A Summary and Review of Benedict XVI: Last Testament in his own words with Peter Seewald

My notes from the book:

General Summary of the Book:

Pope Benedict made history by being the first Pope in over 700 years to resign from office. The Catholic Church the world over was stunned. Worn out by corruption in the Church and by an endless series of clerical sex scandals, he decided that the resolution of all these problems was outside his power for a man of his age.

Last Testament is nearest to an autobiography from the shy and private man who has remained “hidden to the world” in a former convent in the Vatican gardens. He breaks his silence on issues such as:

– The “Vatileaks” case in which his butler leaked some of his personal letters that alleged corruption and scandal in the Vatican
– The presence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican and how he dismantled it
– His alleged Nazi upbringing
– His attempts at cleaning up the “dirt in the church” (clerical sexual abuse)
– The mysterious private secretary “Gorgeous George”

On a more personal level he writes with great warmth of his successor Pope Francis, who he admits has a popular touch, a star quality which he has lacked. Much controversy still surrounds Pope Benedict`s Papacy–in this book he addresses these controversies and reveals how at his late age, governing and reforming the Papacy and particularly the Vatican, was beyond him.

PART I: THE BELLS OF ROME

“Faith is nothing other than the touch of God’s hand in the night of the world, and so – in the silence – to hear the word, to see love”

“Theology is pondering what God has said and thought before us”

You write sermons for four or five people? 

  • Why not? [Laughs] Certainly! Whether there are three or twenty or a thousand. The Word of God must always be present to people.

PB16 now prays the breviary deeply and slowly.

PB 16 lets his thoughts be oriented toward the Sunday homily over the whole course of the week so his thoughts can mature and he can sound out a text from many different angles. What is the text saying to me? What is it saying to the people here?

Why did you write your resignation speech in Latin?

  • Because you do something so important in Latin. Furthermore, Latin is the language that I’ve so mastered that I can write in it properly.

The cross is the authentic place of the representative of Christ ~ Cardinal Reginald Pole

The message of Christ is a scandal for the world, beginning with Christ himself ~ PB16

“I did not abandon the cross”

  • This phrase was from his farewell speech.
  • “It is instead another way to be connected to the suffering Lord as well, in the stillness of silence, in the grandeur and intensity of praying for the entire Church. So this step is not flight, not an attempt to escape, but in fact another way of remaining faithful in my service” (35-6).

PART 2: A LIFE IN SERVICE

  • PB16 talks about the uncertainty of his vocation and the future of the Catholic Church in Germany because the Nazis made it quite clear that the Church was the first to go once they won the war.
  • PB16 talks about his seminary days and how they were forward-thinking. “We wanted to renew theology from the ground up, and thereby form the Church in newness and vitality… We wanted a new era of piety, which formed itself from the liturgy, its sobriety and its greatness, which drew on the original sources – and was new and contemporary precisely because of this” (78).
  • PB16 says his theological formation in seminary was very Christocentric, Patristic, scriptural, liturgical, ecumenical, but not Thomistic-philosophical.
  • PB16 had a conscious intention that he will become a pastor, unless asked by the bishop to become a professor.
  • “We don’t rule over your faith, we serve your joy” = the motto written on the invitation for PB16’s first Mass. To fight against clericalism and show that he is a servant.
  • He always needed a sofa nearby to think things through steadily.
  • PB16 appreciates Lubac and Balthasar the most as theologians.

PART III: THE POPE OF JESUS CHRIST

  • Pope Benedict XVI, the 265 successor of St. Peter.
  • Saw his primary task as to preserve the Word of God ‘in all its greatness and purity, from every attempt at adaptation and adulteration’.
  • Saw reform as first of all a matter of the inner purification of the Church.
  • Felt an inward obligation to be able to say something to humanity (he only accepted the post of Prefect at Congregation of Catholic Education if he could still publish).
  • Considered Deus Caritas Est his favourite encyclical.
  • PB16 says the ‘Year of Faith’ expresses the hallmark of his pontificate: to discover God again, to discover Christ again, and so find the centrality of faith again.

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