Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI 

Cardinal Filoni: Benedict XVI was 'a prophet of our times'

The Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, highlights the late Pope Emeritus’ ability to bring the Gospel of Christ to the modern world, citing his international bestselling "Jesus of Nazareth" trilogy.

By Debora Donnini and Lisa Zengarini

A former Apostolic Nuncio and presently Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Cardinal Fernando Filoni was appointed by Benedict XVI first as Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, and then as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (now incorporated into the Dicastery for Evangelization), and was created cardinal by him in 2012. He therefore got to know the late Pope Emeritus very well.

In a personal recollection of the late Pontiff, the Italian-born Cardinal describes him as a “prophet of our time”. Speaking with Vatican News’ Debora Donnini, he explains that like the prophets in the Bible, he was able to speak to us about God in our present world.

“It seems to me that Benedict XVI was indeed a prophet of our time, because he felt the vocation of bringing the world, which was rapidly changing and was forgetting God, to meet His presence.”

Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus to a "liquid" world

Cardinal Filoni recalls that Benedict XVI lived between two centuries - in the first of which he played a major role, first as an expert in the Second Vatican Council, then as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and close collaborator of Pope St. John Paul II.

He also notes that Joseph Ratzinger had to face the reality of a changing world which, as he repeated several times, was becoming “liquid”, and losing its “spiritual, moral, ethical references”. He, therefore, felt “this vocation to speak to us about God in this world of ours.”

In a way, Cardinal Filoni goes on to explain, his great ecclesiological foundation was the Second Vatican Council: “Culturally he was already formed as a theologian, but he matured with the experience of the Council,” he says. “During his life God allowed this providential encounter between the richness of his intellectual, theological, moral gifts, and the richness of being a pastor.”

His masterpiece "Jesus of Nazareth"

Faith and reason were pivotal themes of his theological reflection, at the heart of which was the “encounter with the living Christ”, source and culmination of the Revelation, recounted masterfully in his three volumes on "Jesus of Nazareth".

This theological masterpiece summarizing his thought, says Cardinal Filoni, is not a biography of Jesus, but rather “the encounter of today's man with the Gospel and in the Gospel.”

“As in Jesus’ times, he wanted to proclaim the Kingdom of God. This was the aim of his theological vision throughout his 70 years of priestly, episcopal and papal life. Thus, the heart of that message was: ‘Jesus brings about the Kingdom of God’.”

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04 January 2023, 13:18