Death of Benedict XVI: the tribute of a generation

“As a teacher today, I recommend his texts”

Robert Cheaib

Lebanese writer and theologian

“It all started for me after the Regensburg conference in 2006. The misunderstanding aroused (on Islam, Editor’s note) was the green light to launch the Arabic edition of the Zenit agency, in order to faithfully transmit the news of the Church. Our first job was to cover the Pope’s visit to Turkey Benedict XVI.

Throughout his pontificate, I read his texts. It turned out to be a very rich experience. It nourished me intellectually, of course, but I was also personally touched by his writings. As a teacher today, I recommend his texts. He is one of the rare theologians who knows how to reconcile reflexive rigor and spiritual depth, a sense of perspective and rootedness. It transmits the fundamental core of the faith without being fundamentalist. It is rooted without radicalism.

If I had to retain a single adjective to define it, I would choose that of “Catholic”. Not just in the confessional sense of the word, but for the style and elegance of his theological gesture. Benedict XVI knew how to find and explain the accords and harmonies of faith, but also of the concretization and incarnation of this faith. He was “Catholic” in the sense that he was always attentive to the complexity of reality and to the global vision of things. Joseph Ratzinger is one of the figures who knew how to be theologians and men of faith. He was able to sense, read and discern his time and to speak the Word to him in words understandable for today. »


“His election as Pope had horrified me”

Gary Houchens

52 years old, teacher at Western University of Kentucky, author of articles on Catholicism in various American blogs

“Growing up in a Baptist family, my path to the Catholic Church began at university, where I discovered thinkers like Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas… After a master’s degree in history, I wrote my thesis on the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton, who himself had experienced a profound spiritual quest. His testimony helped convince me, despite my doubts and reservations, that Catholicism was the way to go for me.

However, I had big problems with the institutional Church, with an ambivalent outlook towards the pontificate of John Paul II. I had read enough superficial comments on Cardinal Ratzinger to have, at first, a very negative opinion of him. At the time, I was still an “opportunistic” Catholic, choosing among the teachings of the Church those which seemed right to me, and those which seemed to me outdated, without interest. His election as pope horrified me, making me fear a repression of dissenting voices in the Church.

But far from what I expected, he surprised me with his constant testimony of seeking the truth. During his eight years of pontificate, he did not fail in his adherence to the doctrine of the faith. His teaching and style had a theological depth unknown among modern popes. Above all, he was a pastor for his people. Perhaps what struck me most about him was his emphasis on the primacy of love in the lives of Christian disciples. »


“I discovered with him that true theology is a life experience of faith”

Sylvia Ipote

Sister of the Holy Family of Villefranche-de-Rouergue (France) and catechesis specialist in Bouaké (Ivory Coast)

“My training in catechesis allowed me to better appreciate the man and the pope who marked me with depth and logic in his reflection on catechesis. First, on the occasion of the Jubilee of Catechists in 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger gave a conference in which he noted that“a large part of humanity today no longer finds, in the permanent evangelization of the Church, the Gospel, that is to say, a convincing answer to the question: how to live?”.

With Benedict XVI, I discovered that true theology is a question of the life experience of faith with Jesus Christ. It flows from a personal encounter with Jesus, which is reflected in the way of being a Christian. What I keep from him and which strengthens me in my personal relationship with Christ, in my consecrated life and above all in my mission in the diocese, as executive secretary of catechesis, is the harmonious combination between his high intellectual capacities and the depth of his experience of faith with Christ.

Benedict XVI presented Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman as a model for catechesis. For me, with this story, he leaves to the Church a spiritual heritage of the catechetical act in the 21st century. »


“It was the honor of a lifetime to meet the Pope”

Erika Rivera

Honduran residing in Switzerland, involved in the organization of WYD in Madrid in 2011

“My first contact with Benedict XVI took place when I was a university student in Rome taking courses in theology. I first encountered the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger through his writings. His works touched me. He had a simple yet intellectual way of explaining faith to us. It helped me nurture and nurture my relationship with God.

Later, I worked for the organization of the World Youth Days (WYD) in Madrid in 2011, then I started to know him more. One of the most memorable moments in my life was when the pope, this shy man, came to me at the end of the mass, took my hand, and we greeted the audience together. It was the honor of a lifetime to meet him.

I was touched by his simplicity and humility. These are virtues that one does not necessarily perceive in his work. However, by getting to know him, by getting closer to him, I realized that he was very shy, simple like us, like Jesus was. I remember the vigil of adoration, the day before the closing mass. The wind was blowing hard, there was rain: it was a storm. We wondered, as organizers, if everything had to be stopped so as not to endanger the public, but the pope told us: “If everyone stays, I stay too.” He could not give up the Eucharist. »


“He taught us to be free from ourselves”

Rosalba Manes

Italian Bible scholar

“When Benedict XVI was elected pope, I began my doctorate in biblical sciences and worked in particular on the Pauline tradition and the deposit of the faith, on the relationship between the faith of the origins and our world. I felt encouraged by his teaching of great clarity and exceptional freshness of language.

With him, exegesis is not considered only as a literary phenomenon but as a movement of existence. The word of God is performative in the sense that it accomplishes what it says. In this sense, exegesis cannot be detached from spiritual experience. When we read the word of God, we experience the real, concrete presence of Christ. It is He who speaks when we read the scriptures.

My best encounter with Benedict XVI dates back to his visit to the Gregorian University in 2006. In a very beautiful speech, he insisted on the fact that theological studies and the effort they require must always be supported by the virtues theological: in other words, one cannot study theology without living in faith, hope and charity. It is not enough to know God, you have to meet him and love him, because true knowledge is love. It is only by listening to the Holy Spirit that one can make the science of God fruitful.

I also remember this great virtue from him: freedom with regard to oneself. His renunciation was not an escape from his responsibilities, but the fruit of his intelligence, which understood that no one possesses his ministry in the Church. The sole owner of any function is the Holy Spirit, who makes the gift of it and who, when the person no longer has the strength to exercise it, continues to move his Church forward. »


Funeral presided over by Pope Francis

The celebration of the funeral by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI should last approximately two hours.

At 8:50 a.m., his coffin will be carried to St. Peter’s Square before the celebration, presided over by Pope Francis – an unprecedented event, since it is the first time in history that a pope has buried his predecessor -, begins at 9:30 a.m.

After the mass, the coffin will be transported to the Vatican grottoes, on the lower floor of the basilica.

The French Minister of the Interior and Cults, Gérald Darmanin, will represent the French government, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron. Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, Archbishop of Marseille, will also be present.


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