In a rare new interview, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has praised his successor’s devotion to St Joseph and thanked Pope Francis for launching a special year dedicated to the saint.
“I am naturally particularly pleased that Pope Francis is so aware of the importance of St Joseph,” Benedict told the German newspaper Tagespost. “Therefore, I read with particular gratitude and sincere approval the apostolic exhortation Patris Corde.”
Meaning “Father of the Heart,” this was the title of Pope Francis’s apostolic letter for the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St Joseph as patron of the universal Church. Publication of the letter coincided with the 8 December opening of the “Year of St Joseph,” on the liturgical feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Reflecting on the holiness of the saint, Benedict said: “In the history of the order that was given to him in his dream to take Mary as his spouse, his answer is simply this: he got up and did as he was commanded. The correspondence between mission and action seems even stronger than in the story of the flight to Egypt,” when Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt to avoid Herod after an angel warned him in another dream.
For Benedict XVI, “St Joseph’s silence is also his word.”
In his letter Patris Corde Francis wrote that Joseph is someone he has thought of constantly during the coronavirus pandemic, which he said is a crisis that has shown how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history.”
According to CNA Deutsch, in the interview Benedict XVI recounted his family’s tradition of celebrating St. Joseph’s Day, 19 March, in his native Bavaria.
His mother would usually save up for the purchase of a good book for the feast day, Benedict recalled. In addition, to celebrate Josefi, as the day is called in Bavaria, the Ratzinger family would make coffee from coffee beans, which his father loved but which the family could not afford every day. This coffee was drunk for breakfast and a special tablecloth was laid out for the occasion to mark the saint’s day. Benedict recounted that “to top it all off, there was always a primrose as a sign of spring, which St Joseph brings with him”.