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.