Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 10, 2006
Benedict likened to St. Augustine
Apostolic nuncio celebrates the pope's teaching
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
While Canada's apostolic nuncio describes the late Pope John Paul II as the world's greatest spiritual leader in the last quarter century, the Vatican's ambassador also sees a wonderful continuity in the papacy of Benedict XVI.
"For me, he (Benedict) is a kind of St. Augustine of our time," said Archbishop Luigi Ventura as he reflected on the year since John Paul's death April 2, 2005.
"His gift to me is the gift of teaching, this kind of deep insight into the culture."
Benedict displays not only erudition, but he is "a man of deep wisdom" who has the ability to simplify complex truths, to take "simple words" to describe "great things" and thereby "making them accessible," he said.
"He is watering the roots of the faith."
In an interview at the Apostolic Nunciature (Vatican's embassy) in Ottawa March 29, Ventura said the personalities of the two men could not be more different.
Pope John Paul II was media-friendly. His training as an actor helped him to face the crowds. He had a strong, baritone voice that rang out over St. Peter's square.
John Paul was an authority figure, not through political power or strength, but through his faith and the fact that "he kept his style as a man."
While Ventura does not know Benedict as well personally as he did John Paul, he has not been surprised he has not lived up to the negative image as a Vatican enforcer.
He admits the image was "not so positive," but it came with the job as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that Benedict held as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger since 1981.
Ventura said Benedict turned down the job two or three times. He believed his vocation was teaching and he was happy as a university professor in Munich. But out of obedience, he eventually accepted the call.
Benedict's personality is warm, Ventura said, and the common people in the Church sense this. He said he was surprised during a recent Rome trip to see the size of the crowds to hear the pope pray the Angelus on Sundays.
Benedict, however, is a shy man who is not as media-friendly as his predecessor.
On the state of the Church in Canada, Ventura said he often visits parishes that are "crowded, full, alive, joyful and very dynamic," and some that "are not so crowded."
He said that among some, there is a "crisis of faith" where the culture of modernity clashes with the traditional values of the Church, leading them to abandon practising the faith.
"It is difficult to measure the faith inside," he said.
As for the Church's relevance, he pointed out that many outside the Church from "a lot of different places" are looking to her to provide a "strong point of reference to being consistent with the Gospel."
He is also struck by the deep faith in younger Catholics, the so-called John Paul II generation. He described them as faithful, "not afraid of being Christian" and expressing the "joy of their faith."
"My sense is it is increasing in Canada."