While critics in the media dubbed Cardinal Ratzinger “God’s Rottweiler,” a none-too-subtle reference to his German birth, and a hint of ferocity, the real Joseph Ratzinger belied all the press hype. Soft-spoken, mild-mannered, even sweet-tempered, he defied all the stereotypes.
It was his unyielding support for his brother in Christ, Karol Wojtyla, soon to become Pope John Paul II, that brought Cardinal Ratzinger to the attention of the world. Their fraternal collaboration was one of the great partnerships of the modern era.
That brotherhood was itself a testimony to the eternal truth that God is love.
The Bavarian teenager Joseph Ratzinger had been forced into the Hitler Youth. Young Karol Wojtyla, the Polish seminarian, had come within a hair’s breadth of being murdered by that same Nazi regime that slaughtered millions of Poles and Jews.
The fact that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI could have overcome national differences to work together for the New Evangelism is a source of hope for all mankind. By unapologetically defending Christian truth, we work for peace, we advance reconciliation. Now, the scene opens upon a dramatic new vista. Whomever the College of Cardinals chooses in Rome, he and we will live in interesting times.
Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI built on an imperishable foundation. Their legacy can inspire all mankind.
Ken Blackwell is on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.