.- Speaking in the first television interview of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI praised his successor, John Paul II, saying that the Polish-born pontiff broke new ground for the Church in the world, and for the office of the Pope itself.
The Holy Father spoke with Fr. Andrzej Majewski, head of Catholic programming at Polish State Television (TVP) on the occasion of the ‘Pope’s Day’--the 27th anniversary of John Paul’s election.
The interview was recorded at the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo and broadcast in Poland on Sunday October 16. An Italian version has also been made available on the Vatican radio internet site.
Pope Benedict said that John Paul II was especially significant “from two perspectives: one 'ad extra' - toward the world - and the other 'ad intra' - toward the Church.”
“With regard to the world,” he said, “it seems to me that through his speeches, his person, his presence, his capacity to convince, the Holy Father created a new sensitivity for moral values, for the importance of religion in the world.”
He also said that through John Paul, “the importance of the Bishop of Rome has increased immensely. Despite the differences and despite their non-recognition of the Successor of Peter, all Christians have recognized that he is the spokesman of Christianity. No one else in the world, on an international level can speak in the name of Christianity like this and give voice and strength to the Christian reality in the world today.”
“He managed”, Benedict also noted, “to create a climate of dialogue among the great religions…” and “also stressed that violence and religion are incompatible.”
He said that “we must search for the path to peace together, taking common responsibility for humanity.”
Likewise, Benedict said that for the Church, the late pontiff “knew how to infuse enthusiasm for Christ in young people. This is something new, if we think of the youth of late sixties and seventies. That youth has become enthusiastic for Christ and for the Church and for difficult values.”
“It was his personality and charisma that helped mobilize the youth of the world for the cause of God and for the love of Christ.”
He added that John Paul “created a new love for the Eucharist…He created a new awareness of the greatness of Divine Mercy; and he deepened devotion to Our Lady. In this way he guided us toward an internalizing of the faith and, at the same time, toward a greater efficiency.”
Pope Benedict recalled his close friendship with the late Pope and noted his profound influence--through writings, meetings and conversations--on his own papacy.
“A man who goes to the Lord doesn't disappear,” Benedict said. “I believe that someone who goes to the Lord comes even closer to us and I feel he is close to me and that I am close to the Lord. I am near the Pope and now he helps me to be near the Lord and I try to enter this atmosphere of prayer, of love for our Lord, for Our Lady and I entrust myself to his prayers.”
Pope Benedict made a vivid recollection of the final days of Pope John Paul II, recalling:
“he was visibly in great pain, and was surrounded by doctors and friends. He was still very lucid and he gave me his blessing. He could not talk much. The patience he showed at this time of suffering was a great lesson for me: to see how he believed he was in the hands of God and how he abandoned himself to the will of God. Despite his visible pain, he was serene, because he was in the hands of Divine Love.”
The Holy Father closed the historic interview by saying that “if God allows it”, he could make a trip to Poland in the near future.
To see full text of the interview :