Here is a verbatim French translation of this brief two-page text written in German.
August 29, 2006
My spiritual testament
If, at this late hour of my life, I look back on the decades that I have gone through, I see first of all how many reasons I have to give thanks. Above all, I thank God himself, the giver of all good gifts, who gave me life and guided me through many tribulations, who always lifted me up when I started to slip, who has always offered the light of his face. Looking back, I see and understand that even the dark and painful parts of this path were for my Salvation and that is precisely where He guided me well.
I thank my parents who gave me life in difficult times and who, at the cost of great self-denial, prepared for me with their love a marvelous home which, like a clear light, illuminates all my days until today. My father’s clairvoyant faith taught us brothers and sisters to believe, and it stood firm as a guide in the midst of all my scientific knowledge; my mother’s warm piety and great kindness remain a legacy for which I can never give enough thanks. My sister served me selflessly and caringly for decades; my brother has always opened the way for me with the clear-sightedness of his judgments, with his powerful determination and with the serenity of his heart; without this continuous presence which precedes and accompanies me, I could not have found the right path.
I thank God from the bottom of my heart for the many friends, men and women, whom He has always placed by my side; for collaborators at all stages of my journey; for teachers and students he has given me. I entrust them all with gratitude to his goodness. And I would like to thank the Lord for my beautiful homeland in the Bavarian Prealps, in which I have always been able to see the splendor of the Creator Himself shine through. I thank the people of my homeland for always allowing me to experience the beauty of faith. I pray for this, so that our country remains a land of faith and pray to you: dear compatriots, do not let yourselves be diverted from the faith. Finally, I thank God for all the beautiful things that I have been able to experience at the different stages of my career, but especially in Rome and Italy, which has become my second homeland.
To everyone I have wronged in one way or another, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.
What I said earlier about my compatriots, I say it now to all those who have been entrusted to my ministry in the Church: Hold fast in the faith! Don’t be confused! It often seems that science – on the one hand the natural sciences, on the other historical research (in particular the exegesis of the Holy Scriptures) – has irrefutable views which are opposed to the Catholic faith. I witnessed the transformations of the natural sciences from afar and I could see how apparent certainties founded against faith did not turn out to be sciences, but philosophical interpretations only apparently belonging to science – just like faith. has learned, in dialogue with the natural sciences, the limit of the scope of its affirmations and thus to better understand what it is.
For sixty years, I have accompanied the path of theology, in particular that of biblical studies, and I have seen the collapse, over the generations, of theses which seemed unshakable and which turned out to be only simple hypotheses: the liberal generation (Harnack, Jülicher, etc.), the existentialist generation (Bultmann, etc.), the Marxist generation. I have seen and I see how, in the tangle of assumptions, the reason for faith has emerged and is emerging again. Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth and the life – and the Church, in all its imperfections, is truly His body.
Finally, I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord will let me enter the eternal mansions despite all my sins and my insufficiencies. To all those entrusted to my care, I address my heartfelt prayer day after day.