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Vatican releases full Benedict XVI letter, revealing concern over German theologian

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI (CNS photo)

The Vatican has published the full letter that Benedict XVI wrote in response to an invitation to read 11 volumes on the theology of Pope Francis.

The text reveals that the Secretariat for Communication had omitted a second part of the letter from their press release. In that paragraph, the Pope Emeritus criticised the inclusion of Professor Peter Hünermann as an author in the series.

The paragraph, translated by Edward Pentin, reads:

Only as an aside, I would like to note my surprise at the fact that among the authors is also Professor Hünermann, who during my pontificate had distinguished himself by leading anti-papal initiatives. He played a major part in the release of the “Kölner Erklärung”, which, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendour”, virulently attacked the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. Also the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft”, which he founded, was initially conceived by him as an organization in opposition to the papal magisterium. Later, the ecclesial sentiment of many theologians prevented this orientation, allowing that organization to become a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

The letter was originally released in part by Mgr Dario Viganò, Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications. In the part that was made public, the Pope Emeritus praised his successor and said there was an “inner continuity” between his pontificate and that of Pope Francis.

However, it later emerged that the Vatican had blurred two lines in a photograph of the letter. In those lines, Benedict XVI said that he did not actually have time to read the volumes.

That revelation caused considerable embarrassment for the Secretariat for Communications, however some observers pointed out that Mgr Viganò had read them out to journalists even though they were not included in the final press release.

Now the Vatican has revealed that yet another part of the letter, in which Benedict XVI criticises Professor Hünermann, was omitted. In the photograph, the paragraph is obscured by copies of the volumes piled on top of it.

The Vatican photograph of Benedict’s letter, in which the bottom of the first page is blurred and the top of the second is covered (CNS photo/Vatican Media)