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Cooperator of the truth. Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict XVI


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Francisco Varo

Master's Degree Professor of Christianity and Contemporary Culture

Joseph Ratzinger (Marktl am Inn, 1927) died in Rome on December 31, 2022. He was a man of preclear intelligence. In love with the truth and committed to it. Open to dialogue. He was able to present his thoughts in a clear and accessible way, while at the same time he listened with interest and paid attention to points of view different from his own. A lover of classical music. Discreet, and even a little shy. A man of God, rooted in a solid faith that he combined admirably with an open mind.

Between 1939 and 1943 he studied programs of study in the seminar St. Michael's in Traunstein. After the end of World War II, he returned to the seminar and completed his programs of study of Philosophy and theology at the universities of Freising and Munich, where he took a special interest in the study of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church. He was ordained a priest with his brother Georg in 1951. He made his thesis He received his doctoral degree on the Church as the People of God in St. Augustine, and later devoted himself to the research of medieval Christendom in its thesis on the theology of the history of St. Bonaventure. This work He encountered some problems and misunderstandings because his intuitions and approaches broke with schemes deeply rooted in the theology of his time.

At the beginning of his academic career he was professor of Fundamental Theology in Bonn, and in 1963 he moved to Münster. Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne had him as theological advisor during the Second Vatican Council where his contributions had a decisive weight, especially in the essay of the two great dogmatic constitutions: Lumen Gentium, on the Church, and Dei Verbum, on divine Revelation. Subsequently, his writings made him an indisputable reference letter for the course of post-conciliar theology, especially in the fields of Ecclesiology and Eschatology. The year after the conclusion of the Council, in 1966, he obtained the Chair of theology at the University of Tübingen, and three years later he moved to Bavaria, his homeland, to occupy a Chair at the University of Regensburg where he carried out an extensive work professor and research until his appointment as bishop.

In March 1977 he was appointed bishop of Munich and Friesland, and a few months later Pope Paul VI created him a cardinal. On November 25, 1981 Ratzinger was called by John Paul II to Rome, where he became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, official document where he remained until his election as Roman Pontiff. While carrying out these tasks at the Holy See, he lived in Pamplona for a few days, on the occasion of his appointment as honorary doctor by the University of Navarra, which took place on January 31, 1998.

The conclave that met after the death of John Paul II elected him Pope on April 19, 2005. In his first words from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, he presented himself as a "humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord". Indeed, such was his pontificate. A humble, discreet service, at the same time endowed with great intellectual luminosity, at the service of the Church and the world. He had to face great challenges. Some internal, such as the plague of sexual abuse by some members of the Church who should have been model of life and were a source of scandal, or the sad intrigues and conflicts within the Roman Curia. But, above all, external challenges that affected the credibility of the Christian faith in an increasingly secularized world, in the face of a post-Christian culture that was even hostile to Christianity.

He resigned from the Pontificate in 2013 and since then led a retired life of prayer in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, within the walls of Vatican City. May he rest in peace. With the passage of time, history will value the contribution of this simple and good man who only wanted to be, as he said on his pontifical coat of arms, one of the "cooperators of the truth" that the world needs. But above all, he who is the Judge of the living and the dead will value him.