BENEDICT XVI: John Paul II called me in 1979 to appoint me prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.I am trying to imagine my life and that of the Church without the influence of Joseph Ratzinger, future Doctor of the Church.
Just two years had passed since my episcopal consecration in Munich and I thought it was impossible to leave so soon the See of Saint Corbinianus. The episcopal consecration represented in some way a promise of fidelity to the diocese to which I belonged. So I asked the Pope to postpone that appointment […].
It was in the course of 1980 that he told me he would appoint me again, at the end of 1981, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as successor of Cardinal Seper.
As I continued to feel obliged in the affairs of the diocese to which I belonged, I permitted myself to set a condition for the acceptance of the post, which, moreover, I believed was unrealizable. I said that I felt the duty to continue publishing theological works. I could answer affirmatively only if this was compatible with the task of prefect. The Pope, who was always benevolent and understanding with me, said that if he were informed about this question he could then make up his mind. Subsequently, when I paid him a visit, he explained to me that theological publications are compatible with the office of prefect; Cardinal Garrone, he said, had also published theological works when he was prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
So I accepted the office, very conscious of the gravity of the task, but knowing also that obedience to the Pope now exacted a “yes” from me.
Another book-length interview w/ BXVI is on the way: this one on his relationship with soon-to-be canonized John Paul II. Zenit has excerpts. Of course, good stuff on JP the G, but this is almost chilling. We know Ratzinger tried at least twice to resign as prefect of CDF towards the end of JP's papacy. What I didn't know was how much he didn't want the job in the first place. Refused it once and tried to wriggle out of it the second time: