Benedict XVI, Vatican: “Pope Emeritus has died”. A last farewell to the coherence between spirituality, reason and faith

(ASI) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery. He had resided here since his resignation from the ministry of Pontiff, communicated to the world on February 11, 2013 (his election, as the 256th Successor of Peter, took place on April 19, 2005).

He “died today at 9:34, in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican”, said the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, in a statement released this morning to the media. The body will be exposed – he later specified in a press conference -, from January 2, in St. Peter’s Basilica, while the funeral will be celebrated in the square three days later by Pope Francis.The deceased was the eighth pontiff to renounce the Petrine ministry, after Clement I , Pontianus, Silverius, Benedict IX, Gregory VI, Celestine V and Gregory XII.

Once he took office, Benedict XVI immediately addressed the issue of pedophilia, highlighting, on the occasion of his apostolic visit to the United States in 2008, that he found it “difficult to understand how it was possible that some priests could fail in this way in the mission to bring relief, to bring God’s love to these children”, adding that pedophiles would be “strictly” excluded from the priesthood, because “whoever is truly guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest”.

Has been the first pontiff to meet with victims of abuse. He began on 17 April 14 years ago in the USA, then continued in Australia in the same year on the occasion of World Youth Day, in Malta and in England in 2010, but also in Germany in 2011. At the same time he ordered apostolic visits to institutions affected by this scourge, such as the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Church in Ireland.

In the same year, Ratzinger issued a new version of the norms on the most serious crimes (“delicta graviora”) – an updated version with respect to their first promulgation in 2001 -, including precisely sexual abuse. The main innovations concerned the speeding up of certain practices such as the possibility of proceed “by extrajudicial decree”, regarding the assessments of the most serious cases, or to present the latter directly to the Pope in view of the dismissal from the clerical state of the figure involved in such crimes.

The provision also allowed for the possibility of having priests and lay people as staff members of the courts, or as lawyers or prosecutors.

Benedict XVI has also reduced to the lay state some priests guilty of pedophilia, or replaced or accepted the resignation of others who had been guilty of the same crime. He ordered another inquiry in 2011 into sexual abuse at Ealing Abbey and the nearby independent St Benedict’s School in London.

His figure is also closely linked to the great culture he matured in the 95 years he was alive and to having supported Saint John Paul II for a long time. In the 1980s, both saved Latin America from the instrumental use of the Bible for political purposes through Liberation Theology on which the Vatican formally expressed a very harsh condemnation.

Benedict XVI’s imprint is also remembered for his humility, which he was able to demonstrate in every circumstance, through prayer and an adequate capacity for dialogue capable of countering the spiritual aspects hostile to Christianity. By the way, let us recall the beautiful interview he gave to the magazine “Una Voce Grida” when he was at the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and published by the same on March 9, 1999. He had condemned (rightly), in that context, all the practices related to occultism and oriental religions. The offer of them – he had reminded him – “moves on different levels. There is yoga reduced to a kind of gymnastics: some element is offered which can help to relax the body. Well, if yoga is really reduced to gymnastics, it can also be accepted, in the case of movements that have an exclusively physical meaning. But it must really be reduced, I repeat, to a pure exercise in physical relaxation, freed from any ideological element. On this point one must be very careful not to introduce, in a physical preparation, a specific vision of man, of the world, of the relationship between man and God. This purification of an in itself logical method of ideas incompatible with the Christian life, could be compared for example with the “demythologization” of the pagan traditions on the creation of the world, realized in the first chapter of Genesis (present in the Bible ed), where the sun and the moon, the great deities of the myth are reduced to “lamps” created from God, lamps that reflect the light of God, and make us imagine the true Light, which is the Creator of light. And so, even in the case of yoga and other oriental techniques, a transformation and a radical shift would be necessary which really do away with any ideological pretension. The moment elements appear that claim to lead to a “mystique”, they already become tools that lead in the wrong direction”. The prelate had therefore specified that “the mantra is a prayer addressed not to God, but to other divinities who are idols”.

Ratzinger was a deeply spiritual man, but also of great culture. In fact, he managed to demonstrate the perfect complementarity between faith and reason, in line with the theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas, taking as the central point of his pontificate the sacrosanct fight against moral relativism and the protection of non-negotiable principles (such as, for example, the urgency to protect the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, together with the need to defend life from conception to natural death). The battle for the defense of the only existing Truth, that is Jesus Christ, cannot be questioned by worldliness. It is the main enemy of the conscience formed on the basis of correct principles engraved by the Lord in human reason, because it asks individual traditions to renounce a part of themselves in the name of a presumed equality. Thus the wealth deriving from the mutual recognition of the peculiarities of each individual culture is eliminated. The end of this process consists in the “consecration” of a diabolical nihilism. This total nothingness is encouraging the reification of people, based on the model of the commodity form, which has its apex in considering individuals no longer as citizens, but banal consumers without dignity and rights.

Marco Paganelli – Italy Press Agency

Benedict XVI, Vatican: “Pope Emeritus has died”. A last farewell to the coherence between spirituality, reason and faith