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Benedict XVI As Known by Co-worker

Interview with Father Augustine Di Noia

ROME, MAY 16, 2005 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI is a person of great inner tranquility, intensely dedicated to his work for the Church, and very "tradition-minded," said a close collaborator.

So as to get to know the reality of the man behind the image portrayed at times by the media, we interviewed Father Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, who worked with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when the latter was prefect of the congregation.

Father Di Noia described their working relationship as a "smooth operating team," due to the Holy Father's keen listening skills.

The Dominican priest said that after having worked directly with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for the last three years, he has always been impressed by the example of work ethic that he sets: "It's certainly true that he is a person of intense dedication. He puts in a full day of work every day -- not only when he was here in the office but also via a remarkable number of publications, presentations, lectures, panel discussions.

"It's quite noteworthy to consider even the enormous amount of correspondence he received, of course with the help of secretaries. So he's a person of real dedication, discipline, focus and has that academic element in the sense of man who thinks and writes a lot, but is willing to share his knowledge with anyone who's willing to listen or talk with him as he's quite the conversationalist too."

Benedict XVI has even sacrificed many of his personal interests to work entirely for the Church and faith, said Father Di Noia.

"There is a willingness to make sacrifices in the sense that, naturally I presume, he would have been perfectly happy doing what he was doing before -- that is as archbishop of Munich, living in Germany and serving the Church there -- when John Paul II sent for him to come to the Roman Curia," he said.

Laughing, he added: "I suppose every Catholic, every religious or priest is trained to say 'yes' first, and think about the consequences later.

"This was the case with him -- Peter called and he came, leaving behind his life in Germany, family, friends and culture for more than 22 years. And now, of course, he will never permanently return again."

Yet, Father Di Noia pointed out, he has embraced Rome, just as it is evident that Rome, via welcoming posters around town and excited applause throughout his installation ceremony as their bishop, has clearly embraced him.

"I can't tell you how many ordinary people I've met on the street," said the undersecretary, "who tell me how happy they are at the 'obvious choice' of leader that was chosen. So it's been nice to see that support from Rome."

Regarding the spirituality of the new Pope, his co-worker said: "One of the things which is evident from working with him, that will now become evident to the whole world, is that he's a person of tremendous inner tranquillity.

"You sense, immediately in his presence, a person who, as the old spiritual writers used to say is 'recollected.' That is to say, he's not thrown into a kind of panic by anything, I mean, he's just a calm (and therefore one supposes), deeply spiritual person. Usually that's a sign of an inner life and a person who is in communion with God.

"He has written a great deal about his own spirituality and the kinds of things that he recommends to others. It's clearly a deeply liturgical spirituality.

"What I mean by that is that the liturgical year, the seasons, the great feasts, are integrated into the experience of the spirit. So it's not a kind of spirituality that is purely private, if you will, but one that feeds on the liturgical year."

Father Di Noia offered an example: "He would always leave for his yearly retreat between Ascension and Pentecost -- in fact, he would be gone now on retreat in this period. He liked to celebrate the retreat in the period in which Christ is promising the coming of the Holy Spirit. If you pay attention to the liturgy every day, we have those kinds of texts, so that's, I would say, deeply patristic; that is rooted in the fathers of the Church, especially St. Augustine. It's a rich, ecclesial spirituality."

He also added that the Pope who chose the name Benedict XVI also has a "deep kind of love for St. Benedict" and the Benedictines, with whom "he enjoys being with."

"St. Benedict pointed out that his monks, in addition to praying the hours of the liturgy, also work. This is not a kind of spirituality that doesn't get its hands dirty. This is a man who works and does everything he does in the name of Jesus Christ," said Father Di Noia.

According to the former prelate's undersecretary, these components will be communicated "because naturally a ...

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