Avvenire has this story today from Cologne.
He wanted to leave the Vatican
when he turned 75 but
Wojtyla told him he needed him
By Luigi Geninazzi
The black-and-white photo is a bit grainy but it highlighjts the shining eyes of a five-year-old boy on his first day at school: he looks serious, almost contrite, with his knapsack on his shoulder and a white ribbon around his collar.
It is one of the many hitherto unpublished photographs of Joseph Ratzinger that can be admired at the Maternushaus, the red brick building a few steps away from the imposing Gothic cathedral of Cologne.
Here, an exhibit called "The Pope from Germany" opened yesterday to celebrate the Pope who turns 80 on April 16.
A child viewing part of the Cologne exhibit (Reuters photos).
It is the first reconstruction of the human and intellectual development of the Geman pope through videos, films and audio tapes with explanatory caption panels. It is his biography but also an illustration of his theological thought.
But the visitor's curiosity will surely be drawn first to the archive photos and original documents on display.
A real gem, for instance, is a letter from the young Prof. Ratzinger to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, who was a member of the preparatory commission for Vatican-II.
It is dated September 14,1962, just a few weeks before the opening of that great event that would mean a historic turn for the Church. Ratzinger at the time was a lecturer in dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn, and Frings chose him to be his theology expert at the Council.
So, when Ratzinger received the Schemata (preparatory Council documents), he wasted no time and wrote his mentor a letter that is neatly written, almost with schoolboy precision, but with explosive contents. For instance, "I have taken the liberty to make some suggestions for improvement..."
We already find here, in kernel, the intellectual power and expository clarity of a man who was destined to become first the faithful guardian of Catholic orthodoxy and now, the greatest theologian Pope in modern times.
But why an exhibit on Joseph Ratzinger in Cologne rather than, say, Regensburg or Munich in his native Bavaria?
Peter Scharr, the curator who is very proud of this effort, says, "There are three reasons. It was in Bonn, which is part of the Archdioocese of Cologne, that the young Ratzinger had his first university professor's chair. Then, he hit it off right away with Cardinal Frings, which led to a calm but fruitful relationship. Finally, we cannot forget, that Benedict came to this city on the Rhine in August 2005 for World Youth Day, in his first trip abroad as Pope."
Then he adds, "Actually, there's another very good reason, pehaps the most decisive one. It's the extraordinary friendship between the Pope and Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the present Archbishop of Cologne."
"Well, everyone knows it," Meisner tells me as he accompanies me through the exhibit. "I have always been deeply and sincerely in agreement with him, even when many were criticizing him. We think the same way.
"When I started to study theology, it was his book, Introduction to Christianity
, that formed me, in a convincing and substantial way. God has given us a great Pope who knows how to propose the truths of our faith clearly and simply. At the Conclave, we did not choose him because he is German. We chose him because he was the best."
Meisner is a river in full spate when he gets started about Benedict XVI. At the opening of the exhibit, he delighted the audience with rare anecdotes and sharp observations.
That opening did not lack music by Mozart, a quartet for flute and violins. About Ratzinger's love of Mozart, Meisner says, "Maybe because his theological thinking unfolds like Mozart's music - clear, tender and enchanting." [ Meisner once called Ratzinger 'the Mozart of theology.
The archbishop recalls the time when Ratzinger was nearing his 75th birthday and the Prefect of the CDF told him he wished to leave the Vatican to devote himself to his studies. "I've already beaten all previous records for length of time in this post," Ratzinger told him. "It's time for me to go."
John Paul II, says Meisner, was appalled, and entrusted him with the assignment to talk his friend out of it. "Tell him that without him, I cannot do what I need to do, that Wojtyla's pontificate needs the theological support of Joseph Ratzinger."
So Meisner went to Ratzinger to carry out his mission. "You'll have all the time to study when you finally retire. But for now, give it a few more years at the Vatican." Obviously, he succeeded in his assignment.
But retirement? Look where RAtzinger is now.
"You were a terrible prophet," the new Pope jestingly chided Meisner the day after the Conclave.
For now, if Germans want to know more about their Pope, they may come to Cologne to see this exhibit, which is unique in all the world.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 27/03/2007 0.17]