Weigel: A hinge moment in the history of the Church
“I think Benedict XVI will be remembered for many fine accomplishments. He was the greatest papal preacher since Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century. He was a master catechist.”
George Weigel, a leading American Catholic scholar, and author of the new book “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church,” shares with Vatican Radio his thoughts about Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy, in the days leading up to the Holy Father’s resignation.
He says Pope Benedict “showed himself a remarkably insightful analyst of the discontents of twenty-first century democracy and the essential moral foundations for any democratic civilisation of the future. He did that in his Regensburg lecture, his address at Westminster Hall in London, his address to the German Bundestag, his address at the United Nations.”
The Holy Father, he says, will also be remembered for his emphasis on the liturgy: “In terms of the Church, I think the Pope asked us to see beauty in the liturgy as a unique path towards a post-modern appreciation of the truth and the good in what the Church proclaims.”
Weigel sees Pope Benedict continuing the work begun by the Second Vatican Council and continued by Blessed John Paul II. “I think he secured the transition of what I call in this book ‘Evangelical Catholicism,’ the transition from the Church of the Counter-Reformation formed in the sixteenth century to the Church of the New Evangelisation which has been brought into being by the Second Vatican Council, John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI.”
He describes the relationship between the papacies of John Paul and Benedict as a kind of “dynamic continuity.” “These two pontificates, I think, will be viewed historically as two episodes in one great moment of giving an authoritative interpretation to the Second Vatican Council.” The two Popes “complemented one another in a remarkable way . . . [they] forged a remarkable working relationship that was a real mutual exchange of gifts between two men of supreme intelligence, one a philosopher, one a theologian – two men who had the humility to see in the other something that he lacked and that put together would work for the good of the Church.”
The conclusion of Pope Benedict’s papacy, says Weigel, marks the end of an era. “We are at a real hinge moment in the history of the Church, not simply because of this unprecedented ending of a pontificate but because of the very nature of the life of the Church at this moment in time.”