Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times. An Interview with Peter Seewald Hardcover – Nov 24 2010
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
On April 19, 2005, CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER was elected POPE BENEDICT XVI and became the 264th successor to Peter as the "Vicar of Jesus Christ." He may well be the most accomplished theologian to be elected Pope in modern times. Beginning in 1981 he spent over 20 years as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a role often depicted as the "defender of the faith." Cardinal Ratzinger was also President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the Preparatory Commission that codified the new "Catechism of the Catholic Church," published in 1994. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is the third interview book he has done with Journalist Peter Seevald who talked with the pope for an hour each time over six weeks and the book is made up by his questions, follow up questions and the answers the Pope spoke to him. There has been much controversy over one of the Pope's answer to one question and they focused on a word. Catholic convert Marshall McLuhan said "The Media is the Message" and I would add often that the "Media misses the message."
Having read the previous to Seevald books along with the large majority of Cardinal Ratzinger's writings you defiantly get a sense of the man and a man who has in no important ways changed as pope. His honesty and humility is shown throughout the book and he does not allow the interviewer to maker larger claims on what he has achieved than is warranted. Seevald would make factual claims about the size of the Church numerically and the Pope in terms of Power and Pope Benedict wold remind him that while the number of members is numerically large that the number of people living the Catholic faith is much smaller and of course would also dismiss things in term of power. While Pope Benedict XVI has great gifts, he realizes who those gifts are from. Throughout the book the Pope's replies are very direct and at the same time fully eloquent in reply to the questions. While reading this book I often wished that others would imitate the pope in his honesty in replying to question without the slightest hint of spin or building themselves up.
There are also very human and funny moments in the book. His reply to why he wore the Camauro was hilarious and a warning to those who would give too much meaning to what the Pope wears at times. His talking about his small community in the papal household and their watching of DVDs together was nice look into his life that is so busy. Some of his feelings of becoming Pope have been released before, but this book goes more into those questions and his feelings at the time. He really was surprised to be elected Pope and like so much of his life once again turned himself over fully to Christ and not his predilection of living a quiet intellectual life with his brother for the rest of his days. Also very interesting was his talking about his relationship with Pope John Paul II and that it was his book "Introduction to Christianity" that was a factor in him seeking Josef Ratzinger as head of the CDF. His answers like much of Catholicism are of the both/and type. When it comes to the Church and secularism his answer was about where we could learn from secularism and what we must oppose.
Peter Seewald as interviewer though is also a major part of what makes the book enjoyable. He asks a range of often astute questions that enables us to hear what the Pope thinks about something. Seewald as always has done his homework and has been a close watcher of the Pope and what he has written and said. This brings out a range of topics and important questions that a less skilled interviewer could not even approach. Though the only negative would be that Seewald has a view of Global Warming almost apocalyptic which almost ruins some questions. Though the Pope in answering them does not reply in the same tones and his answers are well-worth reading. Though it certainly seems to be true as evidenced by what the Pope has previously said that he has some belief in human caused global warming.
While the interview considers several controversies this is a book mostly about Jesus and his Church. Of following Christ closely and seeing Jesus as the one who comes. These sections of the book won't generate any headlines, but they are meant to generate saints. The Pope is first off a disciple of Jesus and one who sees his very life as bringing Jesus to others and in his role as Pope to the world.
When he does address various controversies again you see his discipleship. The sexual abuse crisis is certainly not lost on him and he sees directly this evil and what has been done by those in the church and most of all to the victims. There is an empathy in his tone in no way faked. On women's ordination and the idea that Jesus couldn't ordain women because of cultural concerns he directly labeled "nonsense" and that the cultures of the time were filled with priestesses. The issue of lifting the excommunication on the four SSXP bishops and the reason why was a fuller answer than I have seen before and he also addressed that somebody should have checked the internet to have determined the type of man Williamson was since it would have been treated much differently then. Oh and the Pope said something about condoms.
This book was a wonderful read which I admit to binge reading the moment it came in the mail. I though I could hardly love the Pope more, but now there is even more I love about him.
It is almost silly to review a book from our Pope. Really the review should be just go out and get it.
As the foreword says the Pope, the leader of over 1.2 Billion Catholics, sees the world differently from world leaders in politics, business, education, and intellectuals of all types, and he leads with faith, hope, and charity aiming for the ultimate salvation of mankind. He is disappointed by some activities and people within his own Church and the secular direction of the world outside the church. He takes the attitude that "the Church must not hide" and "Faith must be explained". He talks extensively about the sexual abuse scandal from different aspects: calling it "filth" that was inside the Church that should have been found and acted upon sooner. He outlines his plans to continue meeting with victims, to correct the injustices, to root out those not suited to be priests, especially at seminary level, and to not lose sight of the problem and the pain it has caused. Along the way we also get essentials: such as how 78 year old Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was set for retirement when the Lord, through the College of Cardinals, chose him as Pontiff; what the Pope does in his free time with his "family" of close associates; his commentary on infallibility; the true story of reinstating 'Bishop' Williamson; climate change and the environment; "turbo-capitalism" and how it hurts the poor; the "third secret of Fatima"; revisiting Pius XII; the Church's leadership in treating AIDS patients around the world; 'rapprochement' with Orthodoxy and Islam; the Pope's controversial "Regensburg Lecture"; the issue of condom use; eschatology ("the last things") and the Second Coming of Jesus; the need to return to the faith, joy, and enthusiasm of the early Christians; and if a "Vatican III" is possible; among many other topics. And do read the Appendix, part I, "Serious Sins Against Defenseless Children", which is the strongest accusatory Papal statement against child abuse I have seen and the one that Catholics have longed for from the Church. This interview is an essential book for Catholics, and should be of interest to other Christians and, indeed, all believers and perhaps some non-believers. My Highest Recommendation! Five HUGE Stars!! (This review is based on a digital download across Kindle text-to-speech, Mac, and iPhone platforms.)
Light of the World has generated some serious controversy over a few obscure paragraphs in the middle of its 256 pages. In these paragraphs, the Pope is asked about the Church's position on condoms. He answers by re-articulating the Church's traditional position that contraception is inherently counter to true sexuality, but in some cases condoms may be a step toward a deeper morality.
The travesty is that this book will now be known only for these couple of paragraphs when the book provides so many other fascinating insights. Light of the World really is a monumental effort, and anyone who reads it cover-to-cover will appreciate how much of a gift it really is. Never before has a Pope granted such an in-depth interview, nor directly answered so many challenging questions in rapid succession.
Seewald--whom The Irish Times nicknamed the "pope whisperer"--is great at formulating these inquiries, pulling no punches along the way. He poses questions that are straight-forward, even borderline accusatory at times, such as:
* What caused the sexual-abuse scandal in the Church?
* Have you considered resigning?
* What do you think about the global climate crisis?
* Can there be dialogue with Islam?
* Is Christianity the only truth?
* Should there be a Third Vatican Council?
Pope Benedict's answers are characteristically charitable, intelligent, and well-articulated, even including a little humor here and there. He speaks here as a wise sage whose wisdom has been built and refined over many years.
But even with the clarity shared between both men, Light of the World has its difficulties. The book was compiled, translated, and published in such a short amount of time--the interview took place in July 2010--that it does lack some finish. At times, clunky punctuation choices, like periods instead of commas and sentences lacking subjects, make the reading slightly awkward.
Also, while the material is organized into eighteen distinct chapters, the questions within each chapter are fairly haphazard. For instance, a question about `communion on the tongue' is followed by a question on `women's liberation', then a discussion on `church attendance' statistics. However, this disordered structure does create lively, fast-paced reading as the topics jump quickly from one to another.
One of the most helpful parts of the book is the Appendix, which features snippets from some of Benedict's most contentious statements: his letter to Irish Catholics regarding the abuse scandal, his Regensburg address which riled many Muslims, and his earlier statements regarding the Church's position towards condoms and AIDs (which Light of the World embellishes, not contradicts).
Following these excerpts, there is also a lengthy chronicle of important events from Benedict's life and pontificate. Both the excerpts and the timeline provide good background to the statements and events referenced during the interview.
Overall, Light of the World is truly a special book, and deserves a better fate than to be known as "the condom book". Seewald draws some intriguing answers from Pope Benedict on many of the most controversial topics of our time. This book should be welcomed as a rare look into the typically secluded halls of the Vatican. For a birds-eye view of the Church and a peek into Pope Benedict's thought, pick up a copy of Light of the World.
One thing that I just don't quite understand is the whole Bishop Williamson affair - of which a whole chapter is dedicated. It seems to me that after restoring Bishop Williamson to the Roman Catholic Church that the Pope later regretted his decision because of Williamson's denial of the holocaust. Apparantly the Pope was unaware of this fact until after he was restored. The reason for this is explained and I accept the explanation - the Pope was honest about the fact that Williamson's past wasn't researched thoroughly enough by the church and his position on the holocaust was not known because the man wasn't investigated properly before his restoration. My big question after reading all of this though is: why can't the Pope just excommunicate the man again? For all his regret it seems to me that the Pope could make it right by kicking the man out again. This part of the book just confused me to no end. Perhaps a seasoned Catholic could explain the reasoning behind this to me.
Finally one comment on the whole condom controversy that this book sparked when it first came out. It's a joke. No way - no how does the Pope change his Church's stand on the use of condoms. In fact I felt that the Pope gave a great explanation of why his church condems the use of condoms. A view I had never heard quite frankly - and a view that I can genuinely respect - though I disagree with the Catholic Church's position on birth control. The Pope's comments on condoms and male prostitutes were taken completely out of context. The way the media is painting the scenario is completely off base.
Today of course, I realize with delight that I get to 'meet' this great mind every day in his writings (published exclusively it seems by Ignatius Press of San Francisco). This day, for instance, in the American MAGNIFICAT for "Holy Week 2011" (just before the entrance antiphon, "Christ became obedient for us even to death, dying on the cross") are these opening words of reflection for this day, "Wednesday of Holy Week."
"Judas is neither a master of evil nor the figure of a demonical power of darkness, but rather a sycophant who bows down before the anonymous power of changing moods and current fashion. But it is precisely this anonymous power that crucified Jesus, for it was anonymous voices that cried, `Away with him! Crucify him!'."
-- Pope Benedict XVI
The only two 'social commentators' I know of, who can "shed light" while speaking in complete, perfect paragraphs are the American psychiatrist/political commentator Charles Krauthammer, and the current "successor to Peter" in Rome. In his "Forward" to this book, author George Weigel (another kindred spirit) states with perfect precision a simple truth about what distinguishes this pontiff:
"Benedict XVI brought to the papacy more than a half-century of reflection on the truths of Biblical faith and a master teacher's capacity to explicate those truths and bring them to bear on contemporary situations in a luminously clear way.
"I have had the privilege of knowing many men and women of high intelligence, even genius; I have never known anyone like Benedict XVI, who, when one asks him a question, pauses, thinks carefully, and then answers in complete paragraphs --- often in his third, fourth or fifth language.
"Peter Seewald's well-crafted questions give Benedict XVI good material with which to work. But it is the remarkably lucid and precise mind of Joseph Ratzinger that makes the papal answers here sing."
[Mr. Seewald's questions weren't always so precise, but time spent with the former Cardinal Ratzinger (which produced the two previous "interview books" of this series) and Mr. Seewald's own increasing humility in getting to ask questions of such a mind, has resulted in a worthy "part three" of this series: My favorite? The second interview titled GOD AND THE WORLD (October 2002) followed by the first of the 'trilogy' SALT OF THE EARTH (Oct 1, 1997 -- please see my review for that one). Again, to quote George Weigel (author of the definitive biography of Benedict's predecessor John Paul II) in his astute introduction:
"Those who come to Rome to attend one of [his] general audiences have encountered a master catechist, whose command of the Bible, the Fathers and the theological traditions of Christian West and Christian East are simply unparalled - as is his capacity to explicate what he has learned in ways that virtually everyone can understand and engage. That is the Benedict XVI whom the reader will meet in LIGHT OF THE WORLD: a teacher to whom any sensible person would want to give a fair hearing."
As for the interviewer (who may forever be "the only journalist to interview a sitting pope") Peter Seewald ends his own "Preface" with the question he is most often asked now:
"'What is it like to sit very close, right across from him?' [the question] reminded me of novelist Emile Zola describing a priest who waits, trembling and almost paralyzed, for an audience with Leo XIII. Now, with Benedict XVI, there is no need to tremble. He is remarkably easy for the visitor. This is no `prince of the church,' but rather [our] servant [who] exhausts himself in his giving.
"Sometimes he looks a bit sceptically at you. Over his eyeglasses. Seriously, attentively. And if you are sitting beside him listening to him, then you not only sense the precision of his thinking, and the hope that comes from faith, but then also in a special way, a radiance from the light of the world becomes visible, from the face of Jesus Christ, who wants to encounter each one of us and excludes no one."
-- Peter Seewald (Munich - October 15, 2010)
Above all else (as George Weigel summarizes beautifully) Pope Benedict "encourages postmodernity" to rediscover ancient truths about itself: Those truths include, as Benedict XVI never stops urging, "a necessary dialogue between faith and reason: Faith devoid of reason risks becoming superstition and blind prejudice (hence Benedict's urgent challenge to Islam). Reason, inattentive to faith risks solipsism, self-absorption, detachment from reality."
Like John Paul II, Benedict XVI "sees both facets of this duel crisis of world civilization clearly . . . and has put these issues on the table of the world's conversation as no one else has or can."
What this means (in the pope's own words, p 136,) comes in reply to Mr. Seewald's shortest question in the book -- after Benedict states, "For example it really is necessary to come to terms with evil. We cannot simply shove it aside or forget it. It has to be worked through and transformed from within."
Q: What does that mean?
"It means that we really are in an age in which a new evangelization is needed; in which the one gospel has to be proclaimed both in its great, enduring rationality and in its power that transcends rationality, so that it can re-enter our thinking and understanding in a new way."
"Of course, man always remains the same, no matter how much he changes. There would not be so many believers unless people still understood in their hearts: Yes, what religion tells us is what we need. Science alone, in its self-isolating search for autonomy, does not do justice to the whole range of our life. It is a sector that gives us great gifts, but it depends in turn on man's remaining man.
"We have seen it ourselves: progress has increased our capabilities, but not our moral and human stature and capacity. We have to regain an internal balance, and we also need spiritual growth. This is something that the tribulations of our time are increasingly teaching us to recognize."
As with his previous conversations with Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI specifically requested he see none of the questions in advance. The German journalist (a previous agnostic) said his latest six hours alone with the Pope was "a lot of time and yet very little" in which to address "only a few questions, and only a few in depth." Yet once again, "the Pope did not change the spoken word" of his transcribed interview.
I remain in awe of a mind that is able to do this: to speak and think "in complete paragraphs" with such an enlightening precision, yet never needing to change of word of what he's said -- thoughts transcribed for universal appreciation within these pages. Look -- if you buy only one "pope book" make it one of this trilogy of interviews. [Nice to see that on this very day (20/04/11) this one is "Amazon Bestsellers Rank" #4,103 in Books (and) #1 in "Books > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism."