Pope em. Benedict XVI. © Michael Kappeler
The chapter on homosexual marriage was in the biography "Benedict XVI. – A life" the most exciting, says the KNA editor-in-chief Ludwig Ring-Eifel. In the detailed description of the pope's resignation even he discovered something new.
Interviewer: That Benedict XVI. is a headline generator, proves the new book. Specifically, it is about a very last interview with him, in which Benedict sharply condemns homosexual marriage and accuses society of an anti-Christian credo. Those who oppose this are socially excluded, says Benedict. How did you read this chapter in particular?
Ludwig Ring-Eifel (editor-in-chief of the Catholic News Agency / KNA): It is, of course, the most exciting chapter in the whole book, because it is also the newest one. It dates from the fall of 2018. That is, one can read how the pope saw it a year and a half ago, six years after his resignation. That's very exciting, because he still conveys the bitterness that he feels toward many current discussions.
On the other hand, it is also almost historical again, because the very latest developments, such as the Synodal Way or the discussions surrounding his latest pleas on celibacy, are not included in this book. In that respect, it's relatively topical, but still a bit historical.
Interviewer: Peter Seewald is considered a proven Benedict expert. He is the author of several books of interviews about Benedict. Does this new biography offer anything new? For example, about Benedict's spectacular resignation as pope?
Ring-Eifel: I must say, I have never found the matter of the resignation so well, precisely and excitingly told as in this book. It is described in detail when he made the decision, with whom he talks about it first, whom he does not inform, whom he informs only at the very end and how he then stages the whole thing. That is, I think, already a very strong chapter, and there I have then also learned a lot again.
Interviewer: Joseph Ratzinger deserted as a young man, as a flak helper. Moved from Tubingen to Regensburg as a young professor. Decades later then the withdrawal from the papal office. Peter Seewald recognizes in it a recurring pattern of action. Which is the?
Ring-Eifel: The pattern of action that Joseph Ratzinger, or rather Pope Benedict, then, when he rationally recognizes that he can no longer do anything in his position, moves on and gives up this position. That is something that runs through his entire life, which was reproached by some when he resigned as pope. Others have said that this was exactly the right thing to do, that he recognized that he was no longer able to exercise the office with his full mental and physical strength. So it was right that he resigned there seven years ago.
Interviewer: Benedict XVI. has been criticized again and again for the fact that he, as Papa emeritus, has always spoken out. Does Peter Seewald defend Benedict on this point?
Ring-Eifel: Yes, and he also makes it clear that Benedict did not say at his departure that he would now remain silent forever. But he said, I will serve the church in prayer and with all his spiritual strength. He never said, I will never speak out again. That was a bit misunderstood at the time. Seewald defends it and says he still has the right to speak out. Just as, for example, an emeritus bishop can speak out now and then with fundamental spiritual or theological statements.
Interviewer: It is not an exaggeration to call the new biography a ham: it is 1184 pages thick. Did you still enjoy reading it and can you recommend it?
Ring-Eifel: Well, I'm a bit of a burned child now, because I've already read quite a bit about this pope and also back then the autobiography of Ratzinger, when it was published 22 years ago. So the first, let's say, 500 to 600 pages were quite familiar to me. It became exciting only in the last chapters. But for anyone who wants to dive completely into this life and doesn't know Ratzinger's autobiography, the whole book is an asset.
The interview was conducted by Hilde Regeniter.