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God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, gave an interview to Peter Seewald a few years before the turn of the millennium, in a book entitled 'Salt of the Earth'. A few years after the turn of the millennium, Seewald followed up this earlier publication with this book, 'God and the World'. In it, Seewald take a bit more of a systematic approach to discussing theological topics.

In the first section, the Prologue, Seewald continues in a vein similar to the earlier book, asking questions that are both academic and personal, discussing issues of faith, vocation, mystery and belief. Ratzinger speaks of his personal devotion and prayer practices, which include traditional forms of standard communal prayer (noontime Angelus, Vespers, Compline) as well as his own personal prayer practices, such as reciting a prayer before rising in the morning. He gives an account of how this kind of practice strengthens and reinforces itself, saying that 'the organ of sensitivity to God can atrophy to such an extent that the words of faith become quite meaningless.'

Seewald directs the questions in a format that might serve as a guide to following a systematic theology - while this is not Ratzinger's systematic theology by any means, one can see the philosophical and theological consistency even in the answers to the question-and-answer format. He speaks of God, creation, Christology, scripture, sacraments, ecclesiology, and more. These are done in creative but traditional ways - for example, the section of Christology (speaking of Jesus Christ), the conversation falls under broad headings of Revelation, The Way, The Truth, and The Light (as separate sections). He also explores issues of Mariology and the significance of the Cross.

The sections on the sacraments and the future are both firmly grounded in a sense that they need to be connected to the happenings in this world. Ratzinger looks forward to a resurgence of the spiritual in Christianity, and this perhaps taps into one of his namesakes, the St. Benedict who was an early pioneer in the development of monastic community and spirituality.

Interestingly, given Ratzinger's selection of papal name as Benedict XVI, this interview (the third in-depth interview with Seewald) was conducted at a Benedictine Abbey, the famous Abbey of Monte Cassino.

There are many books that can give good insight into the thinking of the new pope, but this book is a key text to show both his recent thinking, as well as his responses to crucial questions of concern in the current situation in the church and in the world.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2006
As a Cardinal the current Pope gave an astonishing interview to Peter Seewald. The astonishing part of this book is the breadth of the questions asked and the simple but deeply moving answers that were given. If you have read Ratzingers own works, you know that they are not easy reading. This book is very very different. It is an interview and the tone is conversational. Some of the questions asked of him are provoking eg., "Was Jesus a Catholic?" The answers are surprisingly moving, tolerant and reveal a depth of knowledge. Other questions such as "Is God male or female". "What does God look like?" "Is faith an auto-suggestion" etc are handled in the same manner.

If regular theology is too much of a chore for you but you want to know what the theology of Ratzinger/Benedict is, then look no further. This is a very easy-to-read book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 5, 2005
In a series of conversations, which took place over several days with journalist Peter Seewald, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, offers theological insights and explains doctrine in simple direct language. Covering a variety of topics, he systematically explores the notion of God, Jesus Christ, and the Church, and applies the theology to the lives of men and women in contemporary society.

The dialogue format works extremely well, enabling the reader to digest complex issues in small, well-written presentations. The style is simple and direct which flows well, maintaining the reader's attention despite the nature of the topic. Originally written in German, the translation is exceptional; the author's ideas and thoughts are conveyed smoothly, while occasional difficulties are addressed through accompanying footnotes and commentary.

GOD AND THE WORLD is probably the most engaging of all of Pope Benedict's longer works and can be read sequentially or by topic. For those unfamiliar with the Holy Father's writings, this book is probably the best introduction to his understanding of Catholic Theology.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2006
In an interview with Peter Seewald, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) humbly expresses his views and beliefs about God, Jesus and the Church, which gives us an insight into this man's great wisdom and the reasons why he has so rigorously defended these tenets of our faith. When reading this book, one can only marvel that Cardinal Ratzinger's responses are very down-to-earth. You can imagine him sitting across the living room from you, quite at ease, answering your questions, perhaps about creation, about the Trinity, genetics, love and just matter-of-factly explaining this all to you, like a kindly professor or grandfather. On one level, this book appears to be easy to read and understand and it is, yet on another level it is not because his explanations are profound theological thought for clergy, his fellow peers. An intelligent and scholarly theologian, Cardinal Ratzinger responds to probably most of the questions you ever had about our faith. This book is good for everyone who wants information about both the Old Testament and New Testament.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Read this book.

There are so many things that are wonderful about this book; it is hard to know where to begin. First and foremost, this is a fantastic comprehensive synthesis of Ratzinger's views regarding much of the current concerns of the Church and of the world.

Additionally, the question and answer format makes this book extremely accessible, even for those who might think they are too busy to read about the new Pope. I would even say that the topics that are discussed in this interview are of interest to everybody as they do not necessarily revolve around interior Church issues.

Like I said earlier, I suggest that you read this book. It's a great way to start learning more about what Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) is like and how he thinks.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2005
I had been quite surprised reading "Salt of the Earth" at Cardinal Ratzinger's measured response to Peter Seewald's questions. But in "God and the World", Cardinal Ratzinger displays an amazingly intrinsic faith, one that encompasses the complexities of theology and history, while never being separated from the personal and central Christian relationship.

In respect to Peter Seewald, his questions were far more nuanced in "God and the World," and reflected thorough study in preparation for the interview. The tone of the book is much broader than "Salt of the Earth," but no less sensational. Seewald attempts to address the controversies of faith, spending a great deal of time sketching the debate over the role of women in the Church, but is not hesitant to bring in lengthy questions that are more "mood setting" than actually interrogative. An excellent example of this is in Chapter 11 "The Truth", in which Seewald's three paragraph "comment" on the Paternal model of God prompts Cardinal Ratzinger's two page response on human relationships and why the father-son relationship is intrinsic to our experience of God.

I have learned to read Cardinal Ratzinger's works with a pencil in hand, and to dog-ear the pages when necessary. This became self-defeating when reading God and the World, as so many pages are now dog-eared that my efforts to flip to a desired section are frustrated. Still, a few sections stand out.

First among these is Cardinal Ratzinger's treatment of transubstantiation and communion. While the entirety of the discussion is worthwhile and provocative, I was moved by the Cardinal's assertion that with the Eucharist "Jesus is saying here that it is the opposite to how it is with ordinary food that your body assimilates. That food is lesser than you, so that it becomes a part of your body. And in my case, it is the other way around: I assimilate you into me. I am the stronger, you will be assimilated into me... And that is what is really happening in Communion, that we allow ourselves to be drawn into him, into his inner communion, and are thus led finally into a state of inner resemblence"

There is one "moneychangers in the temple" moment with Cardinal Ratzinger, which comes during a discussion of liturgical abuses. The Cardinal is passionate in his response: "They should perform their ministry in a spirit of service to this living and growing entity that brings to us the faith of all the centuries, and not want to invent and manufacture something better, like experts who are almighty in and of themselves... What is being offered here is certainly the work of a few clever and hard-working people who have made something up. But what I encounter in that is no longer the Wholly Other, the Holy One being offered to me, but rather the cleverness and hard work of a few people. And I notice that that is not what I am looking for. It's too little, and it's something else."

And regarding the indult for the Tridentine (or the Novus Ordo Latin Missal): "I must say, quite openly, that I don't understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church"

But clear and faithful responses fill the book. It is a worthy successor to "Salt of the Earth", and provides a glimpse into Cardinal Ratziger's self that is somewhat different from his own writings.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2009
Overall, an excellent, informative volume, useful for inspirational browsing. The one caveat arises by comparison to Pope Benedict's self-authored works, as opposed to this interview-driven text.

Benedict is a brilliant scholar and thinker, and given the chance, can explicate a nuanced and obscure thread into the most eloquent, informative revelation. In God and the World, though, the questions are driven by Seewald, sometimes creating a disconnect in the Pope's far-reaching understanding. I found this interrupting of the Pope's train of thought to be distracting to my own, after a while. Lots of good "bits," but strung together without Pope Benedict XVI's profound connectivity. Still worth the price.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
As all of Ratzinger's work, this book explains in a common and simple approach the questions any teenager or adult have asked about Faith along the centuries. It can be read by Catholic, non Catholic, or even atheist or agnostics. As oppossed to the Cathesism of the Catholic Church, this book responds to specific questions coming from logic and common sense. The books respond to the WHY questions. Why pains exists? Why the devil acts? Why God created people that will end in Hell? and many other basic and natural questions of things that might seem absurd coming from a Loving Father. The edition has a very good size to make a nice reading, though becuase it is thick, it is not recommended for travelling around with it, but it is great to have it at home ton consult it when a question arouses or reading it thoroughly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2011
Similar to 'Salt of the Earth', this book- 'God and the World' is full of wisdom, common sense, truth and anecdotal information which enlightens and illuminates the Catholic faith. Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict IVX) has the ability to simply describe and explain esoteric themes and concepts. He speaks with gentleness, insight and profound knowledge on matters that affect each and every individual.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2009
In my opinion, Pope Benedict XVI is a brilliant theologian and I enjoyed reading this interview very much. I highly recommend this and any other publication that contains the Pope's writings particularly since he doesn't shy away from subjects thought to be hard and backs up his statements with irrefutable evidence.
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