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BENEDICT XVI/ Light of the World: Portrait of the Pope

The interview with Benedict XVI reveals a pastor who speaks the language of the modern world  

Photo ANSA Photo ANSA

"A portrait of the pope" is the way journalist Peter Seewald describes his third book-length interview with Joseph Ratzinger. The figure of a patient and wise pastor is imprinted on these pages, and even his strongest supporters have been surprised by his candid comments.

Seewald is the first journalist in history to have conducted a “personal, direct interview” with a successor of Peter. No questions were refused, and only small corrections were made for accuracy. Some have credited Seewald’s previous interviews with making Ratzinger better known, thus "papabile" before his election as pope. For the journalist, it was this encounter which led him on a long personal journey to rediscover his childhood faith. One Bavarian journalist lamented over his colleague’s conversion: “It seems these days that being Catholic is more exotic than Buddhism.”

The interview ranges over subjects personal and global, from the headline-grabbing issues of condoms and women priests, to secularism and Islam, to his less commented upon but soulful observations of the Church's surprising vitality even through her humbling, and reflections on that dear topic, the liturgy. The pope did not intend a magisterial document, but rather to open a discussion on the Church's mission in the world as it is today.

Benedict spoke first of his election, of the "room of tears" where three sizes of robes are laid out for the new pontiff who will then address the world from the balcony. He entered immediately into an "urgent dialogue relationship with the Lord". Accepting this office was a consequence of his ordination, having placed himself "into the hands of the bishop and ultimately of the Lord." He recognizes, as he has evidently experienced often during these past five years, that "the Pope must always be prepared for the possibility that the witness he must give will become a scandal, will not be accepted, and that he will then be thrust into the situation of the Witness, the suffering Christ."