Joseph Ratzinger Theologian and Pope

2012-04-23 L’Osservatore Romano

As a tribute to Benedict XVI on his 85th birthday and the seventh anniversary of his election as the Successor of Peter, the newspapers “Il Sole 24 Ore” and “L’Osservatore Romano” have prepared an 88 page book entitled, “Joseph Ratzinger teologo e pontefice”. The publication will be included free of charge in the daily edition of the Milanese newspaper on 24 April, the day on which Pope Benedict’s Pontificate was solemnly inaugurated seven years ago.  The digital version will be available on the website of  “Il Sole 24 Ore”, supplemented by multimedia content in English and Spanish. In the latter language, the book will be published on 26 April in Spain by “La Razón”, as an insert and on their daily edition’s website. Published here is a translation of the book’s preface written by our Editor-in-Chief.

When on 19 April 2005 the 78-year-old Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope — in less than one day by the most numerous Conclave in history — many were surprised. For one reason, mainly because of the tenacious conservative etiquette, for the most part German, for a good 23 years with which he was dubbed as he had authoritatively directed the former Holy Office and if anything he seemed destined to play  an important role as grand elector in the difficult succession to John Paul ii, who had called him to Rome and with whom Joseph had closely collaborated with.

There were predictions and expectations far from the facts, like the stereotyped image, unrealistically spread by many on no grounds. Certainly, the Cardinal, the Conclave elected as Pope, who had long been eager to retire to his native Bavaria to return to full-time studies, did not do anything so as to be elected. It was an unsought turning point, therefore, like the one in 1977 that left a mark on this brilliant 50-year-old theologian  — who 15 years earlier had come to Rome to take part in the sessions of the Second Vatican Council as an advisor to one of the prominent members of the German Episcopate — the appointment as Archbishop of Munich and his almost instant creation as Cardinal by Pope Paul vi.

For Benedict XVI's 85th birthday, and for the beginning of his eighth year of  Pontificate, the idea to combine and update in a tiny book some of his lesser known works: in a light but not superficial conversation between a mouse (Armando Massarenti) and an elephant  (Giuliano Ferrara) on the laity and religion, as a suggestion for reading Ratzinger's works — not specialistic nor systematic, but intelligent  and comprehensible — proposed by a historian (Lucetta Scaraffia), and finally with a chronological summary of the life of a theologian who became Pontiff.

This initiative promoted by two daily newspapers — Il Sole 24 Ore and L'Osservatore Romano — primarily seeks to introduce the person and then the works of an intellectual who has dedicated and dedicates his life to the research of endless and inexhaustible quest for the truth in a continuous dialogue between faith and reason, with an eloquence that speaks to all.

On this important occasion to which the hope of the Byzantine liturgy eis ete polla can be applied,  in the succinct Latin wish ad multos annos: in simple words, to wish the Pope a Happy Birthday.