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Newly published excerpts from Benedict’s private letters reveal his concern over Church crisis

Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane

ROME, September 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — A German newspaper today has published excerpts of two private letters Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote less than one year ago, that give insight into how he views his resignation, and his deep concern for the state of the Church following his departure from the papacy.

Bild newspaper has reported that the two letters bearing Benedict’s signature — and which independent sources have authenticated — were written to a German cardinal in November 2017, in response to his charge that Benedict’s resignation was the catalyst for a major crisis in the Church.

The prelate also alleged that such an unprecedented act had seriously harmed the Church.

In his response to the cardinal, Benedict — who retreated to a quiet life of prayer and study since stepping down in February 2013 — reveals his awareness of the discord in the Church since his resignation, but also his concern that the understandable pain that people feel is being turned against his own person and the legacy of his papacy. He writes: 

“I can very well understand the deep-seated pain that the end of my papacy has inflicted on you and many others. However, for some people and – it seems to me – also for you, the pain has turned into an anger that no longer merely concerns my resignation, but increasingly also my person and my papacy as a whole. By this, a papacy itself is now being devalued and melted into the sorrow about the situation in which the Church currently finds itself.”

Benedict then abrubtly says to the cardinal: “If you know a better way (referring to the resignation, ed.) and therefore think that you can judge the one chosen by me, please tell me.”

In the letter, Benedict further defends his decision by pointing to Pope Pius XII’s (1876-1958) contingency plan to resign from the papacy to avoid being “arrested by the Nazis.”  

Observing the comparison, Bild asks, “Who did Benedict feel threatened by?”

Recalling Benedict XVI’s ominous words at his inaugural Mass: “Pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves,” the German newspaper asks: “Who are the wolves?” 

“By ‘the wolves,’ he probably meant the network of high-ranking Church dignitaries who have created a system of power, and abuse of power, in the Vatican, and whom he felt unable to cope with,” Vatican expert, Armin Schwibach, told Bild.

In a follow-up letter, the German cardinal responds to Benedict, writing: “May the Lord help his Church.” 

Benedict replies with a second letter. Highlighting the cardinal’s impassioned entreaty, he writes: “Let us rather pray, as you did at the end of your letter, that the Lord will come to the aid of his Church.” 

“Did the former Pope think that the Church had entered a crisis under his successor, and that only praying would help in this crisis?” Bild asks.

Bild has not yet published the letters in full, but the editor-in-chief of the Katholische Nachrichtenagentur (Catholic News Agency, KNA), Ludwig Ring Eifel, told the German agency: “The letters allow for fascinating insights into Benedict XVI’s thinking – he is obviously very concerned about the state of the Church.” 

Bild reports that Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Bishop Georg Gänswein, did not wish to comment on the letters. 

Ganswein recently compared the current crisis in the Church — brought on by sexual abuse scandals and systematic cover-up by the hierarchy — to the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11. The Church, he said, is currently experiencing “its own 9/11.”

The publication of excerpts from Benedict’s private letters is already being stretched and spun by the main stream media. A New York Times article headline reads, “In Private letters, Benedict rebukes critics of Pope Francis,” with author Jason Horowitz tweeting out:  

Sources have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that the letters contain no such rebuke. If and when Bild decides to publish the private letters in full, the truth will be more fully known.

Pope Benedict XVI sent shockwaves through the Catholic world on February 11, 2013, when he announced his decision to resign the papacy. He reliquished the ministry of Bishop of Rome at 8:00 p.m. on February 28 of the same year. 

In his resignation speech, Benedict said he come to the “certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

“I am well aware,” he added, “that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”

“However,” he said, “in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

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