As Pope Benedict celebrates a year of pontificate, Italian Catholic writer Vittorio Messori made a thorough depiction of what he considers is the style, thought and “way to proceed”, of the Pontiff, in an interview he gave to Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
The balance drafted by Messori, author of “Crossing the threshold of Hope,” conversations with John Paul II, and “Dialogue on faith,” conversations with Cardinal Ratzinger, also includes comparisons between the style of the actual pontiff and his predecessor.
The journalist admitted in the interview, that “to be honest, I found myself saying about Pope Benedict 'Good Lord, move a little bit.' It seemed to me he was doing too little, but that’s not so sure. Benedict XVI is a man who doesn’t like big crowds. He drastically reduced public apparitions and will make three to four trips a year, but he is doing what John Paul II wasn't keen on doing: studying the important dossiers. He needs time for the diagnosis. All he says, he writes it, seated at his work desk. We can clearly recognize his style in “Deus Caritas est.”
On giving his opinion on whether Benedict XVI is a “more accesible” pope, the analyst afirmes that “only in a specific way,” because “if we look at the images of John Paul II, we can see how he reached out to the hands of millions but not having a good look at the faces of his interlocuters. Ratzinger looks in the eyes, always. He stops to talk to each, he wants to know who is standing before him. Wojtyla is a man of Christianity, he wanted the Gospel to be spread to all people. Benedict XVI is a man of interiority, a post-modern intellectual."
Nevertheless, Messori made his point clear, affirming that “I don’t want to say that Benedict XVI doesn’t attract crowds. Navarro-Valls told me yesterday that the numbers at the audiences have triplicated. This we can explain for two reasons. One is the magnetic effect of John Paul , who put Christ back at the center. In 78, before his election, the crisis within in the Church was deep. There were only tourists in Saint Peters. Last year, at his funeral, we saw what happened. The other reason is what explained very well a German journalist. Benedict XVI is a teacher, a scholar with great respect for his interlocutor. He speaks with density, and sternly, striving for understanding, and people can sense that,” he said.
Respective of the vision Benedict XVI wishes to apply to the Roman Curie, the journalist remarked that “this Pope wants to simplify things. ”Ratzinger doesn’t like curial intricacies and bureaucracy.”
On the thought of the current Pontiff, Messori affirmed that “Ratzinger was always a euro-centric thinker: he is an intellectual, a western theologian who always has as interlocutor the western man. He knows the future of the Church is here.”
“There are historical reasons,” he followed- that of new Churches. In the end nothing really new appeared as relevant and as vital as european catholicism. The theology of liberation, which spread as a South American phenomenon, is rather a French and German work from the theoretical point of view. The same Church in the United States, in spite of dollars and more than 70 million faithful never really brought novelties, such as an important order, a movement, theologians.. nothing. It is rather clear for Benedict XVI. For him, it is more important to stay firm in a Parish here or giving back life to the churches in England than to gain new parishioners in an African diocese,” he sustains.
On ecumenism, Messori remarks that “some bishops have strived during years for the dialogue with protestant churches. But spending that much energy into it, is worthless.” Regarding Islam, Messori believes that the Pope “is making a diagnosis before starting the procedure. I’m sure he knows Islam is not monolithic. The real difficulty is to find appropriate intelocutors, and the Pope is looking for them.”
The interest for Benedict XVI for liturgy is obvious. According to Messori, for the Holy Father it’s “one of the major betrayals of the Council.” For the journalist, “the true mistake is to think of liturgy as if it were a show, with the priest closing the show saying 'good night and see you next time!” as happens in many churches.
“For Pope Benedict XVI-he continues-the power of Mass is precisely in the repetition, in uttering the same words every day for all, altering gestures and silence. The priest is only an instrument at the service of the people. Even the Pope is one. Indeed The Papal celebrations have become more sober and simple. This Pope has reintroduced Eucharistic adoration in Mass, silence and prayer before the sacrament, which is least appealing for television.
Lastly, Vittorio Messori underlines a fundamental difference between the two pontiffs, with no glimpse of criticism towards John Paul II, to which he felt very close. He says that “Ratzinger wants to make the Church less “pope-centered”. The charisma of Wojtyla, made the Church identify with one man. Ratzinger seeks to be the least invasive possible. He doesn’t want the Church to be centered on one man that leads it.”
He thinks though that “maybe the major difference between the two is the idea of faith: John Paul II was of a mystical temperament, the mystical doesn’t need to think. He sees and touches. Faith is an evidence for him. For Benedict XVI, faith is a daily rediscovery, it becomes necessary to explain it, and to seek the reason for it. It is not that he doubts about it, but he realizes that many people in the West are in doubt, and he wishes to talk to them, “ Messori concluded.