Benedict XVI, Pera: “The last defender of the European conscience”

“He had a humility that only the Great have”

An old friendship, born when Marcello Pera, now a senator of the Brothers of Italy, was president of the Senate and Joseph Ratzinger was not yet Pope. Pera, in an interview with Corriere della Sera, recalls how it was born: “It was 2004, he he was prefect of the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith. I had read a lot of his works in the previous years. I went to see him for the first time and from there began a series of not fixed, but very frequent meetings”. With the Pope emeritus, the senator had also written a book jointly, ‘Without Roots’.

The idea “came to him – he recalls -. He had read the magisterial lecture I had given at the Pontifical Lateran University, I his speech at the conference on Europe to which he had invited him in the Chapter hall in the Senate. I objected that those two texts put together they barely reached 40 typed pages. So we decided to spend the summer writing two comments: he on my text and I on his. At that point the book was all there”. The basic thesis of that book was that Europe was ashamed of its Christian roots, and “compared to that period the situation has not improved, in fact it has worsened. Europe is professing and imposing a culture that is strongly anti-Christian with its intellectuals, with its means of communication, with its politicians. The crisis is deeper than it was then”.

For Pera, Ratzinger has succeeded in reawakening the ‘beautiful drugged’, Europe. The Pope emeritus, he begins, “was impressive. He was so as a man for the humility that only the Great have. He was so as a theologian and also as a pastor because what you have most influenced the conscience of the laity. All are feel obliged to talk to him and he influenced so much that some felt difficult to reply to him. I remember a very embarrassed Sarkozy, secular president of secular France, telling Rome that France was Christian”.

“In any case – remarked the former president of the Senate -, Benedict had reawakened a European conscience, but he was aware that the process could only develop with an appeal, to use your words, to creative minorities in the sense that Europe would saved only if some groups scattered here and there, at the beginning in catacombs cenacles, had taken up the Christian faith as a foundation”.

Ratzinger did “a lot, he was the only first true defender of European civilization, some results have been seen and I hope that others will be seen after his death”. When asked if Pope Francis is in the wake of this defense of European civilization, the senator of Melon’s party replies: “There is a difference between the two pontiffs that cannot be hidden as instead is being done these days. Benedict considered Europe as the homeland of choice for Christianity, Francis comes from another world, I don’t think he has the same interests for Europe, the same attention except for contingent reasons such as war”.

The former president of the Senate recalls how when announcing his resignation, he had told Ratzinger “I accept but I didn’t understand, and he replied with silence. My fear was linked to the possible consequences of the gesture, namely that after him another pontiff could resign, with the result of transforming the head of the Church from the successor of Peter to the mere top of the hierarchy”. A close risk, given that “Francis himself has referred to this hypothesis, but it would change little if one of his successors did so”. “I’m afraid that for the Church it would be a point of no return. I hope it never happens”.