Cover of the Italian version of the book 'God is Always New' Cover of the Italian version of the book 'God is Always New' 

Pope Francis: Theology of Benedict XVI was passion steeped in the Gospel

Pope Francis writes the preface to book gathering the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's spiritual reflections, edited by Luca Caruso and entitled 'God is Always New', which will be published by the Vatican Publishing House on 14 January.

By Pope Francis

I am delighted that the reader has in hand this text on the spiritual thought of the late Pope Benedict XVI. The title already expresses one of the most distinctive aspects of his magisterium and vision of faith: God is always new because He is the source and reason for beauty, grace, and truth. God is never repetitive, God surprises us, God brings newness. The spiritual freshness that arises from these pages strongly confirms this reality.

Benedict XVI did theology on his knees in prayer. His explanation of matters of faith was carried out with the devotion of a man who totally surrendered himself to God and who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sought an ever-greater understanding of the mystery of Jesus, who fascinated him from his youth.

The collection of spiritual thought presented in these pages shows Benedict XVI's creative ability to investigate various aspects of Christianity with a richness of images, language and perspectives that become a continual encouragement to cultivate the precious gift of welcoming God into one's own life. The way Benedict XVI was able to make heart and reason, thought and passion, rationality and emotion interact present a fruitful way to share with everyone the dynamic power of the Gospel.

The reader will see this confirmed in these pages, which represent - also thanks to the competence of the Editor, to whom our heartfelt thanks go - a sort of 'spiritual synthesis' of Benedict XVI's writings. Here his ability to show the depth of the Christian faith ever anew shines forth. A small selection suffices. "God is an event of love", an expression that alone does full justice to a theology that is always harmonious between reason and affection. "What on earth could save us if not love?" he asked the young people at the prayer vigil in Cologne in 2005, a meditation fittingly recalled here, posing a question that echoes Fyodor Dostoevsky. And when he spoke of the Church, his ecclesial passion made him pronounce words steeped in belonging and affection: “We are not a production centre, we are not a profit-oriented enterprise, we are Church.”

The depth of Joseph Ratzinger's thought, based on Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers is still helpful to us today. These pages address a range of spiritual topics and are an incentive for us to remain open to the horizon of eternity that Christianity has in its DNA. That of Benedict XVI is and will always remain a fruitful thought and magisterium over time because he has been able to focus on the fundamental references of our Christian life: first and foremost, the person and word of Jesus Christ, and then the theological virtues, namely charity, hope, and faith. And for this the whole Church will be forever grateful to him.

In Benedict XVI, unceasing devotion and an enlightened magisterium have merged into a harmonious alliance. How often he has spoken of beauty with moving words! Benedict always considered beauty as a privileged way to open men and women to the transcendent and thus be able to encounter God, which was for him the Church's highest task and most urgent mission. Music especially for him was an art with which to elevate the spirit and interiority. But this did not divert his attention, as a true man of faith, from the great and thorny issues of our time, observed and analysed with conscious judgement and a courageous critical spirit. From listening to Scripture, read in the ever-living tradition of the Church, he was able from his youth to draw that practical and indispensable wisdom to establish a dialogue with the culture of his time, as confirmed in these pages.

Let us thank God for having given us Pope Benedict XVI: with his word and his testimony he taught us that through reflection, thought, study, listening, dialogue and above all prayer, it is possible to serve the Church and do good for all of humanity. He offered us living intellectual tools that enable every believer to give reason for his or her own hope by employing a way of thinking and communicating that could be understood by today’s generation. He strived continually to enter into dialogue with everyone to seek together various ways we can encounter God.

This quest for dialogue with the culture of his own time was always an ardent desire of Joseph Ratzinger. As a theologian first and a pastor later, he never confined himself to a merely intellectualistic culture, disengaged from human history and the world. With his own example as an intellectual, rich in love and enthusiasm (which etymologically means full of God), he showed how seeking the truth is possible, and that allowing oneself to be possessed by it is as high as the human spirit can reach. In such a journey, all dimensions of the human person, reason and faith, intelligence, and spirituality, have their own role and specificity.

Benedict XVI reminded us by word and example that the fullness of our existence is found only in the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Living One, the incarnate Logos, the full and definitive revelation of God, who in Him manifests Himself as love to the end.

This is my wish for the reader: that he or she may find in these pages, featuring the passionate and gentle voice of a master of faith, hope in the grace of a new and life-giving encounter with Jesus.

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04 January 2023, 10:02