Pope Benedict’s Great Proposal| National Catholic Register

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COMMENTARY: In his ‘Spiritual Testament,’ the Pope Emeritus desired that, after his death, the world hear one more time that the faith was reasonable.

Pope John Paul II with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during his papal inauguration Oct. 22, 1978, in Vatican City.The pope emeritus wrote a letter to the Polish bishops for the centennial of the birth of Pope St. John Paul II, May 18, 2020.
Pope John Paul II with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during his papal inauguration Oct. 22, 1978, in Vatican City.The pope emeritus wrote a letter to the Polish bishops for the centennial of the birth of Pope St. John Paul II, May 18, 2020. (photo: Vatican Media )

Father Raymond J. de Souza CommentariesJanuary 5, 2023

The “reasonableness of faith” is what Pope Benedict XVI taught to an age hostile to faith and lacking confidence in reason. 

In his “Spiritual Testament,” written in 2006 and released upon his death, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote about faith, which was to be expected, but in a way unusual for a final testament. He desired that, after his death, the world hear one more time that the faith was reasonable and that philosophical and scientific approaches that claimed otherwise were themselves deficient in their reasoning. 

In Life and Death: Faith!

Benedict, the consummate scholar, makes an argument from the grave in his  “Spiritual Testament”:

“It often seems that science — the natural sciences on the one hand and historical research (especially exegesis of Sacred Scripture) on the other — are able to offer irrefutable results at odds with the Catholic faith. I have experienced the transformations of the natural sciences since long ago and have been able to see how, on the contrary, apparent certainties against the faith have vanished, proving to be not science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently pertaining to science. … 

“I saw how out of the tangle of assumptions the reasonableness of faith emerged and emerges again. Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth and the life — and the Church, with all its insufficiencies, is truly His body.”

Benedict, the great interpreter of Vatican II, was also a faithful son of Vatican I (1869-1870), which taught that both faith and reason were paths to truth and that even by reason alone we could know certain limited things about God.

In choosing to dedicate his final testament to the “reasonableness of faith,” Benedict summarized his life’s work, a proposal perseveringly pressed as a priest, professor, prefect and pope, that man could know the truth about himself, the world and God. 

Benedict’s lifetime proposal had three high points: Fides et RatioLumen Fidei and the Year of Faith.

On the relationship of faith, reason and truth, the Church has authoritative teaching in two recent encyclicals: Fides et Ratio (1998) by St. John Paul II and Lumen Fidei (2013) by Pope Francis. Neither were authored by Benedict, but in both cases, Joseph Ratzinger was the principal collaborator. 

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Pope Benedict’s Great Proposal| National Catholic Register

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