Father Benedict

by James Day, Sophia Institute Press, £14.50

It is difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible, to assess someone’s legacy within only a few years of their death. Pope St John Paul II died more than 10 years ago, and there is still endless debate about the efficacy of his policies, the role he played in countless ecclesial and global issues, and the impact that his writings and teachings have had on the Church and world as a whole.

It certainly is even harder to examine one’s legacy while they are still alive. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is a controversial figure, and has been so ever since his days as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Benedict is still alive, thanks be to God, but his Church-shaking decision to renounce the Petrine ministry in February 2013 effectively ended his public life, and immediately inspired efforts to assess and examine the legacy of this great man of the Church.

In this book, subtitled “The Spiritual and Intellectual Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI”, James Day attempts, deftly, to make his own assessment. Pope Benedict has been out of the public eye for almost four years, and his charismatic successor has greatly altered the public perception of the Church, as well as, in many ways, the public understanding of Benedict’s legacy.

Day does a wonderful job of describing the way in which Pope Benedict (formerly Joseph Ratzinger) had a profound effect on the intellectual and spiritual culture of the Western Church in the second half of the 20th century. It seems safe to say that one of Ratzinger’s greatest contributions to theological thought has been his trilogy of personal reflections titled Jesus of Nazareth. Although these were written while he was pope, they are explicitly not an exercise of the papal magisterium, but rather the personal reflections of Joseph Ratzinger, as he seeks the face of Jesus Christ.

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