Germans Love The Pope

For those of us who don't read German, here's a translation of the article on B16 from German Vanity Fair April 11 (scroll to post 7240). The author is Peter Seewald, an atheist journalist who became Catholic after interviewing Cardinal Ratzinger for a book some years ago. Here's what some folks were saying about the Pope when he was elected:
"Atheists should welcome the election of Benedict XVI," said the leftist British historian Timothy Garston Ash at the time, "because this old, scholarly, conservative and uncharismatic Bavarian theologian will surely push forward the de- Christianization of Europe even when he will try to do the opposite thing."
Here's what's actually happening:

Unprecedented for an encyclical to sell millions of copies. But Benedict’s first encyclical even set a record for a Latin document, when a second printing was needed after the first printing of 450,000 sold out. In Italy, every papal event is broadcast live on television. In Bavaria, more TV cameras were fielded to provide full coverage of his visit than for the whole World Cup series [played in several German cities] a few months earlier.

In his first full year in office, the German Pope attracted almost four million people to St. Peter’s Square, double the annual numbers for his highly popular predecessor. Since Ratzinger became Pope, the number of Catholics leaving the Church has dropped, as the number of new converts or returning Catholics is rising. Universities report that after years of decline, there has been a perceptible growth in all fields of theological study.

Sigh. He means well but he just can't reach anybody. Well, except Germany's most popular actor:
Even celebrities like Mario Adorf [leading German film and stage actor] now consider the onetime 'Grand Inquisitor’ of the media portraits as "very knowledgeable, very intelligent, humble, competent and friendly."
And Germany's foremost public intellectual:
Novelist Martin Walser [Incidentally, the second most quoted intellectual in Germany in 2006, after the Pope] says that "Earlier, I only knew about him from short new items and without any direct experience," but since he first came to know his "being," then he has been "incredibly impressed."
And its sports hero.

Football’s "Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer considers the 48 seconds of his ‚audience’ with Benedict [at a Wednesday post-GA walthrough by the Pope before the World Cup in Germany] as the "high point" of his life.

"Mankind needs him now more than ever," he says of his countryman. "I read all the addresses he gave when he visited Bavaria, and in it, he tells everyone, in effect, "Go to Church and know yourselves."

The Pope has inspired him, Beckenbauer says: "I have seldom seen anyone with this radiance, this goodness, this friendliness so visible in his face.!"

Oh, and this liberal theologian:

"He is the Pope," says the liberal Munich theologian Eugen Biser, "who has put the idea of being the representative of Crhist in the center of his Pontificate. He does not see himself as the chief of the Church, nor as a cult object for the church. He represents that One who must alone be loved and believed in." With that, says Biser, he will have "a Church in which faith does not simply mean acceptance of dogma but is understood as an invitation to experience God...a Church in which Christ truly lives in the hearts of the faithful."

Therefore, Biser is convinced that Benedict XVI already belongs "among the most important Popes in history."

Yep. Not reaching anyone at all. As we've noted here before, to buy the out-of-touch Pope trope, you have to ignore any facts and rely on vague impressions from dissenters who haven't had their fingers on the pulse of the Church in 40 years. (For more on that theme, see George Weigel's smackdown of the New Yorker profile of B16.) Come to think of it, isn't the very fact that an article like this merits the cover of German Vanity Fair a rebuke to the aloof Pope motif?

But read the whole thing for a more accurate portrait of what this pope is about, and what he's like. (His high-school teacher describes him as "rebellious.")