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The Death of Pope Benedict XVI

Joseph Ratzinger: Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Ratzinger

Rome, Italy Pope Benedict XVI during the canonization mass on October 17, 2010

31st December: the Pope Emeritus flies to heaven

On December 31, 2022, BENEDICT XVI ascended to heaven, the second Pope to renounce the Pontifical Office (after Celestine V) and the first to adopt the title of Pope Emeritus. Joseph Ratzinger dies at 9:34 on the last day of the year after days in which the media had talked about the precarious health conditions of the former pontiff. Pope Ratzinger was a fundamental Pontiff. He was the one who had to fill the legacy of the long pontificate of John Paul II. For many he was a Pontiff overshadowed by many problems that gripped and still gripped the church. In reality Ratzinger was an example of rigor and faith, although not as ostentatious as his predecessor. It was Ratzinger who dictated the first guidelines with the fundamental criteria: to inform the Holy See, to follow the provisions of civil justice and to remove suspicion from pastoral activities. Five years after the election, in July 2010, new changes were made to the norms of "De delictis gravioribus" drawn up by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, changes approved by the Pope himself.

However, there are some obscure and questionable themes: many media have written that the Pope Emeritus never expressed a word of solidarity with the family of Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of the Vatican clerk who disappeared into thin air on June 22, 1983. A complex and obscure story to which a solution has never been reached, not even with the most disparate conjectures over the course of these decades. In any case, the girl's tragic mystery occurred when Ratzinger was not yet Pope. After about 8 years of pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI resigns to the amazement of many faithful and even lay people. The real reason for Benedict XVI's resignation has never been fully clarified, although he has spoken of it on a few occasions. For example, he denied that he was forced to resign, or that he was influenced, always saying that he acted "in complete freedom". And on the day of his resignation he said that «in order to steer the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, vigor of both body and soul is also necessary, vigor which, in recent months, has diminished in me to such an extent that I have to recognize my inability to properly administer the ministry entrusted to me"

Meanwhile, preparations are starting in the Vatican for the rites of the next few days which, despite the "simplicity" requested by Benedict XVI, will include public moments in the Basilica and in the Square and also the arrival of foreign delegations for the funeral. "The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is a mourning for Italy - says the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella -. His gentleness and wisdom have benefited our community and the entire international community. With dedication he continued to serve the cause of his Church in the unprecedented guise of Pope Emeritus with humility and serenity. His figure remains unforgettable for the Italian people. An intellectual and theologian, he interpreted with finesse the reasons for dialogue, peace, dignity of the person, as supreme interests of religions. With gratitude we look to his testimony and his example". From Monday 2 January to Wednesday 4 January the body will be exhibited in St. Peter's, on 5 January the funeral presided over by Pope Francis In his will the invitation to remain "steadfast in the faith" "Remain firm in the faith! Don't get confused! Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth and the life - and the Church, with all its insufficiencies, is truly His body." This is one of the spiritual legacies that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI entrusts to the faithful in his will, which is published in the book «Nothing but the truth» written by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his personal secretary, with Saverio Gaeta, for the editions Piemme and out at the beginning of January.

Below is the spiritual testament of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, released the evening, 31 December 2022, the day of his death by the Press Office of the Holy See.

My spiritual testament

As I look back at this late hour of my life over the decades I have walked, I first see how many reasons I have to be thankful. I give thanks first of all to God himself, the giver of every good gift, who has given me life and guided me through various moments of confusion; always getting up every time I started to slip and always giving me the light of his face again. Retrospectively, I see and understand that even the dark and tiring sections of this path were for my salvation and that it was precisely in them that He guided me well. I thank my parents, who gave me life in a difficult time and who, at the cost of great sacrifices, with their love prepared for me a magnificent home which, like a clear light, illuminates all my days until today. My father's lucid faith taught us children to believe, and as a signpost it has always been firm in the midst of all my scientific acquisitions; the deep devotion and the great goodness of my mother are a legacy for which I can never thank enough. My sister has assisted me for decades selflessly and with loving care; my brother, with the lucidity of his judgments, his vigorous resolution and serenity of heart, has always paved the way for me; without his continuous preceding and accompanying me I would not have been able to find the right way. I sincerely thank God for the many friends, men and women, whom He has always placed beside me; for collaborators at all stages of my journey; for the teachers and pupils He has given me. I entrust them all gratefully to His goodness. And I want to thank the Lord for my beautiful homeland in the Bavarian Alpine foothills, in which I have always seen the splendor of the Creator himself shine through. I thank the people of my homeland because in them I have always been able to experience the beauty of faith anew. I pray that our land will remain a land of faith and please, dear compatriots: do not let your faith distract you. And finally I thank God for all the beauty that I have been able to experience in all the stages of my journey, especially in Rome and in Italy which has become my second homeland. To all those I have wronged in any way, I sincerely ask for forgiveness. What I said before to my compatriots, I now say to all those in the Church who have been entrusted to my service: remain firm in the faith! Don't get confused! It often seems that science - the natural sciences on the one hand and historical research (in particular the exegesis of Sacred Scripture) on the other - are able to offer irrefutable results in contrast with the Catholic faith. I have lived the transformations of the natural sciences since ancient times and I have been able to see how, on the contrary, apparent certainties against faith have vanished, proving to be not science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently due to science; just as, moreover, it is in the dialogue with the natural sciences that faith too has learned to better understand the limit of the scope of its affirmations, and therefore its specificity. I have been accompanying the journey of theology for sixty years, especially the biblical sciences, and with the succession of different generations I have seen theses collapse that seemed unshakable, proving to be mere hypotheses: the liberal generation (Harnack, Jülicher, etc.), the existentialist generation (Bultmann etc.), the Marxist generation. I have seen and continue to see how the reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging again from the tangle of hypotheses. Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth, and the life—and the Church, with all its insufficiencies, is truly His body. Finally, I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord, despite all my sins and shortcomings, welcomes me into eternal abodes. To all those entrusted to me, my heartfelt prayer goes day after day.

Benedictus PP XVI