow of youthful enthusiasm and curiosity, the passion to learn, the joy of discovering new knowledge, of absorbing everything "like blotting paper"...

Our new forum member Kiko has chosen a most demanding role model, but also the most inspiring one possible. I hope he has actually started already on the path of priesthood ...
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