“There will be a brief occasion for celebration suited to his forces. It will be on Easter Monday, a day after his birthday, with a party of short duration in a Bavarian atmosphere attended by a small delegation from Bavaria and to the presence of the Schützen. Also his brother Georg will be there. Indeed, the most beautiful gift of the day.” Thus Benedict XVI will celebrate his 90th birthday on April 16th, on same day of this year’s Easter. Monsignor Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household and the personal secretary of Benedict XVI shared the details with SIR. With the Archbishop we also addressed the “commitment to which Pope Benedict is devoted day after day, willingly and with all his heart.”
Your Excellency, first of all: how is Pope Benedict? What are his health conditions? Do his days follow the same schedule of prayer and study? And finally, how will he celebrate his birthday?
For a man of his age he is in good health. He is serene, in a good mood, and has great clarity of mind. Naturally, his physical forces are declining. He finds it difficult to walk, so he uses a walking aid that enables him to move independently and in security.
His daily life follows the same schedule as always: prayer, meditation, reading, studying, correspondence; there are also visits, and there is also a time for music along with the daily walk.
No special celebrations are planned for his 90th birthday. He just wishes to have a brief festive moment suited to his forces. It will be on Easter Monday, the day after his birthday, with a modest “Bavarian-style” gathering attended by a small delegation from Bavaria and to the presence of the “Schützen”. Also his brother Georg will be there, the most beautiful gift of this day.
Benedict’s 90th birthday brings to mind the figures of the patriarchs, whose longevity is seen as a sign of God’s blessing…
In fact this is the case. On the other hand we should remember the words of Psalm 90: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures … they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
Also another biblical image can be evoked, in the light of the renunciation to the Pontifical see and the choice to live a life of prayer in the Monastery “Mater Ecclesiae”. It’s the image of Moses praying as he extended his hands in the fight against Amalèk: “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.” (Exodus 17:11).
Benedict has often spoken of the primacy of prayer, the lack of which would reduce the entire commitment of the apostolate of charity to mere activism. This is true first and foremost for the governance of the universal Church. At the very moment of the renunciation he felt the calling to “scale the Mount”, to
Strengthen his dedication to prayer and meditation, thereby supporting the Church and his successor to Peter’s see.
It’s a commitment to which he devotes himself day after day, willingly and with all his heart.
These reflections bring us to the private sphere of the Pope Emeritus. To what extent has Joseph Ratzinger been understood in the course of the years, as man and as priest? During his pontificate he was victim of continuing attacks, and also before, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Now he is the object of an instrumental hypothetical polemical debate with Francis: am I correct?
You are right. Harsh criticism was ongoing during his cardinalship as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and it continued when he was elected Pope Benedict XVI. However, I must say that
He never responded to provocations, nor was he intimidated by hostile, even denigrating, reactions.
Defending the truth of the faith, defending the Church, comes at a price. We should honestly ask ourselves whether the criticism of the person and of his commitment were well-grounded and convincing. We faced a combination of misunderstandings and aggressiveness that was never fully clarified. Finally, fabricating and fomenting hypothetical polemics between Pope Francis and his predecessor, “ex post”, is excessively superficial and unfair. Media outlets welcome arguments, as the latter “spice up” remarks and statements, but they fail to verify whether the information corresponds to the truth. Polemical debate enjoys taking out of content, but it doesn’t serve the scope of producing information or helping understand reality as it is.
Could it be said that one of the most interesting aspects of the shared vision with Francis is the relationship between the universal Church and the particular Churches?
In this respect I see no difference between Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus.
Hence there is no item of disagreement with Francis?
Taking stock of the news disseminated by media outlets it’s impossible not to realize that every now and then they intentionally fabricate such disagreements. The reasons are rather obvious.
Your Excellency, your contacts with Benedict XVI have been ongoing for the past 20 years: what is the greatest legacy of his teachings? What are your personal wishes upon his 90th birthday?
There are many. I am deeply grateful to him. May the Lord may preserve the peace of his soul and the joy of his heart.