Benedict XVI, the man who did not want to be pope
Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, after more than seven years of pontificate. (Archives)
The Catholic Church says farewell Thursday to its pope emeritus Benedict XVI, during his funeral celebrated in St. Peter's Square in Rome. However, the German pontiff never wanted to be pope, himself equating his election with the “cleaver of a guillotine”.
This is to say the dread that seized on Benedict XVI when he was elected, comments the former permanent correspondent of the newspaper La Croix in the Vatican, Frédéric Mounier. And I think I can say that this fear has never left him, continues the journalist who has followed the last four years of the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
After his election, the late pope emeritus realized that he was not made to govern, but rather to teach, pray and reflect. He is a great theologian pope, a great intellectual, but he was not a ruler; but that is why he was elected, underlines the Vaticanist.
According to him, Benedict XVI suffered at the head of the Church, where he faced to extraordinary hardships: to corruption, to greed, to clannishness and all those metastases which still plague the curia [Church government] today.
“He was a brave man who suffered martyrdom as he faced the powers of evil. »
— Frédéric Mounier, permanent correspondent at the Vatican (2009 to 2013)
Moreover, the heaviest cross that Pope Ratzinger had to bear was the hierarchy of the Church, adds the former correspondent of Agence France-Presse in the Vatican, Jean Louis de La Vaissière, author of several books on the popes. He said it some time before resigning in terms that [his successor] François took over almost entirely after […] He spoke of the intrigues, the competitions, the malevolence, the low blows within the x27;institution.
The Vatileaks case is a good example. Secret documents of Pope Benedict XVI were stolen from his office by his butler, who passed them on to the press. There was no day when there were no leaks, no day when the difficulties of Benedict XVI's government were not made public, says Frédéric Mounier.
Apparently, when he left power [to his successor], he gave him a massive 300-page volume. We later learned that it was a report of all the embezzlement, the abuses that had been observed by him and his collaborators, so undoubtedly his greatest burden is this Church, continues Mr. de La Vaissière .
But faced with this way of the cross, Benoit XVI led a merciless fight against corruption and abuse, a fight he led with great courage and dedication. #x27;honesty by sanctioning many priests, a struggle that was a little beyond him, adds the specialist in the papacy.
The German pontiff was the first pope to open the door to financial transparency. It is thanks to the measures he took – and which were extended by Francis – that the Vatican is no longer a tax haven today, Frédéric Mounier points out.
Benedict XVI is also the pope who opened the file on the fight against pedocrime. At the time of his pontificate, the issue of sexual abuse was starting to really gain momentum in the Church […] Several big cases exploded, especially those of the legionaries of Christ and he was confronted with this issue very quickly , remembers Marie Malzac who was then working for the Imedia agency, specializing in Vatican news.
Marie Malzac, former journalist at the Imedia agency, covered the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican from 2011 to 2014.
On this issue of sexual assault, Benedict XVI has strengthened legislation and regulations to fight against this scourge in the Church, explains the journalist, who admits that the management was not perfect, but that the pope took these issues head on and that he has helped advance better management of child abuse in the Church.
He did not solve all the problems, but he directed a response with leads to face this problem, and it was a service for his successor who was able to continue in this direction, continues Father Federico Lombardi, President of the Ratzinger Foundation and spokesperson for the Vatican during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
Father Federico Lombardi was the spokesperson of the Press Room of the Holy See for 10 years, from 2006 to 2016.
A few days after his election, the pope expressed his shame for the filthiness inside the Church. He spoke of the Church as a boat that takes on water from all sides and he explained that the victims were the first priority, and this was a revolution within the Roman curia, recalls Frédéric Mounier.< /p>
But later, Pope Benedict XVI admitted that he no longer had the strength to drive this huge liner full of problems, continues Mr. de La Vaissière, for whom the renunciation of Benedict XVI is an act of humility which revolutionizes the Church. It is the complete opposite of the spirit of a part of the curia, which is on the contrary very attached to power, to privileges, to this famous clericalism that Pope Francis denounces.
For his part, Father Lombardi believes that the renunciation of Benedict XVI has made it possible to reflect on his personality. Along with her humility, he says, she demonstrates her ability to assess situations and make decisions for the good of the Church.
For many observers of the Vatican, the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI is above all theological and intellectual. This is also the belief of Jean-Louis de La Vaissière, who sees the reign of the German pope as a pontificate of internalization of the faith, in contrast to the highly globalized pontificate of his predecessor.
Under the pontificate of John Paul II, the faith was announced on all continents with an illusion as if all of a sudden everyone was going to turn out to be a Christian; he [Benedict XVI] was in the background about that. The Vatican specialist adds that Benedict XVI wanted to show a small flock more than many the inner richness of the Christian faith.
A feeling shared by Marie Malzac, who believes that Benedict XVI spoke to the heart of the target, especially addressing people who were already in the bosom of the Catholic Church, not exclusively, but above all.
Unlike Pope Francis, who speaks to the peripheral and remote people, Benedict XVI's legacy is to have strengthened in faith those who were inside and to have given them reasons to believe, to have shown them that being a Christian makes sense, including in Christianized societies, explains the Vaticanist.
According to her, Benedict XVI was a very pedagogical pope who knew how to clarify concepts with a clarity of reflection, in his explanations of things of faith.
He was trying to say that the question of God has not gone out of fashion today, she continues to question, and he answered them in a brilliant way, affirms for his part Jean-Louis de La Vaissière, who saw in the attitude of the Pope great modesty, great honesty, reserve.
“I felt a very strong strength in his message to try to bring together faith and reason. »
—Jean-Louis de La Vaissière, former AFP correspondent in the Vatican
He also adds that the German pontiff was opposed to liberation theology, because he did not accept the mixture of politics and religion. He was severe because he did not want the body of faith to disintegrate, to become a mere yes-yes-yes ideology. According to him, Benedict XVI wanted to keep the corpus of faith in its entirety.
Jean-Louis de La Vaissière was a Vatican correspondent for Agence France-Presse from 2011 to 2016.
He also defended the idea that the Second Vatican Council – in which Joseph Ratzinger had actively participated before becoming pope – was not the council of rupture, but a council of the renewal of tradition, explains Jean- Louis de La Vaissière. He constantly opposed this idea of rupture and it caused him some problems with many theologians.
On the interreligious front, he tried to dialogue with the other religions and other Christian confessions, maintains the journalist, who specifies that Benedict XVI was also interested in the question of non-belief and doubt.
With Judaism, he testified by many gestures to his affection for this religion, affirms the Vaticanist, who however underlines some clumsiness of Benedict XVI towards the Jewish community. With Islam, he also made a lot of effort, he continues, adding that the controversy surrounding the Regensburg speech was very badly perceived by Muslims, and the wound never really healed despite his efforts.
For her part, Marie Malzac regrets that the pontificate of Benedict XVI was misunderstood and punctuated by several controversies. According to her, this is a form of awkwardness or in any case naivety on the part of Benedict XVI, who has sometimes been the object of malevolence on the part of part of the press, think- she. This obscured the substance of what Benedict XVI could bring to a wider audience than just the Catholic faithful.
“He never sought to please, but rather to do well.
—Marie Malzac, former Vatican journalist
The authenticity of the late pope emeritus does him credit, especially in a society where everyone is still in a approach of seduction, believes the journalist.
The former Vatican spokesman affirms for his part that the pope was not someone who only tried to ;to have a better image and to correct the outward aspects of the scandal, but rather he was trying to find deep roots and heal them.
While many feared it would come to a head of the Church a panzer-cardinal, many Vatican observers instead hail the humility of Benedict XVI who has completed his pilgrimage on this earth, in his own words.