Benedict’s longtime secretary reflects on the late pope’s life, legacy?

When I read the book about Jesus, what struck me is that it doesn’t talk about something from the past, this one individual, even if they are the Savior, but rather the present. Christ lived but he is still living. This book is a way to make the connection with Christ, today. I don’t just read what happened. Yes, it happened. But, what happened has meaning to me and for all who read it. This, I think is decisive because Pope Benedict Joseph Ratzinger doesn’t minimize, take away, or skip any of the faith the Church professes. For me, that is the only thing that matters. I have read the original volume multiple times. I have also read it repeatedly to assist me in certain stages of my life. It is very useful, and it provides spiritual nourishment.

How did you view him? What did he do to live his faith?

He was raised in faith and his parents were able to pass it on to him. His spiritual teachers and his parents’ teachings were then incorporated into his life. He also benefited from his studies and his lectures. He was able to live a life of faith that he had cultivated in such a way. I have always felt that professor Ratzinger (Bishop Ratzinger), Archbishop and Cardinal Ratzinger as well as Pope Benedict, had a different impression than I do. He believed that this was something that should be recited to get the office to agree with it.

Can a pope make time for prayer or silence?

It all depends on your ability to manage your time. I make sure to find the time to do something that is important to me. This is not the time I have left, but also the time I have scheduled for my day.

He was a cardinal but also a pope. I had lived with him for many years. We always had set prayer times. There were exceptions. Prayer time was sacrosanct.

This was, in concrete terms, Holy Mass, Breviary, Rosary, Meditation. It was my job to adhere to the fixed times. He said, “The most important thing in life is that God always comes before all else.” First, we must seek God’s Kingdom, then all other things will be added.” It is a simple statement, but it sounds great. It is not an easy task to adhere to. “But that’s why it’s true. You must make sure that it continues that way.”

Saints can be role models for Christians. Who was Pope Benedict’s favourite saint?

St. Joseph was his favorite saint, but he soon became a follower of St. Augustine as well as St. Bonaventure. He had been studying these two great figures in the Church for a long time and knew how they helped him to grow spiritually and intellectually.

To avoid mentioning only men, the Virgin Mary is number 1. Naturally, it is number 1. Next, I’d say St. Teresa, who in her intellectual, spiritual, and strong testimony, he found quite impressive. Then, you won’t believe what you’ll see — there’s also St. Therese of Child Jesus.

Mother Teresa can be included among the modern ones because of her simplicity and conviction. Her life was much more than a lecture in theology. For him, the Gospel was her reality.

He knew Mother Teresa personally.

Yes, indeed. He met her at the Katholikentag in Freiburg in 1978. I was also there. He had just been an archbishop for a whole year and I had been a seminary student for one. Mother Teresa was in Freiburg’s Cathedral. Joseph Ratzinger was also there.

Sviatoslav Shevchuk Major, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Arcbbishop George Ganswein, Nov. 9, 20,22. Secretariat Rome of the Major Archbishop Greek Catholic Church

How was Joseph Ratzinger, and how did Pope Benedict shape Church?

He pointed out that when he assumed his office, he didn’t have any program of governance nor ecclesiastical programs. He was only trying to proclaim God’s will to face the challenges that our times present according to God’s. He was willing to dedicate his entire heart to it. Programs wouldn’t have been beneficial, as events were moving at a remarkable pace in those days, even when faced with difficult situations. He was able to adapt to this was one of his greatest strengths. He was quick to recognize problems and knew that they needed to be solved with faith. It was not just a answer that had a theological foundation, but it was also one that was deeper. This came from faith, which is both theologically supported and convincing.

This is why I think his greatest contribution, and his great support for believers, was the Word. We’ve already talked about the word as his greatest “weapon”, how “martial!” that sounds! This was the word he could handle and it was with this word that he could inspire others and fill their hearts.

When looking back at his pontificate, which were the most difficult challenges?

From the beginning it was obvious that the greatest challenge would be what he called “relativism.”

Relativism ultimately states that “the truth you proclaim is against tolerance.” You won’t accept other convictions. That is, in Christianity, as far ecumenism is concerned. Tolerance simply means I will accept all faiths and opinions. However, it does not mean that I disregard my own faith. It refers to the faith I am a believer in and the faith I received to pass it along. The opposite is true! This was relativism. And then there was the question about the relationship between faith, reason and God. He was a strong believer in this.

When he became pope, the whole question about abuse came unexpectedly but in a profound way. It was a challenge one would not have anticipated. When the first abuse reports, communications, questions, and difficulties were reported from the USA, he had played a key role in this area as a cardinal. Since I had been a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith member for two years at the time, I recall well his approach to this challenge and the struggles he faced in overcoming resistance from within. He was able to overcome this challenge with determination and courage. This would have been a great help in his pontificate.

He said, “There are many important topics, but I believe the most important is the faith of God.” This is the core of his preaching, papacy, and papal ministry. It is the conviction that I must share my faith in God. It is vital. Other people can do other tasks, but the main goal and the main task for the pope is exactly that. And he is and will always be the first witness.

This was where the proclamation God was central to his pontificate.

If I may sum it up, that is exactly. … The proclamation, or justification, of faith. God is not an idea or thought for us: God is the goal and purpose of our faith. The center of our faith became flesh at a specific time: Jesus of Nazareth. Everything we learned from that period was then summarized in the Gospels, the Scriptures, and the New Testament. His papal ministry was centered on the purpose and goal of proclaiming this truth, in a convincing and credible way.

Talking about abuse. Not too long ago, Pope Benedict was included in the report on abuse within the Archdioceses Munich and Freising. How did he respond to these allegations, which were later disproven but nonetheless brought to his attention. He was a tireless investigator and fought abuse. How did this happen?

We have already discussed how, as a prefect he had to deal with the accusations from the USA at both the end of 1980s and the start of the 1990s. He also took a strong stand against any internal or external resistance. He took the same clear, unambiguous stance when he was pope. There are many examples.

He was shocked when he was later accused of improperly handling cases of sexual abuse during his tenure as archbishop de Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982.

When asked, he agreed to answer questions on the investigation which examined the management and succession of archbishops, starting with Cardinal [Michael von] Faulhaber, to the actual archbishop.

He replied, “I am in, I have no to hide.” If he had said “No,” it could have been assumed that he was concealing something.

They asked us many questions, which he answered. He knew he wasn’t guilty of any wrongdoing. He said everything he could. It’s all in his report. Our statement was drafted in error. This mistake was not made by Pope Benedict. But it was an oversight on the part of one of his collaborators. Benedict immediately apologized. He explained that it was his fault, that he misread the date about whether someone was present or absent during a meeting.

It was immediately made public and corrected immediately. The narrative that the pope had been lying remained. The only thing that truly shocked him was that he was called an a-liar.

It’s just not true. The then wrote a personal note. He indicated that this would be his final statement on the matter. After that, he would no more comment. Anyone who doesn’t believe him or doesn’t want to believe his story doesn’t have to. Whoever examines the facts with honesty and without bias can see that the accusation that he is a liar has no basis. This is why it’s so famous!

It was an accusation that shocked him greatly. This was particularly surprising because it came from someone who isn’t known for doing great moral things, but rather the opposite. It was so moralizing it is still shameful. But that wasn’t all. Pope Benedict said that he didn’t conceal anything and said only what he had to say. I don’t have anything more to say, and there is nothing else.

He could only appeal purely to reason, goodness, and honesty. He wrote exactly that in his letter. He would have to answer the Good Lord for all other matters.

Actually, all that you have to say is in the documents. Anyone who acts with no malicious intent can reverse engineer it and expose the truth.

As I stated, impartiality must be a prerequisite.

Not just in this case, but also in principle, and especially in the present case. And who will or has already recognized the need to act impartially?

Was Pope Benedict happy? Is he content, satisfied in his life’s journey?

The last of the adjectives you mentioned is true. It’s fulfillment. I saw him as someone who was fulfilled by his work. He made the decision to devote his life to the priesthood. His first vocation, and his first love was teaching. That’s how he became a teacher. It was just his destiny.

Then he was made a bishop and finally, he got to Rome. All of this was in harmony with his intellect, his nature. He never imagined or desired that he would become pope. He accepted it, and he was fulfilled in all his duties — as far I could see — and ready to give everything.

I noticed that he gave a part of himself and gave only what was important to him. His gift wasn’t something he picked up from somewhere. It was something he gave of himself. To make it ignite and spread the spark, let’s return to the idea of the spark.

How did the father talk about his family members?

Given all the information you can read about him, the things he said and the ones I heard, I have to admit that he spoke very lovingly and with great respect for the parents of his children. His father was an officer in the police force, so they didn’t have any money. However, all of his children received a high-quality education, even though it was costly. Their example of faith was what made the difference. This was the foundation of everything else he did.

Which one of the words he spoke will you keep in your mind? Which words will you keep?

Now, I’ll just tell you: I found myself in many difficult situations during my time as emeritus. Moments when I said, “Holy father, this can’t be!” It’s too much! The Church is running into a brick wall! I don’t know what to do. He said, “What’s happening?” According to the legend, the Lord was in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and was asleep. The disciples were scared because there was a storm coming and the waves were coming. Because they weren’t sure what to do, they woke him. And he said, “What’s up?” And then he said, “What’s happening?” And Benedict replied to me: “Look, God doesn’t sleep!” It’s normal for today’s disciples to feel afraid in the presence of Jesus. Never forget that He is still here.

And even in all of the troubles you have now, that makes it difficult for you now and that weighs on you heart or stomach, this is something that you must never forget! That’s what I did, and I will continue to do so.”

It is something that has, among other, deeply anchored itself in my heart.

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