Peter Seewald: ‘I know of few young people so alive, so curious and so modern as the Pope’

A series of candid interviews with Pope Benedict XVI will go on sale around the world next week in the eagerly anticipated book: Light of the World, The Pope, The Church and The Signs of the Times by Peter Seewald.

Mr Seewald, a German author and former magazine editor, has shared these brief comments about the book – the first ever to contain verbal interviews between a pontiff and a journalist.

Mr Seewald, how important do you think the book will be in helping people become better acquainted with the Pope?

Benedict XVI is still always falsely portrayed. Fundamentally, he is a very dear man and extremely lovable. Here is someone who is inexhaustible, a great giver. And if I’m honest, I know of few young people who are so fit, so productive, so alive, so curious and in a certain sense so young and as modern as this seemingly old man on the throne of Peter. This book contains not only an analysis of the crisis in the Church and society, but it is in some ways also a portrait of the Pope.

How much has the Pope changed since your last conversations with him?

Well to begin with, he’s quite simply gotten older. Aged 83 and leading the universal Church with 1.2 billion members is no trifling matter. Of course, this office has a tremendous aura, but the Joseph Ratzinger of earlier times is also the Joseph Ratzinger of today. He is like hard wood when it comes to the basic tenets of the faith – but he is also a shepherd, even more sensitive, humble and wiser now. Above all, he has kept his beautiful, subtle humor. Basically he is a very dear man, extremely lovable and his willingness to help others is positively touching.

You have said that some people will be upset by the book. What did you mean by this, and might this harm his pontificate?

This book will not fit well for many people, some because they will feel uncomfortable, their critical attitude to this Pope won’t change, and for others because this man does not correspond to their image of him as a reactionary. Conversely, Light of the World will make many people sit up – through his clarity, his truth, and ultimately through his prophetic words. It’s inconceivable to me that it would harm his pontificate. On the contrary, it will give us a new, unobstructed view of the Pope’s work and his great achievements so far. And it can help us in a world where so often the blind lead the blind, looking to find guidance. There is no doubt Pope Benedict is not only one of the greatest theologians, but also one of the greatest intellectuals and thinkers of our time. This book is a message to the world and the Church. And I think, as rarely before, it helps us come to understand not only the times in which we live, but also the core issues of the faith.