“When I read the works of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, it becomes ever clearer to me that he has done and does ‘theology on his knees’: on his knees because, before even being a very great theologian and teacher of the faith, one sees that he is a man who really believes, who truly prays; one sees that he is a man who personifies sanctity, a man of peace, a man of God.”
Thus begins the Preface that Pope Francis wrote for the book “Teach and Learn the Love of God,” the first volume of the series: Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Selected Texts, which is to include seven volumes that will be published annually in Spain by BAC Publishers from 2016 to 2022.
In the Preface, the Pontiff says that Benedict XVI “embodies exemplarily the heart of all priestly action”: a profound rooting in God without which all possible organizational capacity and all alleged intellectual superiority, all money and power are useless. He embodies that constant relationship with the Lord Jesus without whom nothing is true, everything becomes routine, priests become wage earners, bishops bureaucrats and the Church ceases to be the Church of Christ and becomes a product of ours, an NGO, superfluous when all is said and done, says Pope Francis.
I allow myself to say, says the Pope, that if someone at some moment had doubts about the core of his ministry, about its meaning, about its usefulness; if at some moment he had doubts about what men truly expect from us, he should meditate profoundly on the pages that are offered to us in this book, because men expect from us above all what is written and witnessed in this book.
Moreover, reading this volume one sees clearly how the Pope Emeritus, in his 65 years of priesthood, which will be celebrated this June 29, “has lived and lives, has witnessed and witnesses exemplarily the essence of priestly action,” adds the Holy Father.
As Pope Francis explains, Cardinal Ludwig Gerhard Muller has stated with authority that the theological work of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI “places him in that series of very great theologians that have occupied the Chair of Peter, such as, for instance, Pope Leo the Great, saint and doctor of the Church.”
Likewise, the Pontiff says that Benedict XVI continues to witness, perhaps now in an even more luminous way from the Mater Ecclesia convent, “that intimate nucleus of the priestly ministry that deacons, priests and bishops must never forget,” that is, that the first and most important service is not the management of “current affairs,” but to pray for others, uninterruptedly, with soul and body, precisely as the Pope Emeritus does today.
In addition, Pope Francis stresses that prayer, Benedict XVI tells us and witnesses in this book, is the decisive factor: it’s an intercession of which the Church and the world are in greater need than ever. This volume, explains the Holy Father in the Prologue, is addressed in the same measure to priests and to the lay faithful.