Vatican Corner 06-28-2020

On April 16, 2020, retired Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 93rd birthday. He was well, but due to the coronavirus restrictions, he could not receive any visitors. He resides at a former monastery located in the Vatican Gardens and lives with his retired personal secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein and with a group of consecrated women. Usually his older brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger (96) would come to visit for his birthday, but this year the two only spoke by phone. There were also many phone calls from other well-wishers and Bavarian folk songs were sung during the birthday celebration. Pope Emeritus Benedict was born in 1927 in the Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn. He was ordained a priest in 1951 and was a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Regensburg from 1969 to1977. He then became archbishop of Munich and went on to serve at the Vatican as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 24 years. Then he succeeded St. John Paul II as Pope in 2005 and in 2013 he stepped down. At his birthday, Benedict received a pre-publication copy of his 1,200 page biography written by Peter Seeward. On May 4, 2020, the book was published and in the book former Pope Bendict XVI explained the reasons for his resignation as Pope. He denied that it was because of corruption in the Vatican or the “Vatileaks” scandal. Instead he referenced his possibly dementia and said “other forms of insufficient ability to hold office properly are also possible.” He revealed that similar to his predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, early in his pontificate he had signed a conditional declaration of resignation “in the event of illness which rendered the proper performance of duties impossible. In the book he has much discussion about the criticism of his resignation. He said that the office of a “papa emeritus” that he had created, should be compared to that of a bishop who had retired for age reasons. This legal status could also be applied to the Bishop of Rome. It prevented “any notion of a coexistence of two popes: a diocese can have only ONE incumbent. At the same time, it expresses a spiritual bond that can never be taken away.” He said his situation was like an old farmer in Bavaria who has passed his farm to his son, lives in a small house next to it and has ceded his fatherly and commanding rights. The former Pope forcefully rejected accusations that he had interfered in Church debates since his resignation.
He said this was a “malicious distortion of the truth.” Regarding his relationship with Pope Francis, Benedict said he thanked God that the “warm-hearted devotion of Pope Francis” enabled him to implement the idea of a pope emeritus. From when they met in 2013, he said there has been a personal friendship that has “not only remained but grown.” One June 18, 2020, retied Pope Benedict XVI made his first trip outside of Italy since his retirement. He went to German to visit his brother who was reported to be seriously ill.