Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Light of the World

The new book by Pope Benedict XVI is marvelous and this review from 30 Days is wonderful.

An excerpt.

“I was impressed by the authenticity and simplicity of the things said by Benedict XVI in the book-interview Light of the World, published by CTS, Ignatius, which brings together his conversations with the journalist Peter Seewald. In many pages of the book one encounters a relaxed, confident Pope, expressing himself freely without hiding anything. A Pope who speaks with the same simplicity both of his daily life with members of the papal household and of the major issues that touch upon the life of the whole Church.

“In many pages there is a clear confidence in the current and future state of the Church in the world. The Pope does not appear distressed. He says clearly that the Church may seem in decline if looked at from a European point of view. But he adds that he believes “it’s only one part of the whole”. In fact, “the Church is growing and thriving, she is quite dynamic”, and “we on the continent of Europe are experiencing only one particular side but not the great dynamic of a new beginning that is really present elsewhere and which I encounter again and again on my journeys and through the visits of the bishops” (p. 12).

“One wonders where this confidence comes from. The Pope notes without complaint secularization, relativism, the loss of the sense of God that prevail in the lived reality of many people. Faced with these phenomena, his hope and peace of mind does not seem to depend upon some invented notion, on some recipe, or on the promptings of some paradigm old or new, setting out the line and assuring a good “state of health” or even the “success” of the Church. Benedict XVI simply repeats that what keeps alight the living flame of faith in the Church is Jesus Himself, since “only the Lord himself has the power to keep people in the faith as well” (p. 7). Only on this basis, experienced now in his condition as successor of Peter, does the hope and confidence of the Pope rest: “When we see what men, what the clergy have done in the Church, then that is nothing short of proof that he founded and upholds the Church. If she were dependent on men, she would long since have perished” (p. 37).

“This is the mystery of the Church which emerges in the very way in which Benedict takes on the task to which he has been called.

“Even at the moment when it hit me, all I was able to say to the Lord was simply: ‘What are you doing with me? Now the responsibility is yours. You must lead me! I can’t do it. If you wanted me, then you must also help me!’” (p. 4): so he recalls in the very first pages of the book the day of his papal election. And this is the leading thread that runs through many of his answers, with interesting corollaries from the ecclesiological point of view also. For Benedict XVI the Pope “too is a simple beggar before God – even more than all other people” (p. 17). In plain and simple words, the charism of infallibility is described in terms proper to Catholic doctrine, setting aside all “infallibilist” doubt: “Usually the Bishop of Rome acts like any other bishop who professes his faith, who proclaims his faith, who is faithful in the Church. Only when certain conditions are present, when tradition has been clarified and he knows he is not acting arbitrarily, can the Pope say: This is the faith of the Church – and denial of it is not the faith of the Church” (pp. 7-8). According to the Pope Vatican II “correctly taught us that collegiality is a constitutive element in the structure of the Church. That the Pope can only be first together with others and not someone who would make decisions in isolation as an absolute monarch and do everything himself” (p. 71). So, citing the last Ecumenical Council, Pope Benedict XVI reiterates that the shared responsibility of bishops is a constitutive datum of the very nature of the Church itself. And his are not statements of principle or formulas of the moment: you see from the importance he attaches to the Synod of Bishops and the care and willingness to listen with which he meets individual bishops on ad limina visits. One is well aware that through these precious meetings Benedict XVI is in direct contact with the problems, the trials and consolations of the people of God experienced in various local situations, such as the human and social devastation linked to drug trafficking of which “many, many bishops, above all from Latin America” (p. 60) have spoken.

“The Pope also replies to the question of the possibility of summoning a Vatican Council III. For him the moment is not yet ripe. But certainly the criterion of collegiality outlined by him may have major developments in ecumenism, especially with regard to relations with the Eastern Churches. These Churches, Benedict XVI repeats, “are genuine particular Churches, although they are not in communion with the Pope. In this sense unity with the Pope is not constitutive for the particular Church”, although the lack of such unity “is a defect in the living cell of the particular Church, as it were. It remains a cell, it is legitimately called a Church, but the cell is lacking something, namely, its connection with the organism as a whole” (p. 89).”