Papal Interview

So an English translation of the German-language interview with Benedict that aired last evening is available here. Not the most groundbreaking stuff, but a few good tidbits.

One in particular...which sounds a lot more like the ecclesiologist I know...concerns episcopal collegiality and using the papacy to strengthen, rather than weaken, the moral and legal authority of local bishops. So, while this is the same man who has some strong doctrinal disagreements with attributing theological authority to episcopal conferences as such (see JPII's motu proprio Apostolos Suos, as well as Ratzinger's personal writings as early as the always-intriguing Ratzinger Report), in practice, he's already making some more collegial moves:

Question: Holy Father, your predecessor beatified and canonized a huge number of Christians. Some people say even too many. This is my question: beatifications and canonizations only bring something new to the Church when these people are seen as true models. Germany produces relatively few saints and blessed in comparison with other countries. Can anything be done to develop this pastoral sphere so that beatifications and canonizations can give real pastoral fruit?

Benedict XVI: In the beginning I also thought that the large number of beatifications was almost overwhelming and that perhaps we needed to be more selective; choosing figures that entered our consciousness more clearly. Meanwhile, I decentralized the beatifications in order to make these figures more visible in the specific places they came from. Perhaps a saint from Guatemala doesn’t interest us in Germany and vice versa, someone from Altotting is of no interest in Los Angeles, and so on, right?
I also think that this decentralization is more in keeping with the collegiality of the episcopate, with its collegial structures, and that it’s suitable for stressing how different countries have their own personalities and these are especially effective in these countries. I’ve also seen how these beatifications in different places touch vast numbers of people and that people say: “At last, this one is one of us!”. They pray to him and are inspired. The blessed soul belongs to them and we’re happy there are lots of them. And if, gradually, with the development of a global society, we too get to know them, that’s wonderful. But it’s especially important that multiplicity exists in this field also because it’s important that we too in Germany get to know our own figures and are happy for them. Besides this issue there’s that of the canonization of greater figures who are examples for the whole Church. I’d say that the individual Episcopal Conferences ought to choose, ought to decide what’s best for them, what this person is saying to us, and they should give visibility to people who leave a profound impression, but not too many of them.
And, when discussing the relations between the pope and the other bishops, he has this to say:

Question: As Bishop of Rome you are the successor of St Peter. How can the ministry of Peter manifest itself fittingly in today’s world? And how do you see the tensions and equilibrium between the primacy of the Pope, on one hand, and the collegiality of the Bishops, on the other?

Benedict XVI: Of course there is a relationship of tension and equilibrium and, we say, that’s the way it has to be. Multiplicity and unity must always find their reciprocal rapport and this relationship must insert itself in ever new ways into the changing situations in the world. We have a new polyphony of cultures nowadays in which Europe is no longer the determining factor. Christians on the various continents are starting to have their own importance, their own charateristics. We must keep learning about this fusion of the different components. We’ve developed various instruments to help us: the so-called “ad limina visits” of the Bishops, which have always taken place. Now they are used much more in order to speak sincerely with all the offices of the Holy See and with me. I speak personally to each Bishop. I’ve already spoken to nearly all the Bishops of Africa and with many of the Bishops from Asia. Now it’s the turn of Central Europe, Germany, Switzerland. In these encounters in which the Centre and the Periphery come together in an open exchange of views, I think that the correct reciprocal exchange in this balanced tension grows. We also have other instruments like the Synod, the Consistory, which I shall be holding regularly and which I would like to develop. Without having a long agenda we can discuss current problems together and look for solutions. Everyone knows that the Pope is not an absolute monarch but that he has to personify, you might say, the totality that comes together to listen to Christ. There’s a strong awareness that we need a unifying figure that can guarantee independence from political powers and that Christians don’t identify too much with nationalism. There’s an awareness of the need for a higher and broader figure that can create unity in the dynamic integration of all parties and that can embrace and promote multiplicity. So I believe there’s a close bond between the petrine ministry which is expressed in the desire to develop it further so that it responds both to the Lord’s will and to the needs of the times.

Note that, unlike, say, Pius IX* or even the XIIth, this pope talks about a unifying figure bringing the bishops together to listen to Christ...not to the pope. This is a model of pope much more as the Vicar of Peter, who holds Peter's place as the head of the apostles, rather than as Vicar of Christ, who somehow holds Christ's place in relation to the Church. It's a subtle point, but I think crucial for a proper understanding of the papacy, particularly in the interests of a papal practice which would be recognizable and acceptable to other Christians across the ecumenical spectrum. (This is also a point made by my diss. subject, Jean-Marie Tillard, in his book The Bishop of Rome...I'm knee deep in Tillardiana right now, trying to get chapters written before the summer curls up and dies, which also explains the lightness of blogging these days...)

*also need to add...at the Lowell Folk Festival a few weeks back, the Latino association at the local Catholic church was selling, among other foods, a kind of tamale called a "pio nono"...basically a plantain stuffed with ground beef. It was very tasty. Here's a recipe.


World Peace Religion said...

The Pope is infallible.

BaptizedPagan said...

Well, that's perhaps the shortest comment I've gotten in a while.
To speak carefully (and when speaking about the pope, one always needs to speak carefully), infallibility should be attributed to him adverbially, not adjectivally...in other words, in certain carefully circumscribed circumstances, according to Vatican I, the pope "speaks infallibly"; it goes too far to simply say that he "is" infallible...the assistance of the Holy Spirit upon which the dogma depends is an assistance to an act, presumably but not necessarily done in the wider context of ecclesial relations, not to a person in himself. Hair-splitting? Perhaps. But Francis Sullivan, S.J., thinks its important, and its what keeps me both catholic and intellectually in good conscience.