A PURPOSE OF THE MISSION
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: – When did Eminency first heard the surname of Joseph Ratzinger?
CARDINAL CAMILLO RUINI: – I do not remember exactly but I think that it was in the years of the Vatican Council II. However I got to know Ratizinger as a theologian from his book: ‘Introduction to Christianity’ when it came out in Italian – in 1969.
– At the end of 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger was called to Vatican by John Paul II, who appointed him a prefect of the Congregation of Faith Teaching. Did Eminency have an occasion to meet cardinal Ratzinger in those years?
– I personally met cardinal much earlier, in 1971 when he was a professor in Ratyzbona and a dean of the inter-diocesan Theological Institute in Reggio Emilia – I invited him them in order to give a lecture and a public conference in Reggio. He accepted this invitation and he also wanted to visit Kanossa (a city in an Italian region Reggio Emilia, where in January 1077 there was a meeting of pope Gregory VII with king Herny IV; the king was asking pope publicly for 3 days to free him from a curse) which is near Reggio and interested him.
– Later John Paul II called also Cardinal to Rome to fulfill the function of the papal vicar in Rome. Did Eminency, as a vicar for the Roman diocese and also the chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference of Italy have contacts with cardinal Ratzinger?
– Truly speaking, John Paul II called me to Rome in 1986 to fulfill the function of the secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference and in this role I was intensely cooperating with cardinal Ratzinger.
– How did Eminency, from his privileged point of view, evaluate the work of prefect of the Congregation of Faith Teaching?
– I evaluated his work very positively, cardinal Ratzinger is a man of great competences and brightness of mind, connected with doctrinal solidity. Whereas his good personality made contacts with him easy and friendly.
– Did Cardinal expect that after death of John Paul II cardinal Ratzinger would become pope?
– A lot of was said about it and in my heart I hoped so but I was afraid that it would be difficult because cardinal Ratzinger had already been 78 years old, and it is obvious that at the age of 75 bishops must submit resignation.
– What feelings did Cardinal have when hearing that cardinal Ratzinger had been elected bishop of the diocese whose vicar Eminency was?
– I participated in the conclave, so I was observing from inside, with great joy and trustfulness, how that election took place.
– Benedict XVI wanted Eminency to remain his vicar for the Roman diocese, till 27 Jun e2008. What relations were there between the new pope and Cardinal?
– Those were very close relations, certainly, in this sense that I was his cooperator, like before for many years I had been working for John Paul II. Benedict XVI, similarly as his predecessor, had a great gift of listening to an interlocutor attentively, he always answered my questions clearly and specifically.
– What were the most important moments of pontificate of Benedict XVI?
– I do not know whether the best solution is saying: moments of the pontificate with initiatives which characterized it (for example the publication of the encyclical) or rather: priorities of actions which he was following throughout his pontificate. For me the central point of the teaching of Benedict XVI was confirming the priority of God and what is entailed – the priority of prayer, especially the liturgical prayer.
– Eminency had frequent contacts with the Pope. What was the most striking in Benedict XVI as a man?
– The Pope invited me to the audience once 40 days. However, when I was asking for a meeting, he always agreed at once to my arriving at the audience. I have already mentioned his good personality, skill of listening and giving precise answers. I can also say something more personal, that is, like in the case of John Paul II always felt cordially welcomed – although characters of these two Popes were clearly different.
– Why wasn’t Benedict XVI understood and often had the most influential media against himself?
– To answer this question I would like to distinguish two aspects. In the world of non-believers, which is logical, there used to be misunderstandings and definite reactions towards the suggestion of faith which has always been in the centre of this pontificate. But it must be emphasized that a lot of non-believers were very pleased to see openness of Benedict XVI, deepness of his thought and willingness to make a dialogue. Whereas, in the very Church, there have been various schools of thoughts for a long time, even the ones contradictory with the attitude of Joseph Ratzinger; these groups were functioning during his pontificate.
– How did Cardinal react to the decision of Benedict XVI about his resignation from the supreme office in the Church – the decision which raises some concerns among many people?
– I was present at the consistory during which Benedict XVI announced his decision and I was completely surprised, sad, and even terrified. But after some time, when I was thinking more calmly, I consoled with this fact and thought that this commotion would weaken at the moment when during the next conclave a new pope would be elected. Today I understand wisdom, generosity and farsightedness of the decision of Benedict XVI for the reasons which he explained himself on the day of his resignation.
– How did the fact that popes can resign from their office, change papacy and the Catholic Church?
– It seems to me that it does not bring any significant changes. I think personally that this kind of decision should depend only on the evaluation of other popes. I admired heroic devotion of John Paul II, but – as I have mentioned – I also began to appreciate the decision of Benedict XVI.
– The senior pope is spending his last period of his life in the cloister Mater Ecclesiae. Is Eminency in contact with him?
– Certainly, I visit him quite often and every time a talk with him enriches my intellect and is a consolation for soul.
– Pontificate of Benedict XVI, from his own will, ended on 28 February 2013, nearly 4 years ago, so, maybe still too early for ‘placing’ him in the history of the Church. But according to Eminency, what will remain from the great magisterium of Benedict XVI?
– Surely it is too early, to make the balance of the pontificate, but I would like to not two things: hermeneutics of the Vatican Council II suggested by Benedict XVI in a speech to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005 and the book ‘Jesus from Nazareth’ which are not acts of magisterium but they will surely bring in a permanent contribution into understanding the Holy Scripture by the Church.