Benedict XVI Gives Rare Book Interview

Conversations with Peter Seewald to be published by end of the year

Benedict XVI and the German author Peter Seewald
Benedict XVI and the German author Peter Seewald (photo: Register Files)

Pope Benedict XVI has given an interview to the German journalist and author Peter Seewald which will soon be published in book form, according to an article in today’s Die Tagespost and confirmed by the Vatican.

The date of publication is not yet known although according to the Italian Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli, it’s expected to hit bookstores within a year. In a statement released by the Vatican this afternoon, papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said the interviews, which took place between 26th and 31st July at Castel Gandolfo, would be published by the end of the year in German and Italian, with other languages expected to follow.

Die Tagespost says the book has the working title ‘Das Licht Der Welt’ – The Light of the World – and reports that it will probably be published by the Vatican’s publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, which holds the copyright for all the Pope’s works.

Such a one-on-one published interview with a Pope is very rare, although John Paul II produced something similar with the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori in the 1994 book ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’. Benedict XVI has also given similar interviews to television (shortly before his visit to Poland in 2006, and to a group of German journalists before his visit to Bavaria in the same year), but like his press conferences on the papal plane, these are generally more formal and stage-managed.

This will be the fourth book written in interview form that Joseph Ratzinger has produced. When he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he was also interviewed by Messori while he vacationed in the Dolomites in the summer of 1984. The conversations became known as ‘The Ratzinger Report’ published in 1985.

Seewald later published two successful books of interviews with the then Cardinal Ratzinger: ‘Salt of the Earth’ in 1996 and ‘God and the World’ published in 2002. Both books were translated into 25 languages.

A former editor and reporter for the German secular magazines ‘Der Spiegel’ and ‘Stern’, Seewald says those meetings with Cardinal Ratzinger were instrumental in bringing him back to the Church.   

It’s thought the main emphasis of Seewald’s new book will be on Benedict’s long-held concern: how to make Jesus Christ known to people of today. The same theme forms the backbone of the Holy Father’s book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, whose second volume will be published next Spring, and his first encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’.

Writing in today’s Il Giornale, Tornielli says the idea for the interview was first proposed to the Pope by Vittorio Messori in November 2008 who suggested that Benedict XVI “update” ‘The Ratzinger Report’. Messori told the Holy Father he just needed three days of his time. The Pope didn’t refuse, but quipped that “for me now, even three hours is difficult…”

At that time, the proposal was “impracticable”, says Tornielli. Seewald then asked for a new interview a few months ago and was told yes.