When I look back at this late hour in my life over the decades I’ve walked through, I see first of all the number of reasons to be grateful. I thank God Himself first of all, the Giver of every good gift, who has given me life and has guided me through various moments of confusion; I always get up every time I start to slip and he always gives me his face light again. In retrospect, I see and realize that even the dark and wearisome parts of this path were for my salvation, and that it was precisely in them that he guided me well.
I thank my parents, who gave me life in a difficult time and who, at the cost of great sacrifices, prepared for me with their love a wonderful home, which, like a clear light, illuminates all my days until today. My father’s evident faith taught us children to believe, and as a guiding mark it was always constant in the midst of all my scholarly acquisitions; My mother’s deep devotion and great goodness is a legacy for which I can never be thankful enough. My sister has helped me for decades with selflessness and loving care; My brother, with the frankness of his judgements, his strong resolve and the serenity of his heart, has always prepared the way for me; If it were not for his constant precedent and accompanying me, I would not have been able to find the right path.” «I sincerely thank God for the many friends, men and women, whom he has always placed at my side; for my collaborators at all stages of my journey; For teachers and pupils he gave me. I entrust them all with gratitude to his goodness.
And I would like to thank the Lord for my beautiful homeland in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, where I have always seen the splendor of the Creator himself shining through. I thank my countrymen because in them I could always experience the beauty of faith again. I pray that our land will remain a land of faith, and please, dear compatriots: do not let your faith distract you. And finally, I thank God for all the beauty that I have been able to experience throughout my journey, especially in Rome and Italy, which has become my second home. To all those I have wronged in any way, I sincerely ask for forgiveness. What I said before to my compatriots, I now say to all those in the Church who are entrusted to my service: remain firm in the faith! Do not panic! It often seems that science and the natural sciences, on the one hand, and historical research (particularly the interpretation of the Bible) on the other, are capable of providing indisputable results contrary to the Catholic faith. I have lived through the transformations of the natural sciences since ancient times and have been able to see, on the contrary, the disappearance of the seeming certainty against faith, proving that it is not science, but philosophical explanations only because of science; Just as, on the other hand, in dialogue with the natural sciences faith also learned to understand better the limits of the range of its assertions, and therefore of its specificity. I have now been a companion of theology for sixty years, especially in biblical sciences, and with the succession of different generations I have seen theses that seemed to collapse unshakably, proving themselves to be mere hypotheses: the liberal generation (Harnack, Gulicher, etc.), the existential generation (Bultmann, etc.), the Marxist generation. I have seen and continue to see how the reasonableness of faith emerged and reappears from the tangle of hypotheses. Jesus Christ is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the Church, with all its inadequacies, is truly His Body. Finally, I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord will welcome me, in spite of all my sins and shortcomings, into the eternal abode. To all those entrusted to me, my heartfelt prayer continues day by day.
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