Cardinal Julián Herranz publishes his memoirs regarding Benedict XVI and Francis in his new book, “Two Popes,” saying “they have inspired me with their virtues and honoured me with their personal friendship.” Pope Francis wrote the preface in which he thanks the Cardinal for his service to the Church.
By Johan Pacheco
“Dos Papa” (Two Popes) features the memoirs of Spanish Cardinal Julián Herranz Casado and his experience in the service of Benedict XVI and Francis, offering his own testimony of the Church’s journey in recent decades. With love for Mother Church and the Holy Father, Cardinal Herranz writes about the moments of splendour and the challenges faced by the successor of Peter.
Cardinal Julián Herranz is President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and President emeritus of the Disciplinary Commission of the Roman Curia.
In the preface of the book written by Pope Francis in his own handwriting, the Pope thanks him for the “work and effort” of the book, saying “I admire your memory and your youthful age.” And recalling times he shared with Cardinal Herranz, the Pope called him a “man of the Church, a man with an ecclesial heart”.
Pope Francis writes: “I am moved by his gesture, it leaves me speechless. I did not expect it. I admire his memory and his youthful age. And I recall an anecdote: after the Conclave in which Benedict XVI was elected, you invited Cardinal Hummes and me. It was a lunch where we were able to appreciate your love for the Church by listening to your reflections. We came away edified and the comments among us were about how we were inspired by your personality as a man of the Church, a man with an ecclesial heart.”
This 21-chapter memoir covers the pontificate of Benedict XVI to that of Francis, but it also recalls other popes who influenced his life and whom he also served. Among the topics he addresses in the book, he also touches on some of the controversial ones, including: Vatileaks, sexual abuse, reforms, the resignation of a pope, even hostility against the Supreme Pontiff.
Cardinal Herranz writes on how he “had the unimaginable good fortune to serve six popes in the Vatican, from that distant year of 1960 to the present day. No less than six decades… and particularly novel with the last two.”
Two Popes: the face of Jesus of Nazareth
He illustrates in a particular way that “Benedict XVI and Francis reflect, each in a unique way and in their application of the Second Vatican Council, the kind face and joyful teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, regardless of the supposed doctrinal differences, which some exaggerate using opposing and extremist ideologies, or simply because of temporary interests of a socio-political nature.”
“I personally met the Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger, in June 1977, as soon as he was named a Cardinal. In turn, my friendship with Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, began at the conclave of 2005, which elected Cardinal Ratzinger – Benedict XVI,” the author recalls. And he underscores in the same way how “the two popes have inspired me with their virtues and honoured me with their personal friendship and trust, more than I deserve and with moving gestures.”
Benedict XVI like a Church Father
Cardinal Julián Herranz, describing Benedict XVI as a “Father of the Church for the 21st century,” notes that his personal characteristics recall in both his “intellectual and pastoral dimension…the Church Fathers who experienced the ecclesial and social events of the first centuries of Christianity offering special doctrinal clarity and a profound sense of pastoral responsibility.”
The author also sees in Benedict XVI a universal pastor who decisively confronted the very serious crime of the abuse of minors: “Pope Benedict raised for the first time in the Holy See the need to reconsider the canonical and pastoral judicial rules against these very serious crimes, to facilitate their application and to avoid the erroneous praxis followed until then.”
Cardinal Herranza also notes how Benedict XVI was the first Pope who “wanted to meet and listen to the victims of these crimes during his pastoral journeys.” He writes further, “with how much diligence and tenacity first Cardinal Ratzinger and later Benedict XVI exercised pastoral responsibility to highlight and heal this tremendous wound in the souls of the victims and in all the People of God.”
Closeness of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI and Francis
In his book “Two Popes”, Cardinal Herranz also highlights the closeness and continuity of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI with that of Francis: “above all in the encyclicals Laudato si and Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis reflects Benedict’s sensitivity and concern. God the Creator and Father is at the same time the one who gives theological dignity to created nature and who makes us brothers and sisters”.
This shows then “the Pope’s tremendous sorrow in the face of the ‘sacrilegious war’ in Ukraine and the many others (in the world) that make the ideology of ‘cainism’ diabolically present in the world,” writes the Cardinal, mentioning Francis’ great concern and dedication to the search for peace.
Pope Francis and charity
From personal meetings with Pope Francis, as well as from the exchange of personal letters, Cardinal Herranz remembers with emotion the Pope showing God’s love in a special way in the first days of his pontificate when he wished to go to Lampedusa to accompany those suffering following a shipwreck of migrants: “I personally gave enthusiastic praise to the idea that his first pastoral journey – as of one ‘in love’ – was not as a ‘head of state’ but as a ‘vicar of Christ’, who gave priority to his service to the poor, who was going to ‘suffer together’ with them in their pain and anguish of so many ‘Christs’ scourged by the lack of peace and work.”
He recalls also more recently the fervent prayer in St. Peter’s Square of Pope Francis when he led a prayer vigil for people suffering from the pandemic in places all over the world.
In conclusion, Cardinal Herranz thanks the protagonists featured in his book: “Benedict and Francis, Popes who are different and at the same time close, with whom I have had the joy of working, receiving, out of an excess of kindness on their part, moving experiences of friendship and trust”.