In his teachings, Pope Benedict XVI “always unites charity and truth,” said Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., while reflecting on the impact of the late pope on EWTN News Nightly. 

To Pecknold, the hallmark of all Benedict XVI’s theology is “that encounter with Jesus Christ [that] is divine charity.” Calling to mind Benedict’s final words before his death, Pecknold said Benedict “sums it up at the end of his life by saying, ‘Jesus, I love you.’”

Benedict “had a vision of how to communicate the love of Jesus Christ,” said Pecknold, pointing out how from the beginning of his ministry “he focused on a Christo-centric way of looking at the whole world.” 

After the Vatican announced the former pope’s death on Dec. 31, Pecknold tweeted a tribute to Benedict and his legacy. 

“He taught me to be a Catholic set against the dictatorship of relativism; he formed my piety, awakened me to the beauty, truth & perennial power of the ancient mass. His life was principally a conversation with God — and we are beneficiaries of that.”

Those commentators who characterize Benedict as a cold “dogmatician” obscure the fact that “he’s really the theologian of personal encounter with Jesus Christ — that’s what he’s about,” Pecknold said. 

“The way in which the modern mind has been shaken by skepticism in which we’re not really oriented to truth has been bad for people, has been bad for societies,” Pecknold said. Yet, Benedict and his teachings “awakened us to our need for truth, but also our need for God, and that societies need God just like souls need God.”

“Really at the bottom of everything in Benedict’s writing was ‘what is our fundamental orientation towards God? … and how can we reflect that in our lives and in our societies?’” Pecknold added.

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Benedict’s teaching taught us “that we must raise up our worship, we must reorient our souls, so that we’re not kind of chasing after fashion, but that we’re oriented towards the God who is love,” he said.