The bookish pope

The first pope to use Twitter, the first pope to abdicate since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, Benedict XVI, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in Germany, was considered one modern history’s more intellectual pontiffs. His mission was a philosophical and theological battle to face the challenges of modernity by advocating a return to fundamental Christian values. Indeed, as President of the International Theological Commission, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission from 1981 to 2005 he had been the “brain” behind the politics of reestablishing and updating the Catholic Church. In particular, he viewed relativism’s denial of objective truth as the central problem of the 21st century. But already when he became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959 his inaugural lecture was on “The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy.”
Over the years he has written 66 books. But the writing that consecrated his fame as a theologian was Einführung in das Christentum: a 1968 book published in English as Introduction to Christianity. In 1985 he had a bestseller with Rapporto Sulla Fede; in English The Ratzinger Report. It was a series of interviews given by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, a notorious Catholic traditionalist. The book focuses on the state of the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, strongly criticizing the “hermeneutic of rupture” associated with the liberal “spirit of Vatican II” within the Church. Also very important in the theology of Cardinal Ratzinger was the 1988 Eschatologie, Tod und ewiges Leben, in English Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. The book is the indeed the study of the “eschaton,” the times of the end, or “last things,” such as the Second Coming, heaven, and hell. His last important title before becoming pope was published in 2004 Glaube – Wahrheit – Toleranz: Das Christentum und die Weltreligionen. In English, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. It is a discussion about  faith, religion, culture, freedom, and truth, with special emphasis on the Christian religion, how it relates to the other, and whether it can continue to make an absolute claim as the true religion. In the preface it is stated that “beyond all particular questions, the real problem lies in the question about truth.” Among the 20 titles published since he became pope in 2005 the elections, the most important is the Trilogy about Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth, the first one, was issued for Benedict XVI’s April 16, 2007 birthday, “no way an exercise of the magisterium,” but rather an “expression of his personal search for the face of the Lord,” and  stops short of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and subsequent Passion and Resurrection. The second volume: Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, was published in 2011. This book’s introduction states that he has “attempted to develop a way of observing and listening to the Jesus of the Gospels that can indeed lead to a personal encounter,” trying “to maintain a distance from any controversies over particular points and to consider only the essential words and deeds of Jesus.” The third and last volume of the Trilogy was Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, released November 20, 2012.