Ratzinger, friendship with Cossiga under the banner of Cardinal Newman

In 2003 the former President of the Republic presented the future Pope’s book at the Rimini Meeting

It was in the sign of the theology of the English cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) the attendance and the friendship between then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the former President of the Republic Francesco Cossiga. Both were admirers of Newman who in the 19th century was a leading figure in the so-called Oxford Movement and highly authoritative for his doctrine and admirable writing skills, who worked to promote authentic renewal in the Catholic Church.

In their conversations, both when Cossiga was Head of State and later as a life senator, they also often addressed the themes of the “drifts” of the post-Vatican Council, which Cardinal Ratzinger had dealt with extensively in “Report on Faith”, the book interview by Vittorio Messori who caused such a stir in 1985, the same year in which the statesman was elected Head of State. Cossiga did not even fail several times to speak with Ratzinger about Abbot Antonio Rosmini, of whom the Sardinian politician was a great admirer.

The then life senator Francesco Cossiga spoke of these intellectual ties in 2003 when he was invited to speak at the Rimini Meeting of Communion and Liberation on Ratzinger’s book “Faith, truth, tolerance. Christianity and the religions of the world”.

“It is a book – argued Cossiga on that occasion – which takes us back to the fervent climate of theological studies that characterized the twentieth century. It is the example of a theology which offers an overall vision of reality. Today there is truly a great need for visions of this type, which make the phenomenon of Christian existence understood in current and modern terms, but faithful to tradition and that is to the truth, and, at the same time, restore to that existence a unity of which it has been largely deprived by the so-called culture modern”. Cossiga defined the book as “even of extreme and dramatic topicality and which I consider more than necessary, providential, especially in the face of certain ‘post-conciliar modernisms’ which – due to an excess of simplification or perhaps also due to an excess of charity not nourished by sufficient doctrine or not measured by the cardinal virtue of prudence – have given rise to confused theoretical and practical paths and which have confused”.

Cossiga underlined that he shared the reflection on the relationship between philosophy and faith, between faith and religion, between religion and human knowledge illustrated by Ratzinger, recovering Tradition, the teaching of the Church, the Christian thought of the Fathers of the Church and “the very current John Henry Newman and Antonio Rosmini”.

Cossiga saw in the Second Vatican Council a turning point in the history of the Church, potentially a harbinger of positive developments; however he could not fail to grasp the “dangerous misunderstandings and adventurous escapes forward, generated by a philosophical and theological unpreparedness in fully understanding its spirit”. And in this he fully shared the reflection matured by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Joseph Ratzinger’s book – concluded Cossiga – is almost a summa of sound and modern doctrine to be able to face these problems that the Church already today, but even more tomorrow, will have to face: the Church that we are all!”