22 June 2016
Benedict’s resignation delivered a 'lesson for the Church', Francis insists in new book
Pope says that his predecessor embodies that 'constant relationship with the Lord Jesus'
Benedict XVI’s resignation and withdrawal into a life of prayer has taught the Church a lesson of doing “theology on its knees”, Pope Francis has said.
Writing in the preface of a new book by the Pope Emeritus, Francis says his predecessor embodies that “constant relationship with the Lord Jesus” without which clergy end up becoming like salaried employees and bishops’ bureaucrats.
The book’s release comes as Benedict XVI marks the 65th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood next week. He will also be joined by Francis in a celebration at the Vatican’s Sala Clementina to mark the occasion.
“Every time I read the works of Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI it is increasingly clear that he has done and is doing a ‘kneeling theology,’ ” the Pope writes in the book - a collection of writings on the priesthood - titled “Teaching and Learning the Love of God.”
But Francis explains that it is from the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican, the place Benedict XVI moved to following his resignation, that the Pope Emeritus delivers his “greatest lesson” in this kneeling theology.
This is the first time that the Pope has written down a reflection on his predecessor’s resignation although he has repeatedly welcomed Benedict XVI’s presence in the Vatican likening it to having a “wise grandfather” living nearby.
In the book’s preface - an excerpt of which was printed today in Italy’s “La Repubblica” newspaper - Francis quotes Benedict XVI’s reflection on his resignation.
“The Lord has called me to ‘scale the mountain’, to dedicate myself still more to prayer and meditation,” he said on 24 February 2013. “But this does not mean abandoning the Church. If God asks me this, it is precisely so that I might continue to serve her with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to give up to now, but in a way more suitable to my age and my strength.”
Benedict XVI’s decision to resign, which was the first by a Pope in 900 years, has sparked debate over the role of a “retired Pope” including whether he should still wear white and use the title “Pope.”
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary who also works for Francis, said that there is now an expanded Petrine Ministry with the Pope emeritus exercising the “contemplative” part and the current one performing the “active” element.
In the preface to the book Francis said that Benedict XVI’s life of prayer demonstrates the “inner core of priestly ministry that deacons, priests and bishops must never forget: namely, that the first and most important service isn’t the management of ‘current affairs,’ but praying for others.”
Although he still receives visitors, the Pope emeritus has made only a handful of public appearances since stepping down. He attended the consistories for the creation of new cardinals in February of 2014 and 2015, a “Festival of Grandparents”, and the canonisation Mass for Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.
Next week’s event in the Vatican is likely to be attended by a select few including senior Roman Curia officials.
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