Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cardinal Ratzinger asked to resign in 1997, become Vatican librarian

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger turned 70 in 1997, he asked Pope John Paul to relieve him of his duties as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and permit him to become archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and librarian of the Vatican Library, according to Cardinal Raffaele Farina, who has held the latter two positions since 2007.

In May 1997, Father Farina was appointed prefect of the Vatican Library-- a position just below that of the cardinal librarian. Later that year, he met with Cardinal Ratzinger.

“He continued to speak until I, reflecting on what he was telling me, realized that he thought I knew a piece of news which was in fact then circulating within a restricted number in the Roman Curia: that, having turned 70 on April 16 that year, he had asked the Pope to relieve him of his burdensome task as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and to grant his wish to spend his last years in the Vatican as cardinal librarian,” Cardinal Farina recounts. “In other words, he was asking me what I thought of his idea and what being archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church involved. When I realized what the Pope-to-be really meant, I gave him to understand that I had already heard the news, and I expressed clearly how happy I and the whole staff of the library were to have him join us.”

Cardinal Farina’s recollections add new details to remarks made by Pope Benedict in 2007. In an address to the staff of the Vatican Apostolic Library and the Vatican Secret Archives, he alluded to his desire to become Vatican librarian.

“I confess that, on reaching 70 years of age, I would have liked for beloved John Paul II to permit me to devote myself to study and research into the interesting documents and materials that you carefully conserve, true masterpieces that help us to review the history of humanity and of Christianity,” the Pontiff said.

“In his providential design the Lord had other plans for me and here I am with you today, not as a passionate scholar of ancient texts but rather as a Pastor who is required to encourage all the faithful to cooperate in the world's salvation, each one doing God's will wherever God places us to work.”

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