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A shepherd with saddlebags


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Pablo Blanco Sarto

Professor at School of Theology

From the legend of St. Corbinianus, founder of the diocese of Frisinga," Benedict XVI said, "I took the figure of the bear. A bear," the story goes, "had torn the saint's horse to pieces on his journey to Rome. Corbiniano reprimanded him severely for such a misdeed and, as punishment, he loaded him with the bundle that he had carried on his horse's back until then. Thus, the bear had to carry the bundle all the way to Rome, and only there did the saint set him free. [...] Whether the bear stayed in Abruzzo or returned to the Alps is of no interest to the legend. In the meantime, I have taken my luggage to Rome and, for several years now, I have been walking with my burden through the streets of the Eternal City. When I will be set free I do not know, but I do know that I too can use the saying: "I have become a beast of burden, and so I am with you" [Ps 72 (73):22-23]. The Bavarian pope felt deeply identified with this bear with saddlebags who had arrived in Rome, although his life - instead of returning in freedom to his mountains of origin - has been dying out in the Vatican gardens.

Childhood and adolescence

Joseph Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927, in a Bavarian village called Marktl am Inn, "little market by the river Inn or Eno", located in the south of the Germanic country. He was baptized the same day he was born, on Holy Saturday, with water that had just been blessed during Holy Week. It had snowed that morning. His father, Joseph like himself, was a rural gendarme, and came from an old farming family from leave Bavaria. He was also a staunch enemy of the Nazi regime. His mother, Maria, came from the Tyrol, and was a competent housewife; from her Joseph inherited his sweet musical accent. In his family he received a deep Christian training , which helped him to cope with the continuous assaults of Nazism. According to old acquaintances, at the Ratzinger home, people prayed and sang. From there he inherited his love of playing the piano and Mozart music, both joyful and dramatic.

In 1941, when Joseph reached the age of 14, he was compulsorily enrolled in the Hitler Youth, but - according to his biographer John L. Allen - he was never an enthusiastic member. Just another victim of the system, like so many others. In 1943, at the age of sixteen, he was assigned - along with his entire class- to the anti-aircraft defense of the BMW factory near Munich. He was then called up to the army for basic infantry training, and was later stationed in Hungary, where he built anti-tank defense trenches. He deserted, however, in April 1944, although it was a crime punishable by death. In 1945 he was captured by the Allies and confined for a few months in a prisoner-of-war camp. In June of that year he was released and, together with his brother Georg, entered a Catholic seminar in Freising in January 1946. It is said that he did not fire a single shot during the entire war.

programs of study and degree program academic

From 1946 to 1951, he studied Philosophy and theology at technical school in Freising and at the University of Munich. At the end of his studies, he was ordained a priest on June 29, and then began his teaching activity, again in Freising, 30 kilometers from the Bavarian capital. His students remember his inspiring and refreshing lectures and his memorable homilies. In 1953 he received his doctorate in theology with a work on the doctrine of the Church in St. Augustine. After some serious difficulties, four years later he obtained the authorization for the free teaching with a work on the theology of the history of St. Bonaventure. Like Guardini and other authors of that time, Ratzinger was formed in the Augustinian current, besides being well acquainted with the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. His love for art and science, for history and thought, for liturgy and the study of the Bible is already evident.

After winning the Chair for fundamental theology at the University of Bonn (1959), he also obtained a degree in dogmatic theology in Munster, in the north of the country, where he taught from 1963 to 1966. class From his time in Bonn, it is said that even people who were not enrolled in his subject attended his lectures early in the morning, because of the freshness and spiritual breath of his lessons. At the same time that he was teaching in Münster, he traveled to Rome and worked at the Second Vatican Council as an expert and theological consultant for Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne. It was at that time that he collaborated with the famous German theologian Karl Rahner. There he also met personalities of the French area such as Lubac, Daniélou, Philips, along with many other theologians and Council Fathers. The Council was to have a profound influence on his life, to the point of becoming one of the constants of his theology and thought. Chair In 1966 he was called to Tübingen to occupy the second chair of dogmatic theology, together with the well-known Hans Küng. This city was at that time the great mecca of theology in Germany, with more than a thousand students enrolled.

Derwahl comments that, while the Swiss theologian rode through the streets of Tübingen in an Alfa Romeo, Professor Ratzinger rode a modest bicycle, symbolizing the different character and personality. In those same years he published the famous Introduction to Christianity (1968), a compilation of lectures on the creed. It was attended by so many students that they had to move to classroom magna. However, he remained there for only three years, because the tense and excessively politicized atmosphere of the revolution of 1968 did not seem to him to be the most suitable place to do theology. That is why in 1969 he became Full Professor of dogmatic theology and history of dogma at the University of Regensburg, a recently created center, and there he tried to elaborate a theological synthesis, which was nevertheless interrupted. In 1972, he founded the theological journal Communio with Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, among others: a response to another journal -Concilium by Rahner, Küng and others-, which had set itself up as a legitimate interpreter of the spirit of the Council, despite its more ideological than theological presuppositions.

Archbishop, Cardinal and Prefect

On March 24, 1977, Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Munich and Freising. His homilies, broadcast by radio to all the parishes of the city and later distributed in thousands of printed copies, are remembered from that time. However, it seems that he had some problems with the bureaucratic apparatus of the diocese (there were about 400 officials, not always docile), as well as with the sometimes demanding tone - at least for some - of his preaching. In any case, he always confessed himself satisfied for having been "a cooperator of the truth" (1Jn 1:8) in those concrete circumstances, as his episcopal motto says. In the conclave he coincided with Karol Wojtyla, who would later be elected pope. Later he will welcome him in his own diocese, when John Paul II traveled to Germany. When he was later recalled to Rome, the students demonstrated in the streets because they were "taking away" their archbishop. Despite the resistance, he became a beloved archbishop.

He immediately began his partnership with the Polish pope, with whom he created an invincible tandem. Created cardinal that same year of 1977, he was rapporteur at the V General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1980) on the family. Later John Paul II asked him to go to Rome, although Ratzinger tried to refuse the offer. Despite this initial resistance, on November 25, 1981, he was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission. discussion In 1985, Cardinal Ratzinger published report on the faith, which provoked a heated internal debate in the Church on the application and pending tasks of Vatican II. That same year, a synod on the same subject took place in Rome, topic, which concluded, among other things, that a new catechism was needed as a fruit of Vatican II.

Ratzinger was president of the Commission for the preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. After six years of work (1986-1992) and seventeen thousand suggestions, he was able to present to John Paul II the new text, widely contrasted. From his position as prefect, he also faced the most controversial and thorny issues and challenges: liberation theology, the defense of life, pastoral care for homosexuals, the theology of non-Christian religions, the role of women in the Church and the role of Catholics in public life. The media then attributed to him the reputation of Grand Inquisitor, Panzerkardinal or "God's rotweiler". On the contrary, his friends and collaborators insist on his kindness and his spirit of dialogue. His subordinates in the Vatican congregation said that he never sat down to work without greeting each one of them.

The pontificate

The degree program towards the papacy seems direct to all, except for his clear desire to remain on the sidelines: "I was not created for that", he repeated again and again, while recalling his desire to retire to his native land, to write the books that he had not been able to write because of his multiple occupations. He resigned several times (three times, it is said). However, events took a different direction. On November 30, 2002, John Paul II approved the election of him as Dean of the high school cardinalate, made by his fellow cardinals. He is also the person appointed to write the Stations of the Cross and preside at the Easter Vigil in 2005. He seemed therefore to be in a privileged status to be elected the next pope. Time magazine then placed him among the 100 most influential people in the world.

When John Paul II dies, he will be one of the last to see him and the one designated to preside over his solemn funeral at St. Peter's place . Half a million faithful - along with another 600,000 on giant screens distributed throughout the city - mingle with the highest authorities on the planet, while 137 television channels around the world broadcast the ceremony. When the conclave begins, Ratzinger launches an invective against the "dictatorship of relativism" that shocks public opinion and makes many doubt his possible candidacy for the pontificate. In spite of everything (or perhaps thanks to this denunciation), he was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church on April 19, 2005, becoming Pope issue 265. He chose for himself the name Benedict XVI, after reference letter to St. Benedict, evangelizer of Europe.

The image of the terrible Ratzinger began to fade from the first days of his pontificate, thanks above all to the live images offered by the media. From that moment on, Benedict XVI began to take discreet but effective steps, which would lead him to enjoy a discreet popularity among his own and strangers. That summer, the workshop World Youth Day in Cologne - in the heart of old Europe - was a resounding success. On January 25, 2006, he published his first encyclical entitled "God is Love", which was well received by the cultural and religious world. This was followed by encyclicals on hope (30.9.2007) and one on social topic (29.6.2009). He also tackled thorny issues such as pederasty and the Maciel case, as well as the reform of Vatican finances. From that moment on, the pontificate entered difficult moments, including the scandal of the leak of private documents of the pope. These events coincided with the moment in which he announced his resignation Withdrawal in 2013, but not before leaving ready the reform that Pope Francis will decisively undertake. Since then he has lived in retirement in the former Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens.