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His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
6 Books by Pope Benedict XVI Every Catholic Should Read
Listers with the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, we wanted to share with you part of his lasting legacy as a theologian and teacher. In the history of the popes, it is hard to find anyone as easy to read and understand. His writings are, moreover, a beautiful blend of timeless and timely teaching, and at the center of all of his writings is the ever present search for the “Face of Christ” in his own personal relationship with Christ.
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Possibly the most important book to understanding the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI, this is also the oldest book in this list. Originally written in 1968, this work is the most time-specific writing in this list, but the timelessness of Ratzinger’s “narrative Christology” reveals a process of encountering Christ in our own time and present situation while rooting that encounter within the walls of the Church.
In this work Ratzinger explores the fundamental nature of the Church and its relation to today’s world. The first four chapters explore the origin of the Church, papal primacy, the relationship between the universal and particular Church, and the nature of the priesthood. In the fifth chapter, which is maybe the most relevant to us today, Ratzinger discusses the nature of reform, i.e. the necessity of institutional and juridical means to help the Church speak and act in the era in which She finds herself. On this matter he says, “Reform is ever-renewed ablatio—removal, whose purpose is to allow the nobilis forma, the countenance of the bride, and with it the Bridegroom himself, the living Lord, to appear.” This emphasis on personal encounter is an element of Evangelism found throughout his writings.
The most important of the series, this exegetical work lays out, in his foreword, his preferred methodology for the interpretation of scripture, which is ultimately a search for a personal relationship with Christ. This work, like the others in the series, sets an example for how to read and study Scripture. Simply titled, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict clearly leaves behind any search for the Second Person of the Trinity separate from the humanity of Christ. It is a culmination of a life of searching for a relationship with an historical figure who is both God and Man.
The original title of this book in its original language, “The Spirit of the Liturgy: an Introduction,” indicates more about its relation to the work that inspired it, namely, “The Spirit of the Liturgy” by Romano Guardini. Ratzinger admits in the preface that Guardini’s work was fundamental to much of his own formation with regard to liturgy, which is ultimately the greatest possible encounter we have in this world with the God for whom we seek and long. Ratzinger again roots his ideas in Sacred Scripture and draws out from them the principles that define Christian worship.
The second part to his opus, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict XVI continues to explore the “figure and message of Jesus.” Christ’s figure and message culminate in the decisive events that surround His death and resurrection. These events are in themselves an expression of His message. In another way, they are the final word on the “figure” of Jesus and therefore the culmination and conclusion to the first part.
In his own words, His Holiness describes his book, ”It is not a third volume, but a kind of small ‘antechamber’ to the two earlier volumes on the figure and the message of Jesus of Nazareth.” Since the infancy narratives are not a source of Christ’s message, they do not fall into the purview of the earlier two volumes. It is a third part that, in a limited way, helps us to see and encounter the figure of Jesus. The Holy Father writes, “My hope is that this short book, despite its limitations, will be able to help many people on their path toward and alongside Jesus.”
Listers, check out Pope Benedict XVI to browse our complete catalogue of lists that reference the beloved “German Shepherd.”