My Pupil, the Pope

Father Laepple and Joseph Ratzinger
Father Laepple and Joseph Ratzinger (photo: Papa Ratzinger Forum)

The Italian edition of a book about the influences that formed Pope Benedict XVI has just been released.

The book, entitled “Benedict XVI and his Roots: What Shaped his Life and his Faith,” was written by Msgr. Alfred Laepple, the 93-year-old German priest under whom the young Joseph Ratzinger studied at the seminary in Friesing, Bavaria.

The preface of the book has been translated into English today by the indefatigable “Teresa Benedetta” of the Papa Ratzinger Forum website.

In the preface, Msgr. Laepple says of his former pupil, “In his goodness, truthfulness and humanity, Pope Benedict XVI, with his theology of the heart, is a rock who gives support and orientation for many. Because, as Goethe said, the man who in times of fluctuation is also disposed to fluctuate simply multiplies evil and spreads it, but he who firmly perseveres in his ideas can shape the world.

“Following multiple solicitations, verbal and written appeals — and even because of false statements and inexcusably erroneous interpretations — and urged on by friends, ecclesiastics and publishers, the consideration of a book grew in me, the consideration solidified into a sense of responsibility, and the responsibility into duty, to write this book.

“This work is not a biography nor a sketch of one. While writing it, I was always conscious of the sensitive question of citing from letters containing many personal matters without first asking permission from the addressee.

“On the other hand, should not some events and experiences known only to me be better cited at this time for the use of future biographers? Thus, I have in this book indicated these events and experiences, dating to 1946 when we first met, for the record.

“Here I have tried to describe and document the roots from which developed his life and his thought, his faith and his prayer — a sketch, if you will, of his biography and theology imprinted in those early years. This text was written and is intended to be read as an obligation of the heart, or better still, as the grateful impulse of the heart.

While writing it, my guiding axiom was the heraldic motto chosen by John Henry Newman when he was made a cardinal in 1879: ‘Cor ad cor loquitur’ (The heart speaks to the heart).”

For Daily Blog readers who understand Italian, the Italian translation of Msgr. Laepple’s book, “Benedetto XVI e le sue radici: Ciò che ha segnato la sua vita e la sua fede,” is available through Marcianum Press.

— Tom McFeely