Home > Archives > 03 - 2007 > It’s true, it’s the Pope’s birthday...!
from issue no. 03 - 2007

It’s true, it’s the Pope’s birthday...!

by Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB

Ordinary people have birthdays and are right to celebrate; but to persons like Benedict XVI the years that remain serve for accomplishing their mission. Because of this the meaning of the occasion is different, it has to do with asking God to allow him to bring to fulfillment his commitment to the good of Christianity and the world.
Professor Ratzinger is a brilliant thinker who has had to overcome the problems of his time as university professor, understanding it better than anyone else and, therefore, without any tendency to truckle about fundamental things. In fact, as professor at the University of Bonn, he developed in his seminars all that would later constitute the Introduction to Christianity, the work that made him known not only to the academic milieu but also to those who, called to participate in Vatican Council II, sought counselors and experts who truly knew how to read the signs of the times and to discern them through the Word of God and of the Magisterium. In fact, Cardinal Frings, of the Archdiocese of Cologne, brought him along with him to Vatican Council II, leaving it generously to be understood that his own thinking came out of talks with this young theologian, from what someone defined as “audacities younger than forty” that are not common in the traditional atmosphere in which institutions move – when they do so – slowly so that they may then go on with their repose.
The young thinker knew how to make his contribution and those who have read the documents given out by the Council know that there are signs there that are easy to recognize today in the steps taken by Benedict XVI in his already fertile pontificate. That God manifested Himself through Jesus Christ is one of the key ideas in his theological thinking and personal life, as also in his pastoral service as Archbishop of Munich in Bavaria. And, accustomed as a good theologian to research in depth, he developed with the greatest sensibility the topic of justice, asserting on many occasions that in history «God was never on the side of the institutions, but always and in every moment on the side of those who suffer and are persecuted».
In effect, his first, important universal chair was the Council and I would dare say that the universities then were deprived of receiving, in the serenity of thought and reflection, the teachings and insights that this thinker, already great at that time, could have offered. Bonn was just before the Council and Ratzinger passed, even if for periods of various duration, to the Universities of Münster and Tübingen before Regensburg, his last berth as university professor.
The question remains about the apparent scarce consideration of Ratzinger as professor in Germany. Appreciated by the Council fathers and intellectuals world-wide who saw in him God’s thinker, the young people of ’68 were disposed neither to listen nor discuss but only to exalt those who fitted in with their beliefs that were far removed from values and replete with slogans that spread throughout the world of culture and that of its negation.
This does not mean to say that the movement of ’68 was lacking in meaning. It means that those who stage-managed its arrival in the media introduced it as intolerant and thereby founded the “moral relativism” in which we are immersed. In the university there were many professors who steered a middle course so as to survive the times or because they failed to recognize the moment or spot a possible way out. In truth they truckled and the survivors today regret having done so and their offspring cannot understand why their fathers truckled.
Professor Ratzinger was among those who did not truckle, among those who opposed the clamor of what was void within and that therefore represented a danger.
Those who wish to understand Pope Benedict XVI’s battle against relativism will have to return to clarify what happened in the thinking of ’68 and others will have to weigh the consequences of wanting to mix the thinking of the Council, thinking full of faith, hope and love, with the thinking of ’68, void of sense, which is the equivalent of the negation of faith, of certain hope and of charity.
The stepping back, not negotiating what was not negotiable, the concern not to truckle led him to go deeper into Scripture, to intensify the seminars in which he developed teaching skills so as to make himself understood without misunderstandings, something that earned him the soubriquet “mouth of gold”. So he distanced himself from the review Concilium and collaborated in the creation of the Communio review and made it clear on what he was, and what he was not, in agreement.
Providence had prepared a chair for his fidelity, that of the Archdiocese of Munich in Bavaria and, immediately after, that of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he had criticized, with the freedom of the sons of God, at the time of the Council, when it was guided by one of the more important cardinals, Alfredo Ottaviani.
Benedict XVI during the Eucharistic celebration on the feast of The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, 29 June 2005

Benedict XVI during the Eucharistic celebration on the feast of The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, 29 June 2005

All believed that the path of the Cardinal, Professor Ratzinger, would reach its end with these almost twenty-five years at the head of the Congregation founded by Pope Paul III. It was a task accomplished by a person who, as consultant-expert at the Council, had the assignment of taking care of the doctrinal treasure of his Church. It was an achieved life, the object of healthy envy, deserving rest, already fully entitled to enter history with.
But God always goes beyond and, at the end of twenty-five years of loyal and highly qualified work beside Pope John Paul II, the Lord called him to the Chair of Saint Peter, in this way assenting to his theological thinking, to this man of God who in the 20th and 21st centuries harks back to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine and many others who were the lights that made possible the presence of this doctrinal beacon of sure thought, clear word, certain values, sincere faith and above all of invincible love and hope.
It’s the Pope’s eightieth birthday, it’s true, but one hopes that we are not celebrating only his biological vitality but, along with it, the ability to guide the Church and the world “putting out to sea” at a decisive moment when it is needful to know where we are going, why we go and what the risks are that must be run. We are celebrating the second year of a pontificate of personal style, that has disconcerted many insiders and outsiders, who believed the capacity to astonish was exhausted.
From the Council chair to the Chair of Peter. Thus the beginning of this Pope whom the Spirit of God has granted us can be summed up. «Benedictus qui venit...», we all sing with the certainty that we are receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and His Vicar who calls us to continue in the mission and to carry forward the wonderful folly of the cross. Ad multos annos, Holy Father!

Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português