An Irish theologian who is familiar with the life and thought of Pope Benedict XVI says his decision to resign was not because of Vatican difficulties.
“The media keeps focusing on the Vatileaks as key element to his resignation, and I think that’s absolute nonsense,” said Jesuit Father Michael P. Gallagher, who came to Rome about 20 years ago to work for the Pontifical Council for Culture.
“I’m sure he was worried and shocked by it, but we take him on his word that his resignation is a call from God.”
Fr. Gallagher, who is rector of the Jesuit Collegio San Roberto Bellarmino, made his comments to CNA in a Feb. 25 interview.
In his opinion, Benedict XVI is the Pope with the highest intellectual formation the Church has ever had in its 2,000 years of existence.
“No other Popes have published so many books before being elected,” he pointed out.
“Being an intellectual comes with advantages and perhaps some disadvantages,” Fr. Gallagher observed.
“He loves his books, he loves writing, he loves thinking and he loves communicating his thoughts, and that’s one of his great qualities,” he added.
According to Fr. Gallagher, Pope Benedict has a vision with two sides.
“On the one hand, he’s worried about the world, about the culture, about the way we see ourselves today, which stems from his rationalism and being a German,” he said.
“The other side is his fundamental passion to give what he calls his freshness to faith.”
Although Pope Benedict headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before becoming pontiff, Fr. Gallagher noted that during his pontificate “his emphasis is not so much on doctrine at all, but faith as an encounter with the Lord, as an event and as a prayer.”
“That spiritual side to him hasn’t been recognized so much,” he asserted. “He said in an interview once that faith is the love story between God and humanity.”
But Fr. Gallagher, who has taught on Joseph Ratzinger’s theology, is not surprised that the Pope is resigning on Feb. 28.
“I was expecting this,” he remarked. “I was surprised when it happened, but not surprised that it happened.”
“He said in an interview with Peter Seewald very strongly that if a Pope was unable to go on serving the Church because of age or health that, not only did he have the right to resign, he had the duty to resign,” he recalled.
According to Fr. Gallagher, the Pope has had to fight against the secular media, who “continue to look for scandal.”
“This is changing history and the feeling as to what a Pope should do when he arrives in a situation of weakness,” he stated.
In an interview with Irish television reporter who labeled Benedict XVI “the German shepherd,” the Jesuit said, “give him time and you will see he is not only a gentleman, but a gentle man.”
“I think I’ve been proved to be 100 percent correct because of his humility and honesty, which made him offer his resignation, and (by) the non-dramatic and spiritual tone of it,” said Fr. Gallagher.
“What I’ve admired the most of it, which hasn’t been seen by all the public, is the spiritual tone of his homilies which stem from his world vision of the Church,” he added.
Fr. Gallagher wants the next Pope to have “energy to communicate Christ” and to “care for the bureaucracy at the Roman Curia that isn’t quite right.”
“When someone has been in a place too long they tend to block things, and we need a Pope to cut through that and make the servants of the faith serve the faith,” he said.