The Holy Father on Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller

The following is a full translation of the salutation written by Pope Benedict XVI for a Festschrift celebrating the 60th birthday of Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller.

Dear Bishop Gerhard Ludwig,

I wanted to contribute at least a salutation to the Festschrift for your 60th birthday. I well remember our first meeting when you gave me your dissertation on the Sacraments in the thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. That was an ecumenical work of a unusual kind; everyone thinks that they know at least the main theses of that great Protestant thinker, but you showed surprising aspects of his thought, thereby inviting an encounter of a special kind. In the year 1995 you sent me your Dogmatic Theology. As far as I can see it is the only handbook of our field on the market written by a single author. It is thus able to reveal the whole structure of the world of the Catholic Faith in its inner unity. It also has the particular advantage of being limited to a size which makes it suitable as a text book for students. You thereby sent an important signal; theology, and even the field of dogmatic theology, is in danger of dissolving into specializations which obscure the greater whole, but every part of our Faith is only really intelligible in the light of the whole.

These encounters were primarily literary, but we became personally close in the years in which you were a member of the International Theological Commission, of which I (as prefect of the CDF) was president. We were all deeply impressed by your comprehensive knowledge of the whole history of dogma and theology, which your interventions always showed, and which was the foundation of your ever-reliable judgment. In everything we sensed that your theology was not just academic learning, but that it was and is – as the essence of theology demands – a thinking-with the word of the Faith, thinking-with the “we” of the Church as the communal subject of the Faith. You took care to make the work of the International Theological Commission better known in Germany, and in all those years you continually published important contributions on the pressing theological questions of the day. You made great efforts to explain the true meaning of the document “Dominus Jesus” which had so often been distorted in the reduction to a few slogans. As bishop of Regensburg you took the foundational biblical expression “Dominus Jesus: Jesus is the Lord” (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3) as your motto, and by so doing you determined your agenda: Christ stands at the center of the episcopal ministry; He is the center of our Christian existence. At the time of your episcopal ordination, when the debate about the document beginning with those words was raging, your motto was a reminder that the Magisterium wanted thereby to call us back to the center of our Faith.

Now it has already been five years since the See of St Wolfgang was entrusted to you. You have had to endure many storms and more will surely come. But during this time no one could doubt that you wanted only the one thing: to give witness to Jesus Christ, in whom God has turned His Face toward us and opened His Heart for us. And so on your 60th birthday I hope pray that the Lord might help you to always remain His faithful witness and thus to be a “co-worker of our joy” (cf. 2 Cor 1:24)

Given at Rome on the Feast of St Hilary, 2007

Benedictus PP. XVI

7 thoughts on “The Holy Father on Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller

  1. Troubling remarks from the Archbishop in his new interview with the Mittelbayerische Zeitung. He claims that the talks with Bishop Fellay are about “he who wants to become Catholic again.” So the SSPX are now another ‘Protestant ecclesial community’ of the type he worked with in Germany? He also seems to desire to quash the recent development of acceptable new interpretations of VII: “This includes the acceptance of the form and content of the Second Vatican Council, and the previous and subsequent statements and decisions of the Magisterium. There is no other way.”

    As a naive new Catholic, I initially thought that the ‘new springtime’ was finally starting to fade away under His Holiness Benedict. But I was probably wrong.

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    • Thanks very much for the link. I hadn’t read that before. It’s excellent. He shows that while Müller doesn’t formally deny the dogma of the virginitas in partu, his interpretation amounts to a material denial.

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      • No problem, I found it linked in the Rorate combox by someone who says they had studied theology in Germany, and has read a lot of Müller’s work. I cannot read German so thanks for giving me a confirmation of what the other person said. It certainly isn’t reassuring.

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  2. You mentioned once that you be making an evaluation of the Archbishop’s work once you return to Austria. I would very much appreciate it if you could post your thoughts on this subject.

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