Five quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on faith


Credit: © L’Osservatore Romano / Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City on Aug. 28, 2010.

Boston, Mass., Jan 2, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Benedict XVI’s death marks the end of an era in which the prolific writer and speaker conveyed his reflections on the Catholic faith.

In both speaking and writing about the faith, the late pope consistently emphasized the importance of faith itself and its necessity in fostering one’s relationship with God. Below are five times that Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the virtue of faith.

Faith is more than ‘intellectual assent’

In the Holy Father’s Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 24, 2012, he told the crowd: “Faith is a gift of God, but it is also a profoundly free and human act.”

Speaking about faith in the “Year of Faith” — which spanned from October 2012 to November 2013 — Benedict said: “Faith is not a mere intellectual assent of the human person to specific truths about God; it is an act with which I entrust myself freely to a God who is Father and who loves me; it is adherence to a ‘You’ who gives me hope and trust.”

Faith is meeting God

In that same Wednesday audience, Benedict added that “Having faith, then, is meeting this ‘You,’ God, who supports me and grants me the promise of an indestructible love that not only aspires to eternity but gives it; it means entrusting myself to God with the attitude of a child, who knows well that all his difficulties, all his problems are understood in the ‘you’ of his mother.”

Being saved through faith, Benedict said, is a gift that God offers to everyone.

In his reflection, he invited the crowd to ask themselves “where can man find that openness of heart and mind to believe in God who made himself visible in Jesus Christ who died and rose, to receive God’s salvation so that Christ and his Gospel might be the guide and the light of our existence?”

Benedict answered: “We can believe in God because he comes close to us and touches us, because the Holy Spirit, a gift of the Risen One, enables us to receive the living God. Thus faith is first of all a supernatural gift, a gift of God.”

The faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary

How did the Mother of God live her life full of faith, given all of the trials that she had to endure throughout her life? This is precisely the question that Benedict posed to the crowd in his Wednesday audience on Dec. 19, 2012, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall.

He answered by giving the example of the Gospel of Luke’s first chapter, where Mary both “reflects” and “ponders” on the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to her.

“Mary reflects, she ponders on the meaning of this greeting,” he said. “The Greek word used in the Gospel to define this ‘reflection,’ ‘dielogizeto,’ calls to mind the etymology of the word ‘dialogue.’”

He added: “This means that Mary enters into a deep conversation with the Word of God that has been announced to her, she does not consider it superficially but meditates on it, lets it sink into her mind and her heart so as to understand what the Lord wants of her, the meaning of the announcement.”

“Mary does not stop at a first superficial understanding of what is happening in her life, but can look in depth, she lets herself be called into question by events, digests them, discerns them, and attains the understanding that only faith can provide,” he said. “It is the profound humility of the obedient faith of Mary, who welcomes within her even what she does not understand in God’s action, leaving it to God to open her mind and heart.”

Faith: a proof of things unseen

In his 2007 encyclical letter Spe salvi, Benedict drew extensive connections between the virtues of faith and hope.

In the first subheading of the encyclical, Benedict says that faith is hope.

Continuing, he wrote: “Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a ‘proof’ of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet.’ The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.”

Faith that bears no fruit

In Benedict’s 2011 motu proprio Porta fidei, he wrote about the importance of charity and its connection to faith.

“Faith without charity bears no fruit,” the Holy Father wrote, “while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt.”

He continued: “Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized, or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love.”

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  1. Regarding “faith as proof of things unseen” and as “more than ‘intellectual assent,” Benedict offered many other quotables. In the second instance, he had something specific to say to our globalizing world; and in the first instance, he added something about faith and science (farther below).

    FIRST, Benedict precisely remarked that Christian “faith” is in the self-disclosing person (!) of Jesus Christ (more than an idea), while religious belief—natural religion—is something else as more of a reaching expression coming from ourselves. Of interreligous dialogue and assent of both the will and the intellect, then, while Benedict was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Congregation wrote:

    “Equality, which is a presupposition of interreligious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity [!] of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ—who is God himself made man–in relation to the founders of the other religions” (CDF, Dominus Iesus, 2000).

    The equality (and the value of “fraternity”: Pope Francis’ prayer intention for January 2023) is among concrete persons, and does not imply a congruent or pluralist equality among religions as such.

    SECOND, regarding “things unseen,” and the natural sciences:

    “Christianity’s claim to be true cannot correspond to the standard of certainty posed by modern science, because the form of verification here is of a quite different kind from the realm of testing by experiment—pledging one’s life for this—is of a quite different kind. The saints, who have undergone the experiment, can stand as guarantors of its truth, but the possibility of disregarding this strong evidence remains” (Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Ignatius, 2003, p. 226).

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