Benedict XVI defends Pope Francis on fifth anniversary of his election

Pope Francis greets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during a visit with new cardinals at the retired pope’s residence, Nov. 19, 2016 (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout).Pope Francis greets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during a visit with new cardinals at the retired pope’s residence, Nov. 19, 2016 (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout).

In a letter released today, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has strongly defended Pope Francis against those who claim he lacks theological and philosophical formation and has affirmed that “there is an internal continuity between the two pontificates.”

He did so in a personal letter to Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, on the occasion of the presentation of a series of 11 small books on “The Theology of Pope Francis,” written by the same number of theologians, the Vatican said. The collection was edited by the Rev. Roberto Repole, president of the Italian Theological Association.


In the letter dated Feb. 7 and made known today by Msgr. Vigano during a press conference for the presentation of the books in the Sala Marconi of Vatican Radio, Benedict welcomed the publication of these volumes for setting the record right about his successor.

Benedict affirmed that “there is an internal continuity between the two pontificates.”

He wrote: “I applaud this initiative that seeks to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice according to which Pope Francis would only be a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation, while I would have been only a theoretician of theology that understood little of the concrete life of a Christian today.”

Benedict thanked Msgr. Vigano for sending him the collection of books and said, “these small volumes rightly show that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation and they help [people] therefore to see the internal continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences of style and temperament.”


The collection is published by the Vatican Publishing House and its new head, Brother Giulio Cesareo, O.F.M.Conv., revealed that the series will be translated into English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Polish and Romanian.

This unexpected letter is an important defense of Pope Francis against all those, including some cardinals, bishops, priests and theologians, who allege that Francis lacks the necessary philosophical and theological preparation, with some even accusing him of heresy, and charge that his pontificate is not in continuity with that of his predecessor.

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James Haraldson
10 months 2 weeks ago

Obviously Benedict has been kept in the dark, because a process theologian, like Francis, is not even in accord with Godliness, and a moral relativist, like Francis, who justifies the taking of innocent human life for "proportionate" reasons is not in accord with minimal human decency.

Dennis Galon
10 months 2 weeks ago

Obviously, James, if we want to know whether a pope is Godly and moral, we have to consult you. Not only are you able to assess that with apparent infallibility for us, you are evidently in a position to ascertain that Benedict has been kept in the dark about his successor. Given the depth of your information, would you please explain to us how it is the Benedict is being "kept in the dark," and by whom.

Also, it would appear, on the basis of your knowledge, that Benedict could not possibly have written the letter described in this article approving of Francis' theology. Perhaps you can tell us who wrote this letter, and whether Benedict's signature is forged? or perhaps the letter was slipped in a pile of stuff he was signing without knowing what it was?

Colin Jory
10 months 2 weeks ago

"This unexpected letter is an important defense of Pope Francis". It is nothing of the kind; it is an exercise in damning with faint praise. Benedict's "defence" of Pope Francis consists only in saying he's not a theological know-nothing. Benedict makes no attempt to defend him against the often-aired and well-substantiated charges that he's a cynical situation ethicist with a profound contempt for perennial Christian sexual morality, and a behind-the-scenes foul-mouthed, vindictive thug.

Rosemari Zagarri Prof
10 months 2 weeks ago

That's because Benedict heartily disavows your contemptuous and ill-informed dismissal of Francis, who is your POPE. Under Benedict, it was considered "heresy" to be disloyal to your Pope. So suddenly you know better than the Holy FATHERS?

Stephen Feldman
10 months 2 weeks ago

Patience and reflection, we are reminded, are virtue.

Edward Graff
10 months 2 weeks ago

My grandfather used to warn against people who were “more Catholic than the Pope.”

Dennis Galon
10 months 2 weeks ago

It was my grandmother who passed on that bit of wise wit to me.

Caroline Daniel
10 months 1 week ago

i am one of those who tend to agree with James Haraldson and Colin Jory

Douglas Fang
10 months 1 week ago

Why there are so many non-Catholics come to this magazine and viciously attack Pope Francis? Are you part of the troll machine coordinated by some anti-Catholic network or organization? You know that the Church will survive any attacks from you as she has survived the attacks from the devils throughout history.

Tim Donovan
10 months 1 week ago

As a gay Catholic who has regretted having had sex with men, I received forgiveness and consolation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a compassionate priest. Just this evening, I read an article in Our Sunday Visitor weekly newspaper that Pope Francis urged priests to be good listeners when hearing people's confessions, especially those of young people. I agree that it's crucial to have a priest/confessor listen carefully to penitents, so that he can give appropriate guidance to the individual, as well as whatever prayers or acts of remission for sins are needed. Although it was painful growing up being often taunted with the slur word faggot, I realize that I am a child of God. I
don't believe that Pope Benedict, who I greatly admire, could hardly be considered a dupe who was mysteriously led into making a statement in support of Pope Francis.against his will. There's no doubt that the two men have different personalities, but that's natural. As an imperfect Catholic, I have always been staunchly pro-life in favor of the right to life for the innocent unborn. I know of no reason to believe that Pope Francis, who has called abortion "the death penalty for the unborn," has in any way weakened the authentic teaching of our faith regarding the violence of legal abortion. I might add that I just finished reading the September 15, 2016 article by Father Matt Malone, about whether Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and teaching a university class in 1968, was a " liberal" who became a "conservative." My observation is that of my late Dad, a devout and intelligent Catholic father and husband, who noted that " conservative " and "liberal" are political terms. Such terms, in his view (with which I firmly agree), have no place in our faith. The only legitimate question to ask is whether or not an individual believes in the authentic teachings of the Church founded by Jesus, or not?

Robert Lewis
10 months 1 week ago

Perhaps you SHOULD regard merely "having sex with men" as sinful, but I don't think you need necessarily feel remorse over loving men romantically--if you ever did. There's a difference, and the latter has a chance of yielding to chastity.

Kevin Murphy
10 months 1 week ago

I've come to the point that I don't believe anything coming out of the Vatican. It is a corrupt institution filled with petty men.

Douglas Fang
10 months 1 week ago

Another troll attack from the anti-Catholic network. These troll attacks are just nonsense, vicious, and devoid of any substance. Why are they afraid of this Pope and this magazine? Probably because these trolls live in darkness and hate the light, or they are paid to do so, or they are just non-human bots...

Christopher Lochner
10 months 1 week ago

To be anti Francis is in no way, shape, or form to be anti Catholic nor is it to be a troll. Might I remind people of the dangers of idolatry because it certainly appears to be the guiding force in the love of Francis effect. People are not afraid of Francis, they are simply attempting to help him resolve the many issues he has with his sins. Francis is a very shrewd and almost Machiavellian pope the likes of which we have not seen for hundreds of years. (See post concerning blurring of documents)

Alice Ritter
10 months 1 week ago

It saddens me that the adherents of my catholic faith have devolved into hateful attacks similar to those in political discourse. I would hope that we could see each person as valuable and be willing to discuss issues.

Gay Timothy O'Dreary
10 months 1 week ago

Viva Papa Francisco! Profeta, Bendición, Gracia de Dios, un Milagro para nuestro mundo

¡Te amamos Papa Francisco!

Ysais Martinez
10 months 1 week ago

I would not expect anything less from a man with an unparalleled prudence as pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.


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