Peter Seewald's interview with Emeritus Pope Benedict offers readers a journey through the theological life of the retired pope, writes Brian Welter at the Catholic Weekly.
This book-length interview includes thoughts on significant individuals such as Jesuit Father Karl Rahner, Father Hans Kung and St John Paul II.
The first part of the book highlights a world radically different from our own, that of Bavarian Catholicism in the mid-20th century. Its piety centred on family, village and Christ.
Joseph Ratzinger stepped out of this world into the seminary and then higher theological studies in Munich. He relished this world.
Though the Nazi and immediate post-war eras brought deep change, the pontiff explains how the faith endured: "Despite the intrusiveness – where the atmosphere of war was still somehow in the air – there was a joy that we were now together. The being with one another, the encountering each other, the companionship, was subsequently something deeply moving for me in my consciousness."
Such words also convey the sense of connection that people enjoyed back then, with a shared sense of place and belief.
Readers of Last Testament meet the lecturers who impacted the future pope, such as Professor Georg Angermair, whom Pope Benedict qualifies as someone who rejected 19th-century pieties, a common practice of the time.
As a seminarian, Ratzinger like so many of his classmates, it seems, wanted something fresh.
Progressivism comes up many times in the book regarding his pre-Vatican II, conciliar, and post-conciliar experiences.
Pope Benedict never denies his progressiveness. He notes that "progressive" meant something different from the Kung perspective, something that always remained faithful to the deposit of the faith.
In this sense, Pope Benedict sounds like a typical forward-oriented 20th-century thinker, along the lines of fellow personalist St John Paul.