Pope Benedict XVI@90
The Pope Emeritus continues to leave a remarkable legacy
When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI turns 90 years old on April 16, it will likely be with little public fanfare — after all, that is also Easter Sunday this year. But for those of us who appreciate his legacy and massive contributions to the Body of Christ, we will mark the day with joy — and a toast to the man who now likes to be called “Father Benedict.”
The retired pope, who rarely makes public appearances, may participate in the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, my sources tell me. No public celebrations are planned, but you can be sure that his inner circle of friends will shower him with well-wishes.
I was among the hundreds of media surrounding Benedict’s visit to Washington and New York nine years ago. I was at Andrews Air Force Base when the Holy Father set foot on U.S. soil for the first time as pope. Many Legatus members were on the White House lawn for the remarkable celebration of his 81st birthday. Who can forget the massive cake that President Bush had prepared for him?
Benedict’s birthday this year will mark yet another milestone. He will become only the second pope to live into his nineties. Pope Leo XIII, elected in 1878, lived to the ripe old age of 93 years, 140 days. He reigned on the Chair of Peter for 25 years, 150 days.
Legacy and impact
Although Benedict has been mostly silent since his resignation four years ago, his legacy and impact on the Church are still felt — and will no doubt be felt for many decades to follow. Markedly different in style and personality from his successor, Benedict’s depth and intellect were evident in his teaching.
CruxNow.com reports that due to age and limited vision, Benedict no longer writes, but with the consent of his successor, last year three lengthy interviews were published.
One was a 2015 conversation with Jesuit theologian Jacques Servais, on the doctrine of justification and faith. Then there was the interview with his Italian biographer, Elio Gueriero, published in the book Servant of God and Humanity: The Biography of Benedict XVI, prefaced by Pope Francis.
Last but not least, there was the book-length interview, Last Testament: In His Own Words, with German journalist Peter Seewald, with whom the pontiff had already done two similar projects. The book represented the first time in history that a pope described his own pontificate after it ended.
Listing Benedict’s contributions to the Church likewise would need book-length treatment. Instead, here are 10 pithy and potent quotes from the remarkable heart and mind of Joseph Ratzinger (hat tip to my friend Elizabeth Scalia at Aleteia.com):
1. “Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.” 1st Station, Meditations for Stations of the Cross, Good Friday, 2005
2. “Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.” Audience, 31 January 2007
3. “Freedom of conscience is the core of all freedom.” Church, Ecumenism and Politics (2008)
4. “One who has hope lives differently.” Spe Salvi, 2 (2007)
5. “Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.” Deus Caritas Est, 18 (2005)
6. “God’s love for his people is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice.” Deus Caritas Est, 10 (2005)
7. “The ways of the Lord are not easy, but we were not created for an easy life but for great things, for goodness.” Speaking to German pilgrims, 25 April 2005
8. “It is true: God disturbs our comfortable day-today existence. Jesus’ kingship goes hand in hand with his passion.” Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (2012)
9. “The proper request of love is that our entire life should be oriented to the imitation of the Beloved. Let us therefore spare no effort to leave a transparent trace of God’s love in our life.” The Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine (2008)
10. “Violence does not build up the kingdom of God, the kingdom of humanity. On the contrary, it is a favorite instrument of the Antichrist, however idealistic its religious motivation may be. It serves not humanity, but inhumanity.” Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (2011)
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.