Pope Benedict was a man of rare mind

Pope Emeritus Benedict VI

Pope Emeritus Benedict VI

Photo credit: Filippo Monteforte | AFP

As we mourn Pope Emeritus Benedict VI, it is good to understand him as a theologian and philosopher. But that is not easy as one has to go back 200 years and trace the roots of his mind.

One has to go back to Pope Pius X to read what he taught, especially through his catechism, The Catechism of St Pius X, which is extolled in his encyclical, Acerbo nimis, of April 1905 and what he taught and accomplished during his papacy.

The events of the Second World War, the danger it had on human society, may have had a deep influence on Pope Benedict. WW2 had a deep influence on St John Paul II’s thought and teachings.

Without understanding the teachings of the Vatican Council II, and especially its dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, St Pius X and St John Paul II, one would have difficulties understanding Pope Benedict.

This was a man of rare mind and whose thought spanned two centuries. As many great people have been influenced by historical events of the time, so was Pope Benedict influenced by events of the past two centuries.

Pope Benedict VI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI and Pope Pius X strongly stood by the message that the church is new and old at the same time but not modern—a paradox that is not easy for some to understand.

Pope Benedict now belongs to the ages and his mind, as presented in his writings and messages, will influence many theologians for many years to come.

Paraphrasing a message from one of his homilies, we should be careful about the current winds of doctrine—such as Marxism, liberalism, libertinism, collectivism, radical individualism, atheism, vague religious mysticism and agnosticism.

While we desire many things, remember that money, buildings, political power and even books do not last; what lasts is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.

Some people, whose attitudes are influenced by these ideologies that are prevalent nowadays, tend to see the Catholic Church—and in particular the teachings of Pope Pius X, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict VI—as they strongly taught against these trends. It would be a mistake to judge Pope Benedict using prisms like liberalism, individualism and relativism.

Great men in any society tend to be misunderstood because they are beyond what an ordinary mind sees. Pope Benedict’s simplicity and clarity of mind will guide many whose entire life centre is Jesus Christ and will hope to utter “Jesus I love You” as their last words, just like him.

Christopher Momanyi, Nairobi

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