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Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today Paperback – March 1, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

About the Author

On April 19, 2005, CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER was elected POPE BENEDICT XVI and became the 264th successor to Peter as the "Vicar of Jesus Christ." He may well be the most accomplished theologian to be elected Pope in modern times. Beginning in 1981 he spent over 20 years as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a role often depicted as the "defender of the faith." Cardinal Ratzinger was also President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the Preparatory Commission that codified the new "Catechism of the Catholic Church," published in 1994.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; 3rd edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898705789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898705782
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.6 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Of all Cardinal Ratzinger's works, this is my favorite. It touches upon issues of ecclesiology and sacramental theology. In short, Cardinal Ratzinger ties in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, with the Church. Through it, he explores God's covenant with His people. I have long noticed the various double meanings -- one sacramental, the other ecclesiological -- in much of our theological language. Words like "communion" and "Body of Christ" carry the double significance of our communion with one another, as well as our communion with Christ. This book explores both, tying them together in an easy to read, as well as understandable, format.
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Format: Paperback
This is a little book which was not originally a book by intention. Yet it is held together by the internal theme of ecclesial self-identity. It is a little book with a big message.
In any sphere in order to know how something is to function, it is extremely important to understand its origin and purpose. It is no different with the Church. In a confused and confusing world there is need for such a book as this to re-establish and re-invigorate our ecclesial focus. ...And Christ Jesus is its essence and center.
CALLED TO COMMUNION is not necessarily the easiest read because a good part of it was originally directed at individuals(Bishops) who could be assumed to have had some prior knowledge of the subject matter. Still it is worth the time invested, for even the average reader interested in the Church as well, to search out the pearls of wisdom which are assuredly to be found within its pages.
As always the Cardinal writes from an admirably, profound knowledge and depth of faith.
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Format: Paperback
Theologically liberal Protestants and theologically liberal Catholics have distorted the New Testament witness by pushing a false opposition between the Kingdom of God and the Church. They have also ignored the New Testament evidence for the primacy of Peter as first bishop of Rome and for the priesthood of the New Covenant. Fortunately, Cardinal Ratzinger sets the record straight by showing that there is no opposition between the kingdom preached by Jesus and the Church founded by the same Jesus, by documenting the New Testament evidence for the Petrine primacy, and by pointing to the theology of the New Covenant's own priesthood present in the New Testament. All of this is done concisely, precisely, and clearly. This book should be read by any Christian interested in the Church and especially by Catholics. It is a primer on ecclesiology.
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Format: Paperback
I read this as an outsider of the Catholic Faith, but I found it very intriguing, nonetheless. Ratzinger's perspective on the essence and origin of the Church is impossible to dismiss, and the truth in this book, although it's doubtful that the author intended this, exposes huge problems in the (many) Protestant concepts of "church". Although the contents of this book were not originally intended to be presented in book form, the ideas are fluid and clear. A great book. 4 stars only because I'm not (at least not yet) Catholic, and, therefore, there wasn't much practical wisdom I could take from this book.
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Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today starts off with three theology lectures for a course on universal vs. particular Churches for bishops in Brazil, followed by an address to the Synod of Bishops on the priesthood, a talk on ecclesial reform to conclude an annual meeting in Rimini, and finally a homily preached at a seminary in Philadelphia which is added to "clarify once more the spiritual orientation of the whole book" (from the Foreword). All of these events took place in 1990, but the material is as relevant, if not more so, today.

The stated goal in the Foreword of offering "a sort of primer of Catholic ecclesiology" to "bring clarity and help in the crisis of ecclesial consciousness" is fulfilled in spades. The nature of the book and the audiences it was directed toward originally does not allow Cardinal Ratzinger to go into the level of detail I would have like to have seen, but nevertheless he is quite successful at giving the reader a good overview of Catholic ecclesiology, particularly as it relates to the roles of bishops, priests, and the nature of true reform in the Church.

In the first chapter he establishes the origin of the Church in Jesus, of course, by using not only Gospel testimony, but also Paul's doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ, and the beginnings of Church functioning in the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter Two deals with Petrine primacy and the unity of the Church. The author acknowledges the ecumenical difficulty of this question, but goes on to solidly show the status of Peter as "Rock", as head of the Twelve, and as keeper of the "keys" which he deals with at the greatest length of the three points.
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Format: Paperback
The recent election of Pope Benedict XVI (previously Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) has caused there to be increased interest in his writings. "Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today" was originally written in 1991. In it, Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to offer a "primer of Catholic ecclesiology." It is composed of the texts from three different presentations that he gave during 1990: a theology course for bishops, the opening statement of the Synod for Bishops, and a speech given on the Church and ecclesial reform.

Ratzinger attempts to answer many questions in this volume. Among them are: What is the Church in the first place? What is the purpose of her existence? What is the role of the priesthood? and What can be done to reform the Church? While the text is intended for bishops and there are portions which would be of little interest to anyone else, there are many sections of "Called to Communion" of importance to the larger people of God.

In particular, his arguments for the primacy of the Roman bishops have many implications for ecumenical dialogue. He argues that both Paul and the Johannine tradition make the case for the primacy of Peter. He maintains that Paul introduces Peter as the first witness to the Resurrection. Because witness of that event is considered the prime criteria for apostleship, Peter gains special recognition because he was the first. One might question, of course, how the role of Mary Magdalene might fit into such a scheme since she was the first person the risen Lord actually appeared to. Regardless, one can agree with Ratzinger's assertion that Peter did "enjoy a special position in the circle of the Twelve."

An issue regarding succession does come into play, however, once Peter has died.
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