I have sometimes wondered as a convert what it would be like to have been a cradle Catholic and to have studied and lived the faith throughout my life. To have fully interiorized the faith. Oh and If I were a lot more intelligent I would get a idea of this what this would be like by the Pope’s latest book Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times by the answers he gives.
This is the third interview book he has done with Journalist Peter Seevald who talked with the pope for an hour each time over six weeks and the book is made up by his questions, follow up questions and the answers the Pope spoke to him. There has been much controversy over one of the Pope’s answer to one question and they focused on a word. Catholic convert Marshall McLuhan said “The Media is the Message” and I would add often that the “Media misses the message.”
Having read the previous to Seevald books along with the large majority of Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings you defiantly get a sense of the man and a man who has in no important ways changed as pope. His honesty and humility is shown throughout the book and he does not allow the interviewer to maker larger claims on what he has achieved than is warranted. Seevald would make factual claims about the size of the Church numerically and the Pope in terms of Power and Pope Benedict wold remind him that while the number of members is numerically large that the number of people living the Catholic faith is much smaller and of course would also dismiss things in term of power. While Pope Benedict XVI has great gifts, he realizes who those gifts are from. Throughout the book the Pope’s replies are very direct and at the same time fully eloquent in reply to the questions. While reading this book I often wished that others would imitate the pope in his honesty in replying to question without the slightest hint of spin or building themselves up.
There are also very human and funny moments in the book. His reply to why he wore the Camauro was hilarious and a warning to those who would give too much meaning to what the Pope wears at times. His talking about his small community in the papal household and their watching of DVDs together was nice look into his life that is so busy. Some of his feelings of becoming Pope have been released before, but this book goes more into those questions and his feelings at the time. He really was surprised to be elected Pope and like so much of his life once again turned himself over fully to Christ and not his predilection of living a quiet intellectual life with his brother for the rest of his days. Also very interesting was his talking about his relationship with Pope John Paul II and that it was his book “Introduction to Christianity” that was a factor in him seeking Josef Ratzinger as head of the CDF. His answers like much of Catholicism are of the both/and type. When it comes to the Church and secularism his answer was about where we could learn from secularism and what we must oppose.
Peter Seewald as interviewer though is also a major part of what makes the book enjoyable. He asks a range of often astute questions that enables us to hear what the Pope thinks about something. Seewald as always has done his homework and has been a close watcher of the Pope and what he has written and said. This brings out a range of topics and important questions that a less skilled interviewer could not even approach. Though the only negative would be that Seewald has a view of Global Warming almost apocalyptic which almost ruins some questions. Though the Pope in answering them does not reply in the same tones and his answers are well-worth reading. Though it certainly seems to be true as evidenced by what the Pope has previously said that he has some belief in human caused global warming.
While the interview considers several controversies this is a book mostly about Jesus and his Church. Of following Christ closely and seeing Jesus as the one who comes. These sections of the book won’t generate any headlines, but they are meant to generate saints. The Pope is first off a disciple of Jesus and one who sees his very life as bringing Jesus to others and in his role as Pope to the world.
When he does address various controversies again you see his discipleship. The sexual abuse crisis is certainly not lost on him and he sees directly this evil and what has been done by those in the church and most of all to the victims. There is an empathy in his tone in no way faked. On women’s ordination and the idea that Jesus couldn’t ordain women because of cultural concerns he directly labeled “nonsense” and that the cultures of the time were filled with priestesses. The issue of lifting the excommunication on the four SSXP bishops and the reason why was a fuller answer than I have seen before and he also addressed that somebody should have checked the internet to have determined the type of man Williamson was since it would have been treated much differently then. Oh and the Pope said something about condoms.
This book was a wonderful read which I admit to binge reading the moment it came in the mail. I though I could hardly love the Pope more, but now there is even more I love about him.
It is almost silly to review a book from our Pope. Really the review should be just go out and buy it or obtain immediately from a library, etc. For those with ebook readers you can buy a DRM-free version of the book from Ignatius Press, along with downloading the audio version, and of course get the book itself.