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Luke Coppen's Catholic Herald Blog

Paul VI is Pope Benedict’s surprising guiding light

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Photo: A statue of Pope Paul VI greets Pope Benedict XVI at a museum in Concesio on November 8
(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

I’ve been trying to absorb the Pope’s speech to artists in the Sistine Chapel last Saturday. Benedict XVI is famous for the clarity of his teaching, but I have to admit I’m finding the loftier parts of the address a bit of a struggle.

The speech displays the Pope’s deep knowledge of European culture. He refers to Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Plato, Dostoevsky, Braque, Cyprian Norwid, von Balthasar, Simone Weil and Hermann Hesse. But the guiding light is undoubtedly Paul VI, whom Beneduct XVI mentions no fewer than five times.

It’s become increasingly clear that Pope Benedict feels a deep affinity for Paul VI, in spite of their differences in personality and policy.

This may surprise those on the liberal and conservative wings of the Church who tend to contrast the two popes, presenting Paul VI as a bold (or naive) post-conciliar reformer and Benedict XVI as a traditionalist with a preference for the pre-conciliar forms of the Church. But while this stark contrast holds true for the liturgy on many other topics Benedict and Paul VI are of one mind.

The truth is that Paul VI was more of a “traditionalist” and Benedict XVI is more “modern” than these reductive interpretations allow.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm

One Response

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  1. You are right. Benedict is the very last person who can be labeled with simplistic clichés. Anyhow, he is a “Renaissance person” in the truest sense of the word, probably one of the very few holistic and catholic thinkers and Christians left on this planet.


    November 26, 2009 at 7:46 pm

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