Pope Benedict XVI’s Greatest Work May Not Be What You Think| National Catholic Register

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COMMENTARY: The corpus of Benedict’s general audiences stand as a witness to his catechetical mastery.

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful upon arrival for his weekly general audience on April 6, 2011, at St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father presented his catechesis on St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful upon arrival for his weekly general audience on April 6, 2011, at St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Father presented his catechesis on St. Thérèse of Lisieux. (photo: Christophe Simon / AFP via Getty Images)

Daniel GallagherVaticanJanuary 10, 2023

History will remember Pope Benedict XVI as one of the most brilliant teachers ever to sit on the Chair of Peter. As Archbishop Georg Gänswein recently remarked, Benedict’s greatest tool was the word, both spoken and written. Which raises the question: What was his greatest work?

It depends on the criterion. To make things easier, let’s limit ourselves to his works as Pope Benedict XVI. That not only excludes magnificent articles and books written by Joseph Ratzinger the professor, archbishop and cardinal, but also the “Jesus Trilogy,” a Christological tour de force published while he was pope, but too dense for the average reader and published under the name “Joseph Ratzinger” rather than “Benedict XVI,” at the Pope’s own discretion. 

If we were to judge by sensationalism, the “Regensburg Address” would stand out due to its controversial albeit historically sound claims about Christianity, Islam and the relation between faith and reason. But once again, it takes a patient, discerning mind to understand the arguments, and they continue to escape many well-meaning Catholics. 

Similarly, Light of the Worldfueled convoluted debates about the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS, and, quite honestly, interviews were not the optimal format for revealing Benedict’s genius (nor anyone else’s, for that matter). If we opt for an encyclical, Spe Salviemerges as the most profound, but it would take another article to explain why.

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Greatest Work May Not Be What You Think| National Catholic Register

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