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Benedict XVI's First Year and Style

Interview With La Stampa's Marco Tosatti

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2006 (Zenit) - How does a leading Vatican-watcher see Benedict XVI's first year in the papacy?

For a perspective on the pontificate, which marked its first anniversary last Wednesday, we interviewed journalist Marco Tosatti of the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Tosatti is the author of the book "Il dizionario di Papa Ratzinger, una guida al pontificato" (The Dictionary of Pope Ratzinger: A Guide to the Pontificate), published by Baldini & Castoldi.

Q: How do you evaluate the first year of Benedict XVI's pontificate?

Tosatti: I think that Benedict XVI has dedicated these first 12 months above all to study. A widely shared opinion now is that, though he has spent many years in Rome, some mechanisms and functioning of the Curia were not familiar to him. This explains why, as opposed to many predictions, his Curia is to a very great extent that of John Paul II.

Q: The struggle against secularization, renewal of the faith, the defense of life and the family, the spread of knowledge of Christ -- the subjects seem the same, but Benedict XVI's style is very different from John Paul II's, don't you think?

Tosatti: The subjects are absolutely the same as those of his predecessor. And it would be very odd if it wasn't so.

Joseph Ratzinger was John Paul II's theological pillar for almost 25 years, and in the last years, according to what I have learned, there was no important topic, including many appointments, on which he was not consulted.

The style is profoundly different, and it couldn't be otherwise. John Paul II's poetic-intuitive tendency is not the analytical-rational one of Benedict XVI. Two different paths to arrive at the same objective.

Q: In an original and unexpected way, Benedict XVI published his first encyclical on the subject of the love of God. What do you think of it?

Tosatti: I think it is, in part, one of John Paul II's numerous "legacies," specifically, the second part.

But I think that the first part, in which the authentic Ratzinger is seen more easily, is very beautiful and opens -- along with the words he pronounced a few days before making it public -- a wide picture on little-known aspects of Benedict XVI's personality and sensitivity, something very remote from the stereotype that the media have built of him in all these years.

Q: There has been talk for some time of the reform of the Vatican Curia. It seems that Benedict XVI is about to carry out a substantial restructuring. In what way and with what criteria will he implement it?

Tosatti: I would also like to know! The only thing we can try to guess at present is that Pope Ratzinger seems more partisan to making changes little by little, perhaps spreading out decisions and substitutions over time, rather than in "packages" of great dimension.

At least, up to now, he has done so; and also from what we know about the way he administered the Diocese of Munich, which seems to respond to this criterion.

But he is certainly a person who assesses, reflects and ponders much, specifically, in the choice of men, which perhaps is his greatest concern. Likewise in regard to episcopal appointments, he studies personally each "capacity," and the requests are a little numerous. I think he wants to be sure to entrust dioceses to strong and holy persons.


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