As Pope Benedict XVI steps down from the papacy, evangelicals have good reason to examine the legacy of the man who has been dubbed “the Pope of Christian Unity.”
Not only has Benedict focused on the unity in Christ, he has expounded the faith handed down by the Apostles from generation to generation in ways that would cheer the heart of Christians everywhere.
As an evangelical, I shared the same reservations many have about the Catholic Church. I was put off by what seemed to me to be an over focus on Mary and the Pope instead of on Jesus Christ. I had always heard Catholics don’t read their Bibles. And, as a Bible-believing Christian, I also wrongly believed the Catholic Church was too invested in a kind of one-size-fits-all ecumenism that watered down the Gospel and replaced it with social justice.
Though I tried to read some encyclicals of Pope John Paul II back in the 1990s, I found them difficult to understand. I admired him as a moral leader, but it wasn’t until I began reading the work of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the Pope Benedict’s name) when he was the head of the Vatican congregation that ensures the faithfulness of Catholic teaching that I began to see the Catholic Church in a new light, as attractive.
Ratzinger’s writings were crystal clear, accessible and as spiritually thirst-quenching as a drink of living water in a desert. A prodigious intellect with a profound Christian faith, he could clarify and simplify with great grace.