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ROME – Like his predecessor Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI penned a final spiritual testament several years prior to his death in which he voiced gratitude for the important people in his life and urged the world not to abandon the faith.
The Vatican released the text of Benedict’s testament Saturday.
Benedict XVI, who reigned as Supreme Pontiff from his election in 2005 until his shocking resignation in 2013, making him the first pope to resign from the papacy in 600 years, died Saturday, Dec. 31, at the age of 95.
His remains will be transferred to St. Peter’s Basilica Monday, Jan. 2 to allow faithful to pay their final respects, and his funeral will be celebrated Thursday, Jan. 5, by Pope Francis.
Benedict wrote his final spiritual testament in 2006. In it, he thanked God for the many people and gifts in his life and made a final argument for the relationship between faith and reason, which was the subject of John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio, to which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a primary contributor.
Below is the full text of Benedict XVI’s final spiritual testament.
26 August 2006
My Spiritual Testament
As I look back at this late hour of my life over the decades I have walked, I first see how many reasons I have to be thankful. I give thanks before all else to God himself, the giver of every good thing, who has given me life and guided me through various moments of confusion; always getting up every time that I started to slip and always giving me the light of his face again. Retrospectively, I see and understand that even the dark and tiring sections of this path were for my salvation and that it was precisely in them that he guided me well.
I thank my parents, who gave me life in a difficult time and who, at the cost of great sacrifices, with their love prepared for me a magnificent home which, like a clear light, illuminates all my days until today. My father’s lucid faith taught us children to believe, and as a signpost it has always been firm in the midst of all my scientific acquisitions; my mother’s deep devotion and great goodness are a legacy for which I can never be thankful enough. My sister assisted me for decades selflessly and with loving care; my brother, with his clarity of judgement, his vigorous resolution and serenity of heart, has always paved the way for me; without his continuous preceding and accompanying me, I would not have been able to find the right way.
From the heart I thank God for the many friends, men and women, whom he always placed beside me; for collaborators at all stages of my journey; for the teachers and pupils he has given me. I entrust all of them gratefully to his goodness. And I want to thank the Lord for my beautiful homeland in the Bavarian Alpine foothills, in which I have always seen the splendor of the Creator himself. I thank the people of my homeland because in them I have always been able to experience anew the beauty of faith. I pray that our land will remain a land of faith and please, dear compatriots: do not let yourselves be distracted from the faith. And finally I thank God for all the beauty that I could experience in all the stages of my journey, especially in Rome and in Italy, which has become my second homeland.
To all those I have wronged in any way, I sincerely ask for forgiveness.
What I said before to my compatriots, I say now to all those who in the Church have been entrusted to my service: remain firm in the faith! Do not let yourselves be confused! Often it seems that science – the natural sciences on one hand and historical research (in particular the exegesis of Sacred Scripture) on the other – are able to offer irrefutable results in contrast with the Catholic faith. I have lived the transformations of the natural sciences since the ancient times and I have been able to see how, on the contrary, apparent certainties against the faith have vanished, proving not to be science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently due to science; just as, moreover, it is dialogue with the natural sciences that faith too has learned to better understand the limit of the scope of its affirmations, and therefore its specificity. It is now sixty years that I have been accompanying the path of theology, especially the biblical sciences, and with the succession of different generations I have seen collapse theses which seemed unshakable, proving to be mere hypothesis: the liberal generation (Harnack, Jülicher, etc.), the existentialist generation (Bultmann, etc.), the Marxist generation. I have seen and continue to see how the reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging again from the tangle of hypotheses. Jesus Christ is truly the way, the truth, and the life – and the Church, with all her insufficiencies, is truly her body.
Finally, I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord, despite all my sins and shortcomings, welcomes me into the eternal abodes. To all those entrusted to me, my heartfelt prayer goes day after day.
Benedictus PP XVI
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