To jot down about my relationship and encounters with Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict xvi , I’ve to actually write about two thirds of my life. Our paths continued to cross. We met in 1963, precisely 60 years in the past, throughout a convention on the diocesan academy in Stuttgart. On the time he was already a rising star in theology and he held — one thing we might later develop accustomed to — an excellent convention on Eucharistic doctrine. I used to be a stranger, six years youthful, getting ready for an entrance examination to the College of Tübingen. We later met and collaborated in all of the phases of our life, as professors, bishops, cardinals and eventually, throughout the eight years of Benedict xvi ’s Preach.
As befits an trustworthy theology, we additionally held public debates. Nonetheless, if anybody deduces from this that there was distancing and even enmity between us, then they’ve understood little, if something, about theology. In actual fact, like every science, theology too thrives on dialogue, and the best way to honour a thinker is by considering. That stated, our relationship was all the time characterised by mutual respect and, above all, by the frequent rootedness within the religion of the Church and a shared duty for the unity of the Church and the larger ecumenical unity of the Church buildings. Earlier than final Christmas, on 10 December, so precisely 20 days earlier than his passing, the Pope emeritus wrote me a sort letter, through which our frequent concern for the crises within the Church, shines by.
The strain through which all trustworthy theology strikes, that’s, constancy to the binding apostolic origin and a focus to the brand new problems with the current, once more emerges within the letter. In that respect, ever because the lesson he gave in the beginning of his educating place in Bonn, for Ratzinger the theologian, the theme of religion and cause was decisive. Anybody who met him, even solely as soon as, and significantly spoke with him, is aware of that he was something however an individual ceaselessly tied to the previous, a lot much less the “Panzerkardinal”, as some have tried to depict him. He was a sort theological thinker, conscious of the issues, refined, with nice religious depth and delicate, refined humour.
Concerning the basic rigidity between constancy to the origins and a focus to the brand new, and the bond between religion and thought, there was not the slightest disagreement between us. We did nevertheless, strategy issues from totally different angles. As a theologian, Joseph Ratzinger was fully moulded by the spirit of the Fathers of the Church, particularly that of the West, Saint Augustine, and by the theology of Franciscan theologian Saint Bonaventure. I got here extra from the research of contemporary points, and already in an early essay, I had delved into the ideas of Thomas Aquinas. It’s nearly pure that totally different emphases ought to consequence from this, as existed all through the historical past of Catholic theology, and is a part of the richness of what’s Catholic. To have pleasant discussions with Joseph Ratzinger and with Pope Benedict was all the time a nice supply of enrichment for me. I missed that debate in the previous few years of his sickness and now I’ll miss him ceaselessly.
The truth that a former colleague turned a Pope is a particular expertise which might be very uncommon. For me it was clear from the primary second: now we’d like loyalty. Whereas nonetheless within the Sistine Chapel, the newly elected Pope Benedict stated to me: “Now we’ll stroll collectively on the trail of unity”. So it was, and the collaboration labored at its greatest. There have been some tough moments throughout the Preach through which I used to be capable of considerably contribute in calming the waters and overcoming difficulties in communication with ecumenical interlocutors, for instance with the Declaration, Dominus Iesus, or with Jewish individuals. This was needed above all for the unlucky remission of the excommunication of Lefebvrian and holocaust denier, Williamson. The error was not as a result of Pope however somewhat stemmed from a communication catastrophe within the Roman Curia, the implications of which weren’t straightforward to beat given the general public outrage.
Now, after the Pope’s dying, I fortunately recall the nice conversations that we had on these and different points. I had the impression that the Pope additionally appreciated having a real theological dialogue, and reaching a consensus on this means. Now that Benedict has been known as again to the Home of the Father, an extended section of life has additionally ended for me. I thus hope that sooner or later we will see one another in Heaven and proceed our dialog, albeit in a totally totally different means.
Cardinal Walter Kasper