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The Publisher's Desk

The Publisher's Desk

On Pope Benedict XVI's legacy.


Like millions of Catholics around the world, the staff of The Lamp were saddened by the news that Pope Benedict XVI died on December 31 at the age of ninety-five. After a few moments of deliberation, we decided to devote the next issue of the magazine to a symposium on his life and legacy. We cast a deliberately wide net, inviting bishops, priests, scholars, and even politicians to share their reflections and, in some cases, personal memories of the Holy Father, a figure far more complex than critics—whose self-important posturing is recalled by Christopher Caldwell on page 25—acknowledged.

As Father Paul Scalia reminds us (page 25), the stereotypes of “God’s Rottweiler” died hard, not least because they were promoted by Joseph Ratzinger’s admirers as well as his enemies. Archbishop Joseph Naumann (page 48) calls him as “one of the gentlest, kindest, and most unassuming human beings whom I have ever met.” Much will be written about his influence as both pope and theologian, not least upon the generation of young priests formed and ordained during his pontificate, as Jon Tveit and Ambrose Dobrozsi recall (pages 28 and 31 respectively). But perhaps his greatest achievement was making the Gospel appear as it did to the earliest Christians, as “a thing new and strange.” (For this the source of this quotation, see our editor on page 53, on a book very few of our readers would expect him to have enjoyed.) As Archbishop Gomez puts it in his contribution on page 24, “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel. Nothing is more beautiful than to meet Jesus. Our Christian life, the life of faith, always begins with an invitation. It begins in friendship, in witness—one heart speaking to another heart about the love that they have found in Jesus.”

While we continue to mourn Benedict’s death and the divisions in the life of the Church that have become more apparent than ever in the months following his death, we also reject the cynicism and despair with which both have been greeted in various quarters. We agree with Michael Hanby, who concludes our symposium on page 48 not with callow optimism, but with an exhortation to hope, in the proper Christian sense of the word, that Benedict’s death will mean “not only the end of an era but the beginning of one”; that “what he lost on the battlefield of ecclesiastical politics” will finally be achieved—the “dark shadow of our long eclipse might” receding before “the light of truth.”

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