On one occasion, in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” (Mt 16:13). Some thought John the Baptist; others Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. However, Simon Peter, without hesitation and in the name of all, declared: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). This conviction did not come from flesh and blood but from the “Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 16:17).
It is revealing that immediately after Simon’s decisive answer, Jesus outlined the Petrine mission – “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18) –, as if to reveal to him that, without help from above, it would be truncated.
Peter was a fisherman from Galilee, Prince of the Apostles, a sad rival of Judas during the Passion, herald of the Resurrection, unequalled preacher after Pentecost and perfect follower of the Crucified One in martyrdom… However, none of this defines him. Peter is first of all Pope, the “rock” upon which the Church is built.
In a similar way, many have tried to frame the personality of Benedict XVI. Under the shadow of calumnies, the media often painted him with uncompromising and rigid features, but his serene gaze and simple smile soon reveal his true face. He was, in reality, a remarkable harmonizer.
The list of his titles would be endless. For some he was the “modern-day Thomas Aquinas”; for others, the “Mozart of Theology”; for still others, the “Pope of Fatima”. In short, he is one of the most outstanding figures of the Church in the big picture of recent times.
It is said that in the days of John Paul II, the faithful were drawn to see the Pope. In the pontificate of Benedict XVI, they flocked to hear the Pope. The Heralds of the Gospel were able to hear the voice of this shepherd-theologian several times, above all in the Association’s definitive pontifical approval, as well as of the Societies of Apostolic Life born from it.
The German Pontiff commented that a fundamental part of the future of the Church is decided in Brazil and affirmed, in the book-interview Light of the World, that the Heralds would be part of “new Catholic awakenings.” Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, for his part, confided to His Holiness, in a letter of November 26, 2018, that he felt their missions and vocations were intimately united.
With these facts in mind, the recently deceased Pontiff could even be called “herald of the Heralds”… However, as was Peter, Benedict is first and foremost Pope and, as such, he has received the same charge to love Christ unconditionally and to feed the sheep entrusted to him (cf. Jn 21:15-17). From this charge everything else follows, including the specific mission of each Successor of Peter.
And so, who was Benedict XVI and what was his mission?
It is impossible to know precisely, for it would be first necessary to ask whether he has already fulfilled his mission. Regarding who he was, we will try to offer some pointers in the following pages. As for his mission, one can answer, like Peter inspired from on high, that Benedict XVI has certainly not fulfilled it in its entirety. This is because especially chosen souls continue to fulfil their mission in eternity and in their legacy left on earth. How will this happen? Only time will tell… ◊