“For the Church, the presence of a Pope Emeritus in addition to the one in charge is a new situation. And since they love each other, it is great news.” This is what Pope Francis writes in the preface to the book Servant of God and Humanity. The Biography of Benedict XVI, published by Mondadori. Friend of the Pope Emeritus for many years, Elio Guerriero traces a convincing portrait of him in this text, which in addition to the preface written by Bergoglio, proposes an interview with Benedict XVI, the first one released after he left the pontificate.
In the preface, Francis explains that what he has in common with Ratzinger is service to the Church, namely “The announcement of God’s merciful love for the world.” The “profound spiritual bond” and “mutual love” is a “clear expression” of the “continuity of the Petrine ministry, without interruption, as if they were rings of the same chain.” “With him, I have been able to experience not only reverence and obedience, but also friendly spiritual closeness, joy of praying together, sincere brotherhood, understanding and friendship, and readiness to give advice.” “God’s people – he continues – has understood this: every time the Pope Emeritus, accepting my invitation, appeared in public and I could embrace him in front of everyone, the joy and the applause of the present people were sincere and intense.”
“Everyone in the Church – the Pope writes – has a great debt of gratitude towards Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI for the depth and balance of his theological thought, always in the service of the Church, up to the highest responsibility”: the “contribution of his faith and culture to a magisterium” capable of “meeting the expectations of our time” was “fundamental”. “The courage and determination with which he faced difficult situations – he points out – have shown the way to react with humility and truth, in the spirit of renewal and purification.”
When Guerriero – a well-known theologian and historian, former publishing manager at Jaca Book and San Paolo Editions – interviewed Benedict XVI, the latter expressed absolute obedience and feelings of deep communion and friendship towards Francis. He also expressed his gratitude to Providence for the election of the present Pope”, almost at the end of the world, which “took place in the sign of the catholicity, after two popes from central Europe.
Emeritus Pope says he is deeply touched by the humanity of his successor, who often sends him small gifts and letters, and go to visit him before embarking on long journeys: “What he says about helpfulness to other men – writes Benedict XVI – are not only words. He puts them into practice with me” in a “wonderfully paternal-fraternal relationship”,” a special grace in this last phase of my life.” “May the Lord make him feel His benevolence every day. This is what I pray the Lord for him” he concludes.
With respect to the reasons for his resignation from the Petrine ministry, Ratzinger explains that he “fully experienced the limits of his physical endurance” after the apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, and his inability to take any other transoceanic flight in the future. On the eve of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro summer of 2013, not feeling able to a “commitment in which the physical presence of the Pope was necessary”, Benedict XVI, in prayer before God, found serenity in the decision to withdraw: “I should have worried – he concludes – if I was not convinced that I am a simple and humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard.”