CARF Foundation

10 January, 23

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The theological transcendence of Benedict XVI

The chants of "santo subito" are still echoing in St. Peter's Square during his funeral on January 5. From the CARF Foundation we want to remember Pope Ratzinger, and review his legacy of infinite value for its theological and intellectual transcendence linked to his immense humility.

We will always remember Pope Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday, December 31, 2022, for encouraging all the Catholic faithful to seek, know and love Jesus Christ; for teaching us to behave and live in a Christian way in a pagan society, with the optimism and vigor that comes from the hope of spreading the Gospel, motivating us to transform it from within.

A brief profile of Benedict XVI

The pontificate of Benedict XVI lasted only a few years. eight yearsNevertheless, he has been transcendental in the history of the Church for his reflections on faith and doctrine. Faithful to his motto, "collaborator of the truth", the intellectual impulse to the dialogue between faith and reason, and the fight against abuses and division in the Church were the standards of his pontificate. He always took a clear and fraternal stance towards all persons and theological positions that deviated from the truths of faith of the Church.

On the other hand, Benedict XVI considered that it was necessary to act in favor of a just order in society, and that the common good should be promoted through economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural action. His three encyclicals are the culmination of his great theological work in response to the problems of today's world.

Some milestones in his life

  • June 29, 1951: Joseph Ratzinger was ordained priest with his brother Georg in Freising Cathedral.
  • In 1953: D. in Theology with the dissertation People and House of God in the Doctrine of the Church of St. Augustine.
  • March 24, 1977: saint Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Joseph Ratzinger was not yet 50 years old when he was appointed archbishop, but he was already a well-known and respected theologian. That appointment was an unexpected turning point in his life. He was devoted to the study, research and teaching of theology. He accepted government positions out of obedience and service to the Church. The same year the pope also created him a cardinal.
  • April 19, 2005: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the successor of Peter and presented to the world as Pope Benedict XVI at 78 years of age. In his first words he remembered St. John Paul II and defined himself as a "simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord". Following the example of his predecessor, he visited 24 countries.
  • December 25, 2005: Publishes his first encyclical Deus caritas est dedicated to the love of God. As Pope he continually speaks of the "joy of being a Christian".
  • November 30, 2007: Publishes the encyclical Spe Salvi where he deals with the theme of hope. He also published the first part of his work Jesus of Nazareth, a great theological and pastoral work, which he finished publishing in 2012.
  • June 29, 2009: Publishes his latest encyclical Caritas in veritate on social justice in the 21st century. It was in the latter that he criticized consumerism and also the current economic system completely removed from the common good.
  • February 11, 2013:  He announced his resignation from the pontificate, generating a cultural and theological revolution, which will shape his great legacy to the history of the Church, and will definitively mark the way in which popes will have to conceive their pontificates.
  • December 31, 2023: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dies in Rome at the age of 95. With him disappears the last of the pontiffs personally involved in the work of the Vatican Council II.

"For me there is no lack of personal, fraternal and affectionate encounters with the Pope Emeritus. But this occasion is important to reaffirm that the contribution of his theological work and, in general, of his thought continues to be fruitful and active, not directed to the past, but fruitful for the future, for the application of the Council and for the dialogue between the Church and the world of today. These contributions offer us a solid theological basis for the Church's journey: a 'living' Church, which he taught us to see and live as communion, and which is in movement - in 'synods' - guided by the Spirit of the Lord, always open to the mission of announcing the Gospel and serving the world in which it lives".
Pope Francis, during the award ceremony of the Ratzinger Prize 2022.

Benedict XVI: a great theologian pope

The contribution of Benedict XVI's work and theological thought to Christianity and humanity is already prolific and effective today. One of his concerns was to respond to current problems through reflection and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

Joseph Ratzinger worked closely for many years with St. John Paul IIwho appointed him prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in November 1981, where he became known as a theologian, inspiring the Church for 31 years.

He was a direct witness of the post-conciliar crisis, of the questioning of the essential truths of the faith and of the experimentation in the liturgical field. Already in 1966, one year after the end of the Vatican Council II, said he saw the advance of a "cut-price Christianity".

Thus, the theologian pope was able to express with great argumentative force and, at the same time, with great spiritual unction what constitutes the heart of the Christian faith and the mission of the Church. In the face of ecclesiastical scandals, Benedict XVI called for conversion, penance and humility. In September 2011 he invited the Church to be less worldly: "Historical examples show that the missionary witness of the Church detached from the world is clearer. Freed from material and political burdens and privileges, the Church can dedicate herself better and in a truly Christian way to the whole world; she can truly be open to the world...".

Jesus Christ: the central core of Joseph Ratzinger's theology

His legacy as a theologian and pastor, the main elements of which it is good to remember at this time and where the work of a lifetime comes together, focuses on the figure of Christ.

Jesus Christ present in scripture and in the liturgy, and his relationship with the Church and with Mariais the central core of his theology. In Jesus Christ, God himself has made himself visible and has shown mankind his saving Love. He points out that this revelation of God is not a simple fact of the past, but a divine force of today and for the future, accessible in the Church of the saints, empowered as witnesses of the resurrection through the Holy Spirit.

Among the theological and ontological pillars of her thought is also the person, and the meaning that love, truth, beauty and hope have for her, themes that are reflected in her encyclicals.

For the proclamation of the Christian message, Benedict XVI insisted on both faith and reason; and from the relationship between the two we can deduce his conception of theology, catechesis and preaching. Finally, with regard to mission, his affirmations on ministry and preaching are interesting. Eucharist (with important implications for ecumenical theology), creation, religions and the relationship of the Church.

pope benedict xvi

Benedict XVI: humility and service to the Church

Benedict XVI was one of the great theologians of the 20th and 21st centuries; an intellectual who sought throughout his life, through the study of theology, research and teaching, the face of God. At the same time, he was a simple man, very cordial and gentle, even shy, who placed his life at the total disposal and service of the Church.

When in 2005 he was elected Pope with the name Benedict XVI, he commented in an interview that during the conclave he prayed "to the Lord to elect someone stronger than me, but in that prayer He evidently did not listen to me". The name was not by chance, he chose it in honor of Benedict XV and Benedict of Nursia, the Pope of Peace and the initiator of monastic life in the West, respectively.

Resignation from the pontificate

One of the most surprising and humbling actions of Benedict XVI, as well as a demonstration of his courage, was the fact of his resignation as Pope. It was a historic event in the life of the Church. Only in 1294, seven hundred years earlier, Celestine V had resigned the papacy. The reality is that until that time no one thought that the bishop of Rome had an age limit. Pope Benedict XVI broke a millenary tradition and did so in a thoughtful and reasoned manner.

It is for all these reasons that the figure of Benedict XVI, as pope, theologian, formerly prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is and will be of special transcendence for the history of the Church. He notoriously influenced Francis I, and will also influence subsequent papacies. His interpretative contributions to the Second Vatican Council have defined some of the lines of the Catholic Church, as have the dozens of works of extraordinary theological and metaphysical value that he wrote. His legacy will remain beyond and will reach heights that are now difficult to value in their just measure.


- Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict XVI. A life in the continuity of thought and faith, Hansjürgen Verweyen.
- Pope theologian, Jean-Heiner Tück.
- The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger, White Fr.

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