A series of candid interviews with Pope Benedict XVI will go on sale around the world next week in an eagerly anticipated book, the first ever of its kind with a pontiff.
Entitled “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” it contains a series of conversations between the Pope and the author, Peter Seewald. The interviews took place over one week in July at the Pope’s summer residence.
Seewald posed a number of controversial questions to the pontiff including whether he had ever thought of resigning, and whether the church should rethink its teaching on celibacy, contraception, women priests, and same-sex relationships.
This is the first time in the church’s history that a Pope has sat down with a journalist and had his verbal responses recorded in a book.
The Pope is also asked whether divorced and remarried couples should be allowed to receive communion, and if there should be further reform of the church in a Third Vatican Council.
In comments to Newsmax, Seewald said the book “is a message to the world and the church” which will give “a new, unobstructed view of the Pope’s work and his great achievements so far.” Benedict’s clarity, truth, and prophetic words, he predicted, “will make many people sit up.”
The book is not only an analysis on the crises affecting the church and society but also offers “a portrait of the Pope,” Seewald said. “Benedict XVI is still always falsely portrayed,” he continued. “Fundamentally, he is a very dear man and extremely lovable. Here is someone who is inexhaustible, a great giver. And if I'm honest, I know of few young people who are so fit, so productive, so alive, so curious and in a certain sense so young and as modern as this seemingly old man on the throne of Peter.”
In 1994, the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori wrote and edited "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," a best-selling book-length interview with Pope John Paul II. But there was no face-to-face meeting: Messori submitted a list of questions for a television interview which never took place. John Paul II was intrigued and jotted down some responses.
Seewald said at the Frankfurt Book Fair last month that Benedict XVI “did not reject any of my questions” but rather “answered all the critical questions and answered them openly.”
A former editor and reporter for the German secular magazines Der Spiegel and Stern, Seewald has interviewed Joseph Ratzinger before, when he was a cardinal and the Vatican’s doctrinal head.
Those interviews, which the once-lapsed Catholic Seewald said were instrumental in bringing him back to the Catholic Church, were also turned into best-selling books: "Salt of the Earth," published in 1996, and "God and the World," published in 2002.
Asked if the 83-year-old Pope had changed much since then, Seewald said he had aged slightly but stressed that to lead a church of 1.2 billion members is “no trifling matter.”
Despite this, Seewald said the “Joseph Ratzinger of earlier times is also the Joseph Ratzinger of today.
“He is like hard wood when it comes to the basic tenets of the faith, but he is also a shepherd, even more sensitive, humble and wiser now. Above all, he has kept his beautiful, subtle humor.”
Overall, Seewald expects "Light of the World" to be a helpful and prophetic guide to both Catholics and non-Catholics. “It can help us in a world where so often the blind lead the blind, looking to find guidance,” he said. “There is no doubt Pope Benedict is not only one of the greatest theologians, but also one of the greatest intellectuals and thinkers of our time.”
This book , he concluded, will help people “come to understand not only the times in which we live, but also the core issues of the faith.”
The American edition will contain a foreword by the American theologian and author George Weigel, and is to be published by Ignatius Press on Nov. 24.
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