Father Fessio says Pope Benedict XVI will preserve integrity of faith
By Agostino Bono
Catholic News Service
Pope Benedict XVI blesses a child as he leaves a prayer service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(CNS photo from Catholic Press Photo)
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI will disappoint only those Catholics who want changes that disrupt the integrity of the Catholic faith, said a U.S. priest who has spent decades making available in English the writings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before the 78-year-old German was elected to the papacy April 19.
Calling the new pope a theological hard-liner is "absolutely false," said Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, founder and editor in chief of Ignatius Press, which has published 25 books in English by Cardinal Ratzinger.
"He has a tremendous breadth of vision that is recognized by his critics," said Father Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., and a former student of the new pope.
"But he's a Catholic. He believes in Catholic truth. He wants to preserve the integrity of the deposit of faith," he added.
"Will he allow women priests? No, because he can't," Father Fessio said.
He met the future pope in the early 1970s when then-Father Ratzinger was Father Fessio's adviser for his doctoral thesis in theology at the University of Regensburg, Germany.
Father Fessio, 64, discussed his views of the new pope in an April 27 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.
The Jesuit said that he started Ignatius Press, based in San Francisco, in 1978 because when he returned from his European studies he found "the level of theological reflection low in the United States."
"I wanted to make European theologians available in English. Publishing (Cardinal) Ratzinger's works fell into place naturally," he said.
The German theologian's election as pope also has been an economic boom for Ignatius Press, which has the exclusive rights in English to Cardinal Ratzinger's works.
"Book sales have gone through the roof," said Mark Brumley, Ignatius Press president. He told CNS that Ignatius has reprinted about 200,000 copies of various books by the cardinal and plans to publish three new works written before the papal election.
One is a photo book about Pope John Paul II scheduled for fall publication that includes a lengthy essay by Cardinal Ratzinger, said Brumley.
He listed the other two as:
-- A collection of essays by the cardinal, chosen by the cardinal's students, and called Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, scheduled for May publication.
-- A book of reflections on Jesus called "On the Way to Jesus Christ," scheduled for publication this summer.
Brumley said that Ignatius Press continues to have exclusive rights in English to works by Pope Benedict that were not written as papal documents. Brumley noted that Pope John Paul II granted exclusive publishing rights to some of his writings that were not part of his papal office.
Father Fessio said that a hallmark of Pope Benedict's papacy will be his faithfulness to 2,000 years of Church tradition.
The new pope showed his commitment to upholding that tradition when he addressed the cardinals April 20, the day after his election, said Father Fessio.
In that talk, the new pope praised the Second Vatican Council but made clear "it was not a break with tradition," as held by some Catholics who see council teachings as the springboard for radical changes in the Church, said Father Fessio.
The new pope will implement the council teachings as a continuation of Church tradition, the priest said.
Pope Benedict, in his talk, said that he wished "to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church."
Father Fessio listed collegiality and promotion of the Eucharist as other priorities for the new pope.
He will work with bishops and cardinals to strengthen their authority in dealing with issues at a local level, said Father Fessio.
"If bishops exercise more authority, the Vatican wouldn't have to intervene so often," he said.
"The pope's role is as a servant of unity and truth. He can't do everything," said Father Fessio.
Regarding the Eucharist, Pope Benedict will "encourage priests to solemnly and correctly celebrate Mass," he said.
"There's a kind of informality right now. Music is often more popular than sacred. There is more emphasis on the anthropological (human side) than on the mystical aspect of Mass," said Father Fessio.

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