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'The Encyclical Not Written By Benedict XVI'

Jean-Marie Guénois - Mon, Mar 4th 2013

The power and fruitfulness of humility

The following is our translation of the French article that appeared in  the “Figaro Magazine”  on 15 February 2013, entitled “The Encyclical Not Written By Benedict XVI”.


 Benedict XVI will not publish the Encyclical on faith that he was to present this spring, even though it is almost finished. He no longer has time. Moreover, no Successor is bound to complete an unfinished encyclical of his Predecessor. However there is another encyclical of Benedict XVI, hidden in his heart, an unwritten encyclical; or, rather, it has not been written by his pen but by the action of his pontificate. This encyclical is not a text but a reality: humility.

On 19 April 2005, as soon as he was elected Pope, this man who belongs to the race of intellectual eagles, feared by his adversaries, admired by his students and respected by all for the perception of his analyses on the Church and the world, presented himself as a lamb led to the slaughterhouse. He even used the formidable word, “guillotine” to describe the sentiment that assailed him the very moment when – in the Sistine Chapel closed to the world – his brother cardinals turned to him alone, elected from among them all, to applaud him. His bowed silhouette and the surprise on his face are proof of it.

Then came his apprenticeship to the papal office. He uprooted, in the sense of roots buried in the earth, his eternal timidity, quick of mind though     awkward, to project himself to the world. It was a shock on both sides. He was unable to summon up the inner ease of the late John Paul II. As for the world it misunderstood this ineffectual Pope. Benedict XVI did not even have the 100 days of grace permitted to profane presidents. He doubtless had divine grace, fine but so unworldly. Yet again and again, in the sight of all, he always had the humility to learn.

Lastly there were the terrible past seven years of his pontificate. Never before, in a certain way, had a Pope been so far from “successful”. From one polemic to the next: the crisis with Islam after his Discourse at Regensberg when he spoke of religious violence; the distortion of his views on AIDS during his first Journey to Africa which sparked a global outcry; the shame he suffered during the explosion of the paedophile priests issue which he had to deal with; the Williamson affair, when his act of generosity to the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre (the Pope lifted their excommunications) turned into global reprobation against Benedict XVI for not having been informed of the negationist tendencies of one of them with regard to the Shoah; misunderstanding and difficulty in achieving transparency concerning Vatican finances; the betrayal of a member of his entourage in the Vatileaks affair when his major-domo stole confidential letters in order to publish them....

He has not had a year of respite. He has been spared nothing. The unusually violent moral trials of this litany of misfortunes suffered by Benedict XVI seem to correspond to the physical trials of John Paul II's pontificate, the attack on his life followed by Parkinson's disease. Thus in his renunciation the Pope is effacing himself; even from the image of his pontificate. But God alone knows the power and fruitfulness of humility.

  Jean-Marie Guénois

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