The pope emeritus who resigned from his functions five years ago on February 11, 2013, wrote a letter to Massimo Franco to be published in the Corriere della Sera, in answer to readers asking for news from him.
The typed letter that begins with “Dear Mr. Franco,” was signed by Joseph Ratzinger’s own hand. The former pope, who will turn 91 next April, said he “cannot but be thankful” that many readers of the newspaper wish to know how he is spending this last stage of his life.
Well aware of the “slow decline” of his “physical strength,” Benedict XVI told readers, “interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.”
His greatest comfort is “to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could not have imagined.”
On Sunday, February 11, 2018, it will have been five years since Benedict XVI announced his decision to resign from his charge as successor of Peter. He has since been living a retired life in a small monastery in the Vatican, along with four nuns and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who is also Prefect of the Pontifical Household.
Benedict XVI still has his unconditional followers. Some Vaticanists and conservative movements rally around his white cassock to attack Pope Francis, forgetting that he was one of the masterminds behind Vatican Council II and that his pontificate that is now over was perfectly in keeping with that of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. From the beginning of his reign, he was determined, to quote the terms of his first speech to the cardinals on April 20, 2005, in the Sistine Chapel, to apply the Gospel to today’s world “through the authoritative rereading of the Second Vatican Council.”
He visited mosques, synagogues, and temples where he made many gestures and speeches promoting inter-religious dialogue and “the ecumenism of prayer.” He put forward the “hermeneutics of continuity” in an attempt to reconcile the novelties of the Council “with the bi-millenary tradition of the Church”, based on the principle that there cannot not be continuity. Which is not enough to prove that this continuity really exists.
He did, however, do much good for souls by encouraging the Traditional Mass and declaring that the liturgical law from before the Novus Ordo had never been abrogated (July 7, 2007 Motu Proprio). He also repaired an injustice to some extent by lifting the effects of the decree that claimed to excommunicate the bishops of the SSPX (January 21, 2009). The four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre expressed their unanimous gratitude to him for this courageous act.