Benedict XVI’s funeral will be witnessed by thousands and thousands of faithful converging on Rome.
The latter is related to this philosopher-pope who had nothing ordinary and made the sudden decision to leave his posts, nearly ten years ago, because he no longer felt able to exercise them fully.
Despite this, it will have marked the recent history of Catholicism and Europe, especially since it was bound by the intimate, even existential, link that history has forged between the two, and since the last half century has seen its collapse.
Benedict XVI was haunted by the abolition of Christianity from Europe. Through him, he saw not only a loss of faith but also a form of cultural collapse.
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Because how do we understand the history, culture, literature or philosophy of Western civilization if one does not understand its Christian matrix? As the West became alien to Christianity, the West became alien to itself, which worried Benedict XVI. Whether you’re a believer or not, can you totally give him the wrong one?
In addition, has one great civilization been known without a religious dimension? The fall of Christianity did not lead to the extinction of the sacred in our societies, but rather its dispersal into a thousand small redemptive religions, associated with “new spiritualities” that reconnect with the most primitive superstitions. It is not certain that we win by change.
How do we explain this fall, however harsh and rapid, on the scale of history, of Western Christianity? Without dismissing modernity, Benedict XVI asked whether the Church had not partially sabotaged itself in recent decades, by abandoning some of its most sacred traditions. He wanted to reconcile the Church with them, especially its liturgy.
He was also stubborn in the face of sexual offenses in the Church, which he made no attempt to put into account, and denounced them head-on.
Two great sermons marked his pontificate.
In his speech in Regensburg, in 2006, he wanted to remember that faith and reason, far from an irreducible opposition, shed light on each other. Reason leads to the inexplicable mystery of existence, and to the possibility of faith, but whoever plunges into mystery without going through reason loses his head and chooses obscurantism.
In his 2008 address to the Bernardines, he asked what future we could ascribe to a civilization that had become alien to what he called “the question of God.” Benedict XVI noted that there are many of them today who want to defend the culture that stems from Christianity. He wondered, however, how far this culture could survive by cutting itself off from its spiritual roots.
As we have said, Benedict XVI left office and retired to a life of prayer. While today the Church tends to lose itself in social activity, as we see with Pope Francis, he has thus reminded the importance of the interior life, of silence, and even of prayer.
He was, I think, a wonderful dad.
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