Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Pope Emeritus Benedict's letter on a series of books on the theology of Pope Francis

by Pope Benedict XVI

Descriptive Title

Letter on Publication of a Series of Books on Theology of Pope Francis


To more effectively promote a new series of books on the theology of Pope Francis, Msgr. Dario Vigano, Prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, requested a review from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Benedict replied with a letter (marked private and confidential) making a few observations but declining to write a review since he had not, and would not, read the books. Msgr. decided to use carefully-selected portions of this letter to give the appearance that Benedict was in full support of the theological ideas of Pope Francis. In the following days, Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister discovered the full text of the letter, which gives an entirely different impression. For more background, see Phil Lawler's commentary, Papal continuity or discontinuity? The Vatican PR team scores on its own goal.

Larger Work

National Catholic Register

Publisher & Date

National Catholic Register, March 17, 2018

Benedictus XVI
Pope Emeritus

Most Reverend Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò
Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications

Vatican City

February 7, 2018

Most Reverend Monsignor,

Thank you for your kind letter of 12 January and the attached gift of the eleven small volumes edited by Roberto Repole.

I applaud this initiative that wants to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice in which Pope Francis is just a practical man without particular theological or philosophical formation, while I have been only a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete life of a Christian today.

The small volumes show, rightly, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences of style and temperament.

However, I don’t feel like writing a short and dense theological passage on them because throughout my life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books I had read really well. Unfortunately, if only for physical reasons, I am unable to read the eleven volumes in the near future, especially as other commitments await me that I have already made.

Only as an aside, I would like to note my surprise at the fact that among the authors is also Professor Hünermann, who during my pontificate had distinguished himself by leading anti-papal initiatives. He played a major part in the release of the “Kölner Erklärung”, which, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendour”, virulently attacked the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. Also the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft”, which he founded, was initially conceived by him as an organization in opposition to the papal magisterium. Later, the ecclesial sentiment of many theologians prevented this orientation, allowing that organization to become a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am sure you will understand my refusal and I offer you cordial greetings.


Benedict XVI

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