The End of the Wojtyla Era. Scattered Thoughts on Benedict, the Kingdom, the Renunciation.

9 Gennaio 2023 Pubblicato da Lascia il tuo commento

Marco Tosatti

Dear friends, I offer you a few scattered and disconnected thoughts, some of which are my own, others which I have come across during these days that have been so tumultuous in the media after the death of Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI. Enjoy your reading and meditation.


At 9:34 on 31 December 2022 the era of Karol Wojtyla ended, a historic period that began in 1978, during which after a long time Catholics rediscovered the dignity and pride in calling themselves believers and Catholics. It was an exhilarating era which did not want to end with the passing of the Polish Pope. The election of Joseph Ratzinger, an election that was certainly more accepted than desired, was the tiresome continuation of that era. With the great Fighter gone, the enemies and the Enemy raged both inside and outside the Church against a man who carried the banner but who had neither the temperament nor the history nor the will of a fighter. A man who was well aware of his weaknesses. That terrible sentence spoken in his homily at the beginning of the pontificate – “Pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves” – revealed his awareness.


This is something that I found on social media, and it struck me.  


A Shepherd does not abandon his flock to the Wolves and he does not flee. A father does not abandon his own children and hide himself in darkness from the darkness that comes. A head does not abandon the ship in the a storm amidst the raging of the waves. The saints and martyrs gave their lives to defend the name of the Most High. It matters little or nothing to have many educated theological treatises, if then the one who elaborates them does not testify with his own life to the Word of Our Lord Jesus.


I loved Benedict XVI very much, and appreciated him greatly. His crystalline lucidity, his capacity to express complex and difficult concepts in a few limpid words, as if he himself was speaking to the faithful who are simple in mind and heard, has fascinated me and continues to fascinate me still.


Here is a comment from a friend whom I esteem infinitely, Pippo Corigliano:

Reading the comments about the death of Ratzinger I feel the need to clarify a point: if we consider only the episodes of his pontificate, first of all his resounding resignation, we do not bring to light his true personality.

I am not in a position to comment adequately on the life and thought of Ratzinger, the most imposing thinker and theologian of the century. Providence asked him to become bishop, cardinal, and pope, and he played the role asked of him. But the patrimony that he has left us are his writings and speeches. Ratzinger will be read, period.

His “Introduction to Christianity” is a fundamental text that anyone who has finished high school is capable of reading. In the Introduction, Ratzinger relates: “the book came from the lectures which I gave in Tubingen during the summer term of 1967, to listeners from all the different schools [of the university] . . . it intends to make the faith understood in a new way, presenting it as the facilitation of authentic human living in the our contemporary world, without degrading its consistency . . . “

At the time Ratzinger was 40 years old, and he had participated in the Council as a peritus, collaborating with the greatest theologians and cardinals of the era. There are presently 16 volumes in the process of publication by Libreria Vaticana of his philosophical and theological thought, while publishers have published entire books taken from his lecture notes and preaching.

The events of his pontificate are notable, but in a historical perspective, his figure remains central because of his commitment to speak adequately about God to contemporary man.


When the resignation of Benedict XVI was announced, I phoned Cardinal Dziwisz, Saint John Paul II’s secretary, to find out what he thought. He said to me only: “One does not descend from the Cross.”

An intellectual pope, a man who moved as a teacher from Tubingen to Ratisbon because the former went through a time of great turbulence, who accepted with a sense of duty the position of Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, who twice offered Pope Wojtyla his resignation, refused both times, and who accepted his election as pope as a duty. He would have needed to be defended, supported, and sustained by devoted, competent, and faithful collaborators who would know how to defend him

He had a particular secretary who stole documents from his writing desk (think if this had ever happened to Dziwisz…) and a Secretary of State who was perhaps the worst in the history of the last century. And who undertook actions without telling him. Well informed persons tell me that at the time they were working in the financial section of the Curia, Benedict found out from television about the coup that brought Ettore Gotti Tedeschi being removed from being head of the Vatican Bank. This was a decisive blow in the reform of finances, a transparent reform that annoyed someone. Gotti Tedeschi had been recalled to that position by Benedict XVI. Personally, I can say on the day of the “coup” I received a phone call from a prelate of the Secretary of State, very close to Cardinal Bertone, in which they explained to me the more or less fictitious reasons that led to the removal of Gotti Tedeschi. A Pope Ghislieri would not have had hesitations in cutting off someone’s head. But Benedict refused the exhortations of his friends – Cardinal Meisner, Cardinal Ruini, and others – who advised him to dismiss Bertone and replace him with someone more adequate and faithful. “But the Ratzingers are loyal. And this does not make life easy for them,” commented Meisner.

Joseph Ratzinger resigned in 2013, citing reasons of health and energy – reasons that were lacking. He lived for almost ten more years with a lucid and attentive mind, even if his body slowly abandoned him as he lived. What came to my mind were the words of Cardinal Guiseppe Siri who once responded to an elderly parish priest who wanted to leave his position as head of his parish in Genoa because he felt old and tired. Siri replied [in dialect], “You must govern with your posterior, that is, by sitting down and making decisions…”

It seems that Benedict XVI thought that his successor would be Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, who according to some accounts took around 30 votes in the initial ballot of the 2013 conclave. Thinking about this, I keep going back to the line of Robert Burns in Of Mice and Men: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” – The best prepared plans of mice and men often go wrong. And this, if it ever was a scheme (but I don’t see Joseph Ratzinger as a plotter…) went very, very wrong.


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