Prominent Theologians Present "Jesus of Nazareth"
‘Benedict XVI is not a "pontifical dictator," but someone who gives us something to think about.’ This is the description proposed by Father Olegario González de Cardedal, a theologian and member of the Spanish Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas (Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences).
This comment was made by the Father Olegario when he was presenting the second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth", written by Benedict XVI, on Monday at the Spanish embassy to the Holy See. He was joined by the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer.
One of the main themes at the presentation was the level of authority the book carries, despite the Holy Father's own clarification in this regard in the preface to Volume 1. There he affirmed that the book "is in no way an exercise of the magisterium. ... Everyone is free, then, to contradict me."
Father Ladaria, as he was affectionately called by the auditorium filled with countrymen from Spain, explained that "it is a personal book."
"What authority does it have? The authority of the author," he said. "The fact that the author is Pope adds authority, but not because it is a magisterial authority, but because he is a recognized personality."
"It is a book of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI. It has the authority of the great theological trajectory of Joseph Ratzinger. It must be clear that it is not teaching of the Church," he added.
Replying to the same question, Father González de Cardedal, a friend of Ratzinger from his youth, said he believes Benedict XVI has brought a novelty to the papacy: He is a Successor of Peter who is a theologian, having dedicated a good part of his life to research and to university-level teaching.
"He is an authority who, before giving us something to obey, gives us something to think about," the priest reflected. "The conscience must discern the different levels of authority with which he exercises his mission and with the corresponding reaction to it. In this book he makes one think and tries to make one reflect with him. For some reason God willed that a theologian should be Pope."
"Man wants to be enlightened in his intelligence and this is the great debt of gratitude we owe the Pope. He is not a pontifical dictator, he is someone who gives us something to think about," Father González de Cardedal added.
Discovering the Real Jesus
Archbishop Ladaria echoed this reflection explaining that "we must see how the Pope, before making us obey, makes us think."
"It would be very interesting to see the coincidences that exist between the exhortation 'Verbum Domini,' which is magisterium. There one can see how what Ratzinger thinks enters into the teaching of Benedict XVI," the Curia official suggested. "He makes us see that the real Jesus is acceded by combining, as he himself says, the two hermeneutics of history and faith, not confusing them but not separating them. And this, it seems to me, is the great value of this book."
"It is a book that endeavors to introduce us into the encounter with Jesus," the archbishop continued. "He wants to introduce us to the encounter that he has had with Jesus Christ, not so that we will repeat his, but so that we make use of his."
Archbishop Ladaria clarified that the book does not fall into separating "thought" and "heart."
"It is the faith testimony of someone who has behind him many years of scientific research and encounter with Jesus," he stressed.
And, the prelate added, "we encounter Jesus in the Gospels. We encounter Jesus in the Gospels that the Church has transmitted to us since the early times."
Father González de Cardedal suggested that the book is decisive for the life and trajectory of its author, written at the end of a life of research and meditation.
He advised that one "take time" to read it: "It isn't a newspaper article; it must be read with calm and recollection."
"St. Ignatius said that one had to hear Jesus' words as if one was there, as if he was saying them to me," the theologian concluded. "This book must be read at Ratzinger's feet, as if he is saying it to me."