Vatican Publishes Complete Letter From Pope Benedict

by Christine Niles  •  •  March 17, 2018   

Retired pontiff criticizes German theologian who contributed to 11 volumes

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VATICAN CITY ( - After the Vatican was caught doctoring a letter from Pope Benedict in a photo, the Vatican decided to publish the letter in its entirety Saturday.

The final paragraph, never before published, reveals Benedict denouncing the contribution of Professor Peter Hünermann to the 11 volumes on Pope Francis' theology, which had been given as a gift to the retired pontiff. Benedict turned down the Vatican's request to write an endorsement of the 11 volumes, not only because he admits to not having read them, but also because he could not approve the contribution of a theologian known for being "opposed to the papal magisterium."

I’d like to note my surprise at the fact that among the authors there is also Professor Hünermann, who during this pontificate was highlighted for leading anti-papal initiatives. He participated significantly in the release of the Cologne Declaration, which, in relation to the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, virulently attacked the magisterial authority of the Pope especially on matters of moral theology. Also the European Society of Catholic Theology, which he founded, was initially thought of as an organization opposed to the papal magisteriumTherefore, the ecclesial feeling of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter between theologians.

I am sure he will have understanding for my denial and I greet you cordially.

The Italian blog The Seismograph asks, "How is it possible that the Lev commissioned these volumes to 11 theologians, including two Germans among them that the Pope Emeritus, in the end, considers the reason why he cannot give the requested contribution?"

The complete text of the letter from Pope Benedict

"How was it possible to give a tribune to a founding theologian of an organization openly opposed to the papal magisterium?" it continues.

On publication of the full letter, Msgr. Dario Eduardo Viganó, head of the Secretariat for Communications, justified omitting the final paragraphs, claiming the letter from Pope Benedict "was read as deemed appropriate and related to the initiative alone, and in particular what the Pope Emeritus affirms about the philosophical and theological formation of the current Pope and the interior union between the two pontificates, leaving aside some notes related to contributors to the series."

According to Viganó, "The choice was motivated by confidentiality and not by any intent of censorship."

Vaticanista Marco Tosatti questions how the sole motive was confidentiality "when it has just been admitted that it has been violated" by publishing the full letter.

The Vatican caught flak Wednesday after an anonymous Vatican source admitted a photo of Benedict's letter had been doctored to blur out lines in which the retired pontiff rejected the Vatican's request to write an endorsement of the 11 volumes on Francis' theology. According to the Associated Press, "The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards."

Last year, the Vatican overhauled its news and communications departments, joining them all under one entity: the Secretariat for Communications, headed by Msgr. Viganó. On the occasion of World Communications Day in January, Pope Francis slammed "fake news" as "a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred."

"If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news," the Holy Father declared, "then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectors of news."


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