Benedict XVI’s Letter on Death of ‘Closest’ Friend

The Pope Emeritus Highlights ‘His Joy and Profound Faith’

Attacks on Benedict Not Justified
Benedict XVI © Vatican Media

Following the death, in Austria, of his “closest” friend, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sent a letter expressing his condolences to Father Reinhold Dessl, Abbot of the Austrian Cistercian Community of Wilhering.

“The news of the death of Father Gerhard Winkler, which you transmitted to me, moved me profoundly; of all colleagues and friends, he was the closest to me. His joy and profound faith always attracted me. Now he has reached the beyond, where I am certain that many friends are already waiting for him. I hope to be able to join them soon. Meanwhile, I am united to you and to the Monastic Community in prayer. My best wishes and blessings,” concludes the Pontiff.

Gerhard Bernhard Winkler

 As Europa Press Agency points out, Father Gerhard Bernhard Winkler was born in Wilhering, Austria in 1931. In 1951, at 20, he joined the Cistercian Monastic Community of his diocese. He was Ordained on June 29, 1955, in Linz.

He began his academic career in Germany in 1969, teaching in Bochum and Fribourg and worked with Joseph Ratzinger at the University of Regensburg. He was a specialist in the Medieval and Modern History of the Church. His work on the history of his Order, the Cistercians, and on its Founder, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, was especially recognized.

Benedict XVI, 70 Years as Priest

 On June 29, 2021, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 70th anniversary as a priest. This milestone elicited Pope Francis’ profound praise, who mentioned this anniversary after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, on the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

“And today is an anniversary that touches all our hearts: Pope Benedict was ordained priest 70 years ago. To you, Benedict, dear father, and brother goes our affection, our gratitude, and our closeness,” said the Holy Father Francis.

“He lives in a monastery, a place allocated to house contemplative communities here in the Vatican so that they can pray for the Church. Now he is the Vatican’s contemplative, who spends his life praying for the Church and for the diocese of Rome, of which he is Bishop Emeritus,” said Pope Francis. “Thank you, Benedict, dear father, and brother. Thank you for your credible witness. Thank you for your gaze, constantly directed to God’s horizon. Thank you!” he added.

The True Europe, Identity and Mission

Published in September was Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI’s The True Europe, Identity and Mission, which corresponds to the third volume of the collection of “Selected Texts” chosen and translated by Pierluca Azzaro, editor of the Pope Emeritus’ Complete Works.

Pope Francis wrote the Introduction to this volume, which includes a selection of texts of the Pope Emeritus on Europe, published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the European Union.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester