After the death of Benedict XVI: Failed to reconcile

After the death of Benedict XVI: Failed to reconcile

As Pope, Joseph Ratzinger had the opportunity to bring Germans and Poles closer together. Christians and Jews. He couldn’t.

Pope Benedict raises both arms to give the blessing

Pope Benedict XVI bestows his blessing in the pope window of the Archbishop’s Palace in Kraków, 2006 Photo: Eastnews/imago

Shortly after succeeding Karol Wojtyła to the papal throne, Joseph Ratzinger made his first pilgrimage to Poland, the country of his “great predecessor,” as he put it. As journalists, we then observed to what extent Poles, used to seeing their compatriot on the Holy See, would accept a German as his successor.

Of course, as Pope in Poland, Ratzinger was never treated like Wojtyła. Although there was no shortage of honors, he was not regarded as a successor, but at most as a deputy. Ratzinger looked nothing like the showman Wojtyła, directing the believers’ collective emotions like a professional politician. photos of him with the glasses of Bono from U2 went around the world.

Such a moment in the career of Benedict XVI, the deadly serious clergyman from Marktl, would be unimaginable. Today, however, the tone in which people talk about one pope and the other is strikingly similar in our country. Poland is more than ever from the outrage over the abuse scandals of the Church shaken.

If not so long ago more than 90 percent of the population identified as Catholic, today only 42 percent of those surveyed say they practice their faith regularly. The sins of omission of both popes are difficult for contemporaries to accept, and years later they find themselves in the same place. Nevertheless, many thousands of believers from all over the world attended the Funeral of Benedict XVI part.

When asked what was important to them about his character, they often answer that it is about theological writings. It is doubtful whether this is also the case from a Polish point of view, since the Poles hardly know Ratzinger’s writings. However, from a local point of view, the discussion about the Christian theology of the Holocaust, which Ratzinger devoted many years of his life to before he became pope, is of particular interest.

Controversial interpretation of the Holocaust

During his 2006 pilgrimage there was only one place where Benedict XVI. did not follow in the footsteps of John Paul II: the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Many people still remember the images from that visit and especially the rainbow that appeared as he preached.

More important than the pictures, however, was the meaning of the sermon. Ratzinger emphasized that Auschwitz represents the greatest challenge to contemporary Christian theology, since no other event has had such a transformative effect on the modern concept of God. He interpreted the annihilation of the Jews as a deliberate and organized attempt not only to kill millions of people but also to kill God as such.

Therefore, according to Ratzinger, this event is neither statute-barred nor forgotten and the world can never look the same again afterwards. It is doubtful, however, that Ratzinger’s intellectual efforts in this area were successful. Many Jewish theologians have criticized such Christian Holocaust theology. A central argument of the critics was that the figure of the killing of God in Christianity is connected to the event of Good Friday.

However, Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday, i.e. the resurrection. After the Shoah, on the other hand, only a void remains. The Polish-German reconciliation and the Christian-Jewish reconciliation – both belonged to the potentials of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. What a pity that he didn’t manage to do either of those things.

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