Benedict admits he did not properly assess the political meaning of his 2006 Regensburg speech on the nature of faith and reason in Christianity and Islam. Media controversy focused on his citation of a Byzantine emperor who criticized Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Archbishop Ganswein said the interviews also show “the profoundly human dimension” of the man born Joseph Ratzinger.
“To him, power never meant anything, and he described the ‘happiest time’ of his life as those twelve months or so after his ordination on June 29, 1951 when he worked for a year as a young parochial vicar at Sacred Blood Parish in Munich,” Archbishop Ganswein said at the book launch.
In the new interviews, Archbishop Ganswein finds “a very distinct and new intimacy,” such as on topics like how Benedict’s mother was born before her parents married.
There is even a bit of mirth.
“He never laughed so much in his other interview books. And never cried,” the archbishop said.
“Despite his superior and awakened intelligence and formation, he does not resemble, even from afar, a power-loving person who would love to be bigger than he really is or a scary high-inquisitor at all like he is often distortedly misrepresented by his “non-friends,” said Archbishop Ganswein.
For Benedict XVI, his almost unprecedented resignation was a chance “to disengage from the large crowds of people and adjourn into this greater intimacy.” It was “another way to remain faithful to my ministry.”
Asked if he regrets his resignation, Benedict XVI told Seewald “No. No, no. I see that it was right every day.”
The doctor had told him that he was no longer allowed to fly across the Atlantic, Archbishop Ganswein recounted. The next World Youth Day had been moved to 2013 instead of 2014 due to the World Cup. Otherwise, Benedict XVI would have tried to endure until 2014.
“But I knew: I can’t do it anymore,” Benedict said.
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Benedict XVI rejected as “total nonsense” conspiracy theories that he resigned due to extortion or conspiracy. There was no practical pressure.
“You may never yield to coercion. You may not flee in the moment of the storm, but must withstand,” he said. “You can only step back if nobody is calling for it. And nobody demanded it in my day. Nobody. It was clear to me that I had to do it and that this was the right moment. It was a complete surprise for everyone.”
Archbishop Ganswein finds “an astounding amount of self-criticism, flavored with self-irony” in Benedict’s interviews with Seewald
Benedict still delights in the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, during which he was a theological consultant. But he also sees problems with that epochal event.
“We thought then overly theological and did not consider what public image these things would have,” he said. There were also “many destructions and delusions.”
Benedict saw himself as a progressive at the time, when others would denigrate him with claims he was a freemason, or incapable, or heretical.