Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has shared some personal recollections of Blessed John Paul II in a new interview that appears in a book of tributes to the soon-to-be canonized Polish Pontiff.
In extracts of the interview, published today by ZENIT, Benedict XVI says it became “ever clearer” to him that John Paul II was a saint. He recalls his first meeting with Karol Wojtyla, their working relationship, and how – contrary to what some theologians thought at the time – John Paul II firmly backed the former prefect at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the blowback that followed publication of the 2000 declaration, Dominus Iesus.
The interview, which runs to 12 pages under the heading “It Became Ever More Clear to Me that John Paul II Was a Saint”, is one of 21 that appear in “Beside John Paul II - Friends and Collaborators Speak”. The book is so far only available in Italian.
Here below is a key extract in answer to a question on John Paul II's sanctity :
BENEDICT XVI: [The idea] that John Paul II was a saint came to me from time to time, in the years of my collaboration with him, ever clearer. Naturally, one must first of all keep in mind his intense relationship with God, his being immersed in communion with the Lord, of which he hardly spoke. From here came his happiness in the midst of the great labors he had to sustain, and the courage with which he fulfilled his task at a truly difficult time.
John Paul II did not ask for applause, nor did he ever look around, concerned about how his decisions were received. He acted from his faith and his convictions and he was ready also to suffer the blows.
The courage of the truth is in my [judgment] the criterion of the first order of sanctity.
Only from his relation with God is it possible to understand his indefatigable pastoral commitment. He gave himself with a radicalism which cannot be explained otherwise.
His commitment was tireless, and not only in the great trips, whose programs were dense with appointments from beginning to end, but also day after day, beginning with the morning Mass until late at night. During his first visit to Germany (1980), for the first time I had a very concrete experience of this enormous commitment. So during his stay in Munich, I decided he should take a longer break at midday. During that interval he called me to his room. I found him reciting the Breviary and I said to him: “Holy Father, you should rest”, and he said: “I can do so in Heaven.”
Only one who is profoundly filled with the urgency of his mission can act like this.
[…] But I must render honor also to his extraordinary kindness and understanding. Often I had sufficient reasons to blame myself or to put an end to my job of Prefect. And yet he supported me with absolutely incomprehensible fidelity and kindness.
Here, too, I would like to give an example. In face of the turmoil that developed around the Declaration Dominus Iesus, he told me that he intendedto defend the document unequivocally at the Angelus. He invited me to write a text for the Angelus which should be, so to speak, watertight and not consent to any different interpretation. It should emerge, in an altogether unequivocal way, that he approved the document unconditionally.
Therefore, I prepared a brief address. I did not intend, however, to be too brusque and so I sought to express myself with clarity and without harshness. After having read it, the Pope asked once again: “Is it really sufficiently clear?” I answered yes.
Those who know theologians will not be astonished by the fact that, this notwithstanding, afterwards there were those who held that the Pope had prudently distanced himself from that text.