Catholic World News

Benedict XVI speaks on crisis of faith, theme of God's mercy, in new interview

March 16, 2016

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI speaks about a “deep crisis” of faith in the Catholic world after Vatican II, and strongly supports the emphasis that Pope Francis places on God’s mercy, in a rare public interview made public today.

The interview with the former Pontiff-- conducted by Father Jacques Servais, a Jesuit theologian—appears as a chapter in a new book published in Italy, containing the proceedings of a conference held in Rome last year. During the conference Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the longtime personal secretary to Pope Benedict, presented the interview.

Reflecting on the nature of Christian faith, the retired Pope says that personal faith is inextricably connected with the Church:

On the one hand, faith is a deeply personal communication with God, which touches my very core and places me in direct contact with the living God so that I can talk to Him, love Him and enter into communion with Him. At the same time, this highly personal experience is inextricably linked to the community: becoming one of God’s children in the community of pilgrim brothers and sisters is part of the essence of the faith.

Benedict XVI remarks that the great missionaries of Catholic history acted on the belief that people must be brought into the Church for the salvation of their souls. But that belief was lost in the wake of Vatican II, he says. “The result was a deep crisis,” the retired Pope said. “Why should you try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it?”

However, Benedict continued, “there is still a perception that we are all in need of grace and forgiveness.” He said that this recognition was a major theme of the pontificate of St. John Paul II, which has now been taken up by Pope Francis. He explained:

It is mercy that steers us towards God, while justice makes us fearful in his presence. I believe this shows that beneath the veneer of self-confidence and self-righteousness, today’s mankind conceals a profound knowledge of its wounds and unworthiness before God. It awaits mercy.


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  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Mar. 17, 2016 9:54 AM ET USA

    After reading Cardinal Sarah"s "God or Nothing", I now better accept Benedict XVI's retiring to a life of prayer and contemplation. However, I will never stop missing his voice - the clarity and charity with which he expresses himself is such a treasure. Perhaps Cardinal Sarah, who shares these qualities, can take up some of the same work.