Saturday, May 2, 2009

John Paul II: My Beloved Predecessor

By Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI, 121 pages, $19.95, Pauline.

“What can this sick, suffering, tired old man say, who in moments of physical fatigue speaks with visible weariness?” These words were written by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (present Pope Benedict XVI), a close associate of Pope John Paul II, concerning the late pontiff's controversial visit to France in 1996.

John Paul II's rich theological and spiritual legacy only continues to grow. My Beloved Predecessor brings together a collection of writings on John Paul, his work and ministry, by Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Ratzinger the theologian writes with such clarity that his thoughts on John Paul's teachings help us understand the late pontiff, including some of the difficult-to-understand philosophical pillars of John Paul II such as phenomenology and personalism.

Ratzinger sums up the workings of these two closely-related philosophical schools on John Paul's ideas: “This precision in seeing, this comprehension of man beginning not from abstractions and theoretical principles, but seeking to grasp his reality with love, was – and remains – decisive for the pope's thought.”

Because this collection comes from writings in reaction to or in support of teachings and events during the pontificate of John Paul II, they contain a freshness and simplicity that clarifies and keeps to the original feeling and intent.

The funeral homily remains the most powerful statement on John Paul's pontificate: “The Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months.”

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