-- Catholic News Agency
Atheist Nobel Prize Winner Mourns Pope's Retirement
LIMA, PERU, February 27 (CNA/EWTN News) .- An atheist Peruvian author has praised the spiritual and intellectual stature of Pope Benedict XVI and said that his departure is a loss for the cultural and spiritual life of the world.
"I don't know why Benedict XVI's abdication has been such a surprise," said Mario Vargas Llosa, a Nobel laureate in literature and a self-proclaimed atheist opposed to the moral teachings of the Church.
"Although it is unusual, it was not unpredictable," he said of the Holy Father's announcement earlier this month that he would be resigning on Feb. 28 due to advanced age and declining strength.
"You could tell just by looking at how fragile he was and how lost he seemed among the crowds in which his office required that he immerse himself," Vargas Llosa said in a column published by the Spanish daily El Pais.
The Peruvian author observed that the Holy Father's "profound and unique reflections were based on his enormous theological, philosophical, historical and literary knowledge, acquired in the dozen classic and modern languages he commanded."
While they were "always conceived within Christian orthodoxy," the Pope's "books and encyclicals often went beyond the strictly dogmatic and contained novel and bold reflections on the moral, cultural and existential problems of our times," Vargas Llosa reflected.
He went on to note that Benedict XVI's papacy spanned "one of the most difficult periods that Christianity has faced in its more than 2000 year history."
"The secularization of society is progressing with great speed," he said, "especially in the West, the citadel of the Church until relatively just a few decades ago."
"Benedict XVI," Vargas Llosa added, "was the first Pope to ask forgiveness for the sexual abuse that has taken place in Catholic schools and seminaries, to meet with victims' associations."
The Holy Father also convened "the first Church conference devoted to listening to the testimonies of the victims themselves and to establishing norms and rules to prevent such evils from occurring again in the future," he said.
It would therefore be a mistake to celebrate the Pontiff's resignation "as a victory of progress and freedom," the author explained.
"He not only represented the conservative tradition of the Church, but also its greatest legacy: that of the high and revolutionary classic and renaissance culture that, let us not forget, the Church preserved and spread through its convents, libraries and seminaries."
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