During the interview, he told me he is about to spend a week with Pope Benedict at Castelgandolfo as part of the annual Schulerkreis (student circle) meeting. This tradition, which Fr. Fessio says began in 1977, is an annual reunion of former doctoral students of Papa Ratzinger with their mentor. The topic this year: Creation.
Another guest at the Schulerkreis meeting will be the Archbishop of Vienna (and another former student of then-Professor Ratzinger), Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, OP. He just gave a great interview, the first part of which appeared on the Zenit webpage (they'll post part 2 tomorrow) about understanding Pope Benedict. Here's part of it:
Q: Everyone is talking about the Pope's upcoming visit. Who is the real Benedict XVI?
Cardinal Schönborn: He is very simple. He is the successor of the Apostle Peter and therefore for us, he is the Vicar of Christ, the Lord's representative here on earth in the visible Church.This is at the same time incomprehensible and immense, but it is the secret of the Petrine ministry. Whoever meets with him, whatever country he is from, whatever language he speaks -- all of that is important, but it is secondary. For us he is, above all, according to the faith of the Church, Peter among us, with all the depth, greatness and strength of what Jesus prophesied to Peter, of the ministry that he entrusted to him, a ministry that continues to exist beyond the historical figure of Peter.
Q: How are your meetings with the Holy Father?
Cardinal Schönborn: Very normal. He is a man I have known for 35 years, under whom I studied and with whom I have worked for many years, a man that throughout the years, I learned to know and deeply esteem and greatly admire. But April 19, 2005, in his life and in our lives, something greater happened -- he was chosen as the successor of Peter. This naturally represents a new dimension, which is evident in meeting with him. He is the man, the teacher, the cardinal that I know well and have known for many years, and at the same time, he is Peter.
Q: You have known Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI for many years. What distinguishes him as a man?
Cardinal Schönborn: I could mention many things. In his memoirs he wrote in a very modest but wise way about his life. He is very restrained in manifesting personal matters. He does not talk much about his life, but its deep Christian roots are notable. You can tell that he comes from a family profoundly formed by faith, a family united in faith and love.I had the opportunity to get to know his sister Maria well, who died unexpectedly on Nov. 2, 1991. The three siblings were very close and they must have had parents who profoundly shaped them.Who is the Pope based on his personal history? He is a particularly gifted and intelligent theologian. I do not hesitate to say that he is the last of the great theologians of the Council generation -- de Lubac, Congar, Rahner, von Balthasar. He was the youngest in a long line of theologians who influenced the Second Vatican Council and he is certainly one of the greatest because of his spiritual and theological abilities.
Q: During your meeting with Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo you discussed the details of his upcoming trip. What is the Holy Father expecting?
Cardinal Schönborn: He will let us know and I think this is good. When Benedict XVI speaks, it is necessary to pay close attention, because what he has to say is always very clear, important, incisive and very personal and fascinating. I don't know what he will say to us. It is good to be open. What I can say with certainty is that we will receive enough material for further reflection.
I love this quote: "When Benedict XVI speaks, it is necessary to pay close attention, because what he has to say is always very clear, important, incisive and very personal and fascinating."