Benedict XVI. Cooperator of the truth

The truth of God the Creator and Redeemer, of which the Holy Father Benedict XVI was an incessant seeker, illuminates the twilight of the last years of his life spent in prayer, silence and exemplary humility.

December 31, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
benedict xvi

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has passed away. If anything has characterized his long life, from his childhood and teenage years as a seminarian in the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of Munich, located in Traunstein, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, to his last years as Pope Emeritus, it is undoubtedly his vocation of wanting to be a "Cooperator of the Truth": of the Truth of God, revealed in Christ for the Salvation of mankind. 

Cooperator of the Truth, searching for it with the passion of his heart and the intellectual lucidity of a restless mind in his studies of Theology at the major seminary of Freissen, which found its confirmation in his doctoral thesis and in his dissertation for his qualification as a university professor.

The Theology of St. Augustine provides him with the theological horizon to understand and explain the being of the Church as "People and House of God", and from that of St. Bonaventure, from his "Itinerary of the Mind to God", he receives the intellectual inspiration to understand the Truth of the Living God who reveals himself in a history of Salvation, culminating in Christ, the Son of God, incarnated in the womb of a Virgin, Mary, crucified, dead and resurrected.

His two decades as professor of theology in Bonn and Münster, Tübingen and Regensburg, in which he combined teaching and research, lectures and publications with an extraordinary pedagogical fecundity, shone with an intelligence of the search for the truth revealed in God in which the dialogue Faith/Reason unfolds with a rigorous logical discipline and, at the same time, with an extraordinary spiritual sensitivity for the questions of his readers and listeners. How much his fascinating treatise on "Introduction to Christianity" helped the generations of young university students of that dramatic historical moment to find the way to the truth with a capital letter: to find the Living God beyond, but not against, the God of the philosophers! 

The following stages of his biography as Archbishop-barely five years-and as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith-nearly twenty-five years-were centered on a service to the faith of the Church as a close and intimate collaborator of Pope St. John Paul II in the fulfillment of his first duty as successor of Peter, which is none other than "to confirm his brothers in the faith". His method of work was in accordance with the "Anselmian" principle of "Fides quaerens intellectum" - "Intellectus quaerens Fidem" ("faith seeking intelligence" and "intelligence seeking faith"). A principle put into practice with the exquisite care of a dialogue always attentive and always understanding of the opposing theses. The whole debate of the eighties of the last century around Liberation Theology is ample evidence of this.

Finally, his magisterium in the eight years of his pontificate is concentrated around the Truth of God which is Love (his encyclical "Deus Caritas est") and the ultimate foundation of Hope that does not disappoint (his encyclical "Spes Salvi"). The latest encyclical, "Caritas In Veritate" ("Love in Truth", CV), published on June 29, 2009, in the midst of the world financial crisis with its epicenter in the New York Stock Exchange - and which soon led to a serious social, political and cultural crisis - aims to show how faith in the living and true God, revealed in Christ, clears the way for true human progress - integral progress - or, in other words, opens the way for the achievement of a true and authentic humanism. The so-called "anthropological turn" of modern and postmodern thought, which he knew well, is not only emptied of meaning, but on the contrary, its significance for the transcendent good of the human person and society is authenticated and consolidated. 

It is not surprising, then, that one of the practical conclusions of the encyclical is that "there is neither full development nor a universal common good without the spiritual and moral good of persons, considered in their totality of soul and body" (CV 76), and, at the same time, that "development needs Christians with arms raised to God in prayer, Christians aware that the truth-filled love, 'caritas in veritate,' from which authentic development proceeds, is not the result of our efforts but a gift" (CV 79). 

In his homily at the Obradoiro Square in Santiago de Compostela on November 6, 2010 (during his second pastoral trip to Spain), he affirmed: "He alone - God - is absolute, indeclinable faithful love, infinite goal that can be seen behind all the admirable goods, truths and beauties of this world: admirable but insufficient for the heart of man. St. Teresa of Jesus understood this well when she wrote: 'God alone is enough'".

At the end of World Youth Day in Madrid, August 21, 2011, when he said farewell to Spain, he told us: "Spain is a great nation that, in open, pluralistic and respectful coexistence, knows how and can progress without renouncing its deeply Christian and Catholic soul", and that "young people respond diligently when they are sincerely and truthfully proposed the encounter with Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer of humanity".

The truth of God the Creator and Redeemer of man, the TRUTH that is He and He alone, of which the Holy Father Benedict XVI has been an incessant seeker, cooperator, witness and teacher throughout a whole life dedicated to Christ, illuminates the twilight of the last years of his life spent in prayer, silence and exemplary humility. In the prologue to the first volume of his monograph "Jesus of Nazareth", published in 2007, he confesses: "I certainly do not need to say expressly that this book is not in any way a magisterial act but only an expression of my personal search for the face of the Lord". A face that he will have already found in the eternal contemplation of his infinite Beauty. Thus we ask it, united in the prayer of the whole Church for him who always considered himself "her humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord".

The authorAntonio M. Rouco Varela

Cardinal Archbishop emeritus of Madrid. President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference from 1999 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2014.

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