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Juan Luis Lorda, Professor of Theology

A Pontiff of the Word

Tue, 12 Feb 2013 10:15:00 +0000 Published in La Razón

The unexpected advertisement resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has produced an almost universal impact. It is time to think about the new Pontiff to be elected in a conclave, which should begin between March 15 and 20. It is also logical to take stock of what the Church owes to Benedict XVI.
But it is not enough to contemplate his last years as pontiff. Joseph Ratzinger, born in 1927, has had a very long life in the service of the Church, with three very clear periods.
The first as a theologian in Bonn, Münster, Tübingen and Regensburg (1955-1977); with a very outstanding contribution, because he has always been a very hard-working man, very well documented, with a surprisingly clear mind and an accurate word. He was soon recognized as one of the greatest of the twentieth century. An expert on the Second Vatican Council; probably the last of those still alive, with very profound and authoritative commentaries. He has published books of great impact such as his famous "Introduction to Christianity", translated into many languages, and his programs of study on the Church and the liturgy. By the way, the first volume of his complete works, with his programs of study on liturgy, has just appeared on Spanish .
He always felt he was a professor who loved theology and would have liked to dedicate his whole life to it, but Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Munich (1977), in complicated times for the German Church. His homilies are famous; in particular, a precious cycle on Genesis, the origin of man and the world, in dialogue with the Sciences. When the new Pope John Paul II visited Munich, he asked him to come to Rome to help him in doctrinal matters. He resisted as much as he could, but finally agreed (1981). Thus began his many years of service many years of service in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1981-2005). He helped John Paul II with great commitment and work, often in a hidden way. To him we owe many important documents that focused the status of the Church, such as those concerning liberation theology, or the Christian religion in relation to other religions. With his theological head and his spirit of work, he focused on other major issues, such as the new relations of the Church with the political community.
When John Paul II died, the high school of cardinals, admiring his wisdom and his service to the Church, wanted him as Pope (2005). He resisted. He would have liked to retire, but he did his best to adapt to the enormous demands of the Pontificate, especially with a predecessor like John Paul II, who had broken all the records. He has tried to continue along the main lines, intensifying ecumenical relations, seeking unity and relaunching the new evangelization. He has decisively and courageously confronted very painful issues, such as questions related to pedophilia, or the serious disorders of some religious institutes. He has sought to improve love for the liturgy and has continued his intellectual dialogue with the scientific world and the world of culture. He leaves a precious patrimony of encyclicals, speeches and homilies, which bear the imprint staff of his genius. We must also highlight his beautiful trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth, testimony of his theological concern and his knowledge, written while he felt the full weight of the Pontificate on his shoulders.
In history, his Pontificate will remain indissolubly linked to that of John Paul II, although with that theological feature staff. The 20th century, in the midst of such serious difficulties for the Church, has been a century of great Popes. And at the turn of the century, Benedict XVI is added to this formidable list.