Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI, Theologian of Joy

An Interview with Monsignor Joseph Murphy, author of Christ Our Joy: The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI by Carl E. Olson

Ignatius Insight: What are some other essential qualities of Benedict's thought that are interrelated with joy?

Monsignor Murphy: Joy is of course a central Biblical theme, and so Christianity and joy must be closely associated. For example, in the intimacy of the Last Supper, Christ says to his disciples: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (Jn 15:11). Christianity is not about imposing heavy burdens on people, nor is it an oppressive system of do's and don'ts. Rather, it is the path to freedom and to true joy. Hence, the Holy Father's emphasis on joy is simply in keeping with his desire to communicate what is essential to Christianity, what it is really all about.

In this regard, there are some aspects of Pope Benedict's thought that readers may find new or at least thought-provoking. For example, many people, when they hear about the Church, automatically think of her institutional aspects, structures and personnel. However, the Pope places the emphasis elsewhere; for him, the Church is, among other things, what I referred to in the book as the servant, guardian and teacher of joy. He alludes to this idea, for example, in Introduction to Christianity, where he says: "Only someone who has experienced how, regardless of changes in her ministers and forms, the Church raises men up, gives them a home and a hope, a home that is hope—the path to eternal life—only someone who has experienced this knows what the Church is, both in days gone by and now." (2nd ed., Ignatius Press, 2004, p. 344).

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