An excerpt from Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, Peter Seewald’s book-length interview with Pope Benedict XVI:
From Chapter 1, "Popes Do Not Fall from the Sky," pages 3-5:
In the so-called “room of tears” during a conclave three sets of robes lie waiting for the future Pope. One is long, one short, one middle-sized. What was going through your head in that room, in which so many new Pontiffs are said to have broken down? Does one wonder again here, at the very latest: Why me? What does God want of me?
Actually at that moment one is first of all occupied by very practical, external things. One has to see how to deal with the robes and such. Moreover I knew that very soon I would have to say a few words out on the balcony, and I began to think about what I could say. Besides, even at the moment when it hit me, all I was able to say to the Lord was simply: “What are you doing with me? Now the responsibility is yours. You must lead me! I can’t do it. If you wanted me, then you must also help me!” In this sense, I stood, let us say, in an urgent dialogue relationship with the Lord: if he does the one thing he must also do the other.
Did John Paul II want to have you as his successor?
That I do not know. I think he left it entirely up to the dear Lord.
Nonetheless he did not allow you to leave office. That could be taken as an argumentum e silentio, a silent argument for his favorite candidate.
He did want to keep me in office; that is well known. As my seventy-fifth birthday approached, which is the age limit when one submits one’s resignation, he said to me, “You do not have to write the letter at all, for I want to have you to the end.” That was the great and undeserved benevolence he showed me from the very beginning. He had read my Introduction to Christianity. Evidently it was an important book for him. As soon as he became Pope he had made up his mind to call me to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He had placed a great, very cordial, and profound trust in me. As the guarantee, so to speak, that we would travel the right course in the faith.
You visited John Paul II one more time when he was on his deathbed. On that evening you hurried back from a lecture in Subiaco, where you had spoken about “Benedict’s Europe in the Crisis of Cultures”. What if anything did the dying Pope say to you?
He was suffering much and, nevertheless, very alert. He said nothing more, though. I asked him for his blessing, which he gave me. So we parted with a cordial handshake, conscious that that was our last meeting.
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