Cardinal Ratzinger Evaluates 20 Years in Rome

Interview with Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2001 ( How does Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger feel after 20 years in one of the most important posts in the Catholic Church?

«More like a simple man than a cardinal,» the Bavarian cardinal told Vatican Radio in an interview.

Born on April 26, 1927, Joseph Ratzinger became one of the most prominent theologians of the Church following his participation in the Second Vatican Council as an expert.

After being vice rector of the University of Ratisborn from 1969-1977, on March 24, 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Munich and Freising. John Paul II appointed him prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Nov. 25, 1981.

Here is the interview:

–Q: How is it possible today to have authority on matters of faith?

–Cardinal Ratzinger: It is certainly a difficult task, in part because the concept of authority no longer exists. The fact that an authority can decide anything today seems incompatible with the freedom to do what one wishes.

It is also difficult because many general tendencies of our time are opposed to the Catholic faith: What is sought is a simplified view of the world. Therefore, Christ cannot be the Son of God but a myth, a great human personality, because God could not have accepted Christ´s sacrifice, God could not be a cruel God.

In a word, there are many ideas that are opposed to Christianity, and many truths of the faith would have to be reformulated to be adapted to the man of today. However, I must say that many people also thank the Church for continuing to be a force that expresses the Catholic faith and offers a foundation on which to live and die. And this is something that consoles me.

–Q: Your 20 years in the Vatican congregation are closely connected to this pontificate. What are your most intense memories?

–Cardinal Ratzinger: My most intense memories are linked to the meetings with the Pope in the great trips and great drama of the theology of liberation, when we sought the just way. Then comes the Holy Father´s ecumenical commitment: that search for a great opening of the Church while, at the same time, not losing its identity.

Ordinary meetings with the Pope are, perhaps, the most beautiful experience, because we speak heart-to-heart and feel our common intention to serve the Lord. We also see how the Lord helps us to find companionship on our way, as I don´t do anything on my own.

This is very important: One must not take a personal decision alone, but with great collaboration. And this, always in the way of communion with the Pope, who has a great vision of the future. He confirms and leads me in my way.

–Q: But, what is the Pope like? Do you have an adjective that would help to make him more familiar?

–Cardinal Ratzinger: Above all, the Pope is very good. He is a man with an open heart. He is also a humorous man, with whom one can speak with great joy and tranquility.

We are not up in the clouds all the time; we are in this life. This personal goodness of the Pope convinces me time and time again. Nor must we forget his great learning, his normality, and the fact that he has his feet on earth.

–Q: Could you describe yourself?

–Cardinal Ratzinger: It is impossible to paint a self-portrait; it is difficult to judge oneself. I can only say that I come from a very simple family, very humble, and that is why I feel more like a simple man than a cardinal.

I have my home in Germany, in a small village, with people who work in agriculture, in craftsmanship, and there I feel at home. I also try to be like this in my work: I don´t know if I succeed, I don´t dare judge myself.

I always remember very affectionately the profound goodness of my father and my mother and, naturally, for me, goodness means the capacity to say «no,» because a goodness that allows everything, does the other no good.

At times goodness means having to say «no,» and run the risk of contradiction. These are my criteria, this is my origin; the rest must be judged by others.

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