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Death of Pope Benedict XVI: The day Cardinal Ratzinger talked drugs, terrorism and morality in Cambridge lecture





The Bishop of East Anglia, the Rt Rev Peter Collins, has paid tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI following his death on December 31 at the age of 95, and recalled his visit to Cambridge.

Born Joseph Ratzinger, he became a cardinal in 1977 and in January 1988 later delivered the annual Fisher Lecture at the Catholic chaplaincy in Cambridge. The title of speech was ‘Consumer materialism and Christian hope’.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s visit to Cambridge in 1988. Picture: Fisher House
Cardinal Ratzinger’s visit to Cambridge in 1988. Picture: Fisher House

In it, he discussed Chernobyl, AIDS, drug abuse, terrorism and the essence of morality and quoted C S Lewis.

He told the audience: “Drugs are the result of despairing of a world which is experienced as a prison built of facts in which man cannot long endure.”

And he concluded: “Morality is not man’s prison; it is rather the divine in him.”

He was elected as pope in 2005, becoming Pope Benedict XVI, but did not forget his visit to the region.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s visit to Cambridge in 1988. Picture: Philip Miller
Cardinal Ratzinger’s visit to Cambridge in 1988. Picture: Philip Miller

Bishop Peter recalled: “When the chaplaincy was raising funds for a new chapel in 2005, Ratzinger, by then pope, sent a donation of £2,000 from his own pocket.”

He added: “In the midst of our sadness, it is with joy that we recall the papal visit to the United Kingdom undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s visit to Cambridge in 1988. Picture: Philip Miller
Cardinal Ratzinger’s visit to Cambridge in 1988. Picture: Philip Miller

“I was privileged to be present at Westminster Cathedral when Pope Benedict celebrated Mass.”

He then joined the pope to celebrate Mass in Birmingham.

Benedict XVI's visit to Cambridge in 1988 when he was a cardinal. Picture: Philip Miller. (61643322)
Benedict XVI's visit to Cambridge in 1988 when he was a cardinal. Picture: Philip Miller. (61643322)

“Joseph Ratzinger will be remembered and honoured as one of the great theologians of the 20th century,” added Bishop Peter, who was recently ordained.

Benedict served until February 2013 before becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign, citing his old age and declining health.

Pope Benedict XVI waving to the crowd gathered to greet him, as he stands on the steps of Westminster Cathedral, in central London, after celebrating Mass in 2010. Picture: John Stillwell/PA
Pope Benedict XVI waving to the crowd gathered to greet him, as he stands on the steps of Westminster Cathedral, in central London, after celebrating Mass in 2010. Picture: John Stillwell/PA

Dr Ed Kessler, founder director of the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute, which works to encourage tolerance and foster understanding between people of all beliefs, said: “Pope Benedict made a significant contribution to Jewish-Christian relations through his international reflections and theological insight. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was a pioneer in dialogue, and his successor is a pastoral visionary.

“For Benedict, however, the dialogue with Jews was primarily theological and educational. When I met him with Lord Jonathan Sacks in 2011, it was a meeting of great minds and profound thinkers. Both leaders were happier as teachers, it seemed to me, than as leaders of their diverse, and sometimes conflicting communities.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Picture: PA
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Picture: PA

“Benedict did not hesitate to speak out against antisemitism, and to foster dialogue with the Jewish people. He was a friend of Catholic-Jewish dialogue.”

His funeral is taking place today (January 5) in St Peter’s Square, Vatican City, presided over by Francis, who succeeded Benedict as pope in 2013.



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