VATICAN CITY (RNS) — In a spiritual will written in 2006 and released by the Vatican on Saturday (Dec. 31), Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI thanked his family and friends, but chiefly God, for standing by him during his long life and career in the church.
Benedict, known for his theological efforts to reconcile faith and reason, offered his last thoughts to the Catholic faithful, urging them to hold on to their faith despite social and philosophical opposition.
“Remain firm in the faith! Don’t be confused!” wrote Benedict, in the testament dated August 29, 2006, a year and four months into his papacy.
Benedict died at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at 9:34 a.m. on Saturday. He had lived at the monastery inside the Vatican since stepping down as pontiff in 2013, the first pope to do so in more than 600 years.
While science and history can sometimes “offer irrefutable results in contrast with the Catholic faith,” Benedict wrote, his 60 years of experience in theology proved that such theories have often failed to stand the test of time.
“I have lived the transformations of the natural sciences since ancient times and I have been able to see how, on the contrary, apparent certainties against faith have vanished, proving to be not science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently due to science,” he wrote.
Benedict insisted that faith has benefited from a dialogue with science and from understanding its limitations.
He also countered political philosophies that proposed alternate views of the world. “With the passing of each generation I have seen theses that seemed unshakeable crumble, proving to be mere hypotheses,” he added, pointing to the failures of liberal, existential and Marxist ideologies. “I have seen, and I continue to see, how the reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging again from the tangle of hypotheses,” he said.
Benedict thanked God in the will for guiding him, especially during troubled times. “In retrospect, I see and understand that even the dark and tiring stretches of this journey were for my salvation and that it was precisely in them that He guided me well,” he wrote.
He thanked his parents, “who gave me life in a difficult time,” and his siblings for sustaining him through the years. He expressed heartfelt gratitude for the friends, teachers and students he encountered through the years.