Seewald's Take: Benedict XVI Misunderstood by Many

Author Tells What It’s Like to Interview the Pope

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By Anita S. Bourdin

ROME, NOV. 23, 2010 ( The author of the new book-interview with Benedict XVI showed visible disappointment that the text has been reduced by the media to a misrepresentation of a few statements on condoms.

What the Pope’s talking about in the interview is the “future of the planet,” Peter Seewald said, discussing “Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times,” available today from Ignatius Press.

The German author decried a “crisis of journalism” when he presented the book today at the Vatican.

He referred to the media flurry spinning through the world since Saturday, when L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, published several excerpts from the interview. One of the texts released was from the end of the 10th chapter, when Seewald asked the Pontiff two questions on the fight against AIDS and the use of condoms. Those statements have been taken out of context or falsely presented in headlines around the world.

“Our book,” the author said today at the presentation, “speaks to the survival of [our] planet that is threatened; the Pope appeals to humanity — our world is in the process of collapse, and half the journalists are only interested in the issue of condoms.”

Seewald insisted that the Pope was promoting a “humanization of sexuality” and posed the deeper question: “Does sexuality have something to do with love?”

For the Bavarian writer, excessive concentration on the issue of condoms is “ridiculous.” Meanwhile, he reflected, the issue of transforming the world that the Pope proposes is forgotten.

Seewald affirmed that the Holy Father presented a wide-ranging panorama in the six hours of interviews conducted last July at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

But he urged getting to what’s important in a book such as this: discovering what the Pope does and says. That is the “gift” of this book, the author suggested: being able to “hear his voice,” see the way he interprets his pontificate, “to live” beside him in a very personal way.

Giant among men

Benedict XVI might be placed in the category of the “small popes” when compared to the “great popes” like John Paul II, the author reflected. However Seewald does not hesitate to speak of him as a “giant” — because of his ideas, his authenticity and capacity for dialogue.

The German author — who rediscovered his Catholic faith in dialogue with Cardinal Ratzinger in the ’90s — explained that he worked without any censorship from the Pope, who allowed him to write freely and only offered “clarifications.”

The journalist expressed his admiration for the Holy Father, with his “elevated point of view” as a “brilliant intellectual,” and his “spiritual strength,” as well as his “simplicity.”

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