The Pope’s Vision for the Future

A vision for the future of the Church set forth in 1969, 44 years ago, by the relatively young theologian Joseph Ratzinger, then 42 — so at almost the exact midpoint of his life from his birth in 1927 until now — was recalled today by Italian writer Marco Bardazzi on the Vatican Insider website.

It was a vision of a Church with “far fewer members” and with “little influence over political decisions,” to the point of being almost “socially irrelevant” and forced to “start over.”

But it was also a vision of a Church that would find herself again and be reborn a “simpler and more spiritual” entity following “enormous confusion.”

The vision was set forth is a series of five radio homilies by Ratzinger in 1969, and was published in book form just two years ago by Ignatius Press as Faith and the Future.

Joseph 2Ratzinger said he was convinced the modern Church was going through a dramatic era similar to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

“We are at a huge turning point in the evolution of mankind,” he said. “This moment makes the move from medieval to modern times seem insignificant.”

From the crisis “will emerge a Church that has lost a great deal,” he warned. “It will become small and will have to start pretty much all over again. It will no longer have use of the structures it built in its years of prosperity… It will be a more spiritual Church, and will not claim a political mandate flirting with the Right one minute and the Left the next. It will be poor and will become the Church of the destitute.”

The process outlined by Ratzinger was a “long” one “but when all the suffering is past, a great power will emerge from a more spiritual and simple Church.”

Then, and only then, Ratzinger concluded, would Catholics begin to see “that small flock of faithful as something completely new… as a source of hope for themselves, the answer they had always secretly been searching for.”

Dr. Robert Moynihan


Dr. Robert Moynihan is an American and veteran Vatican journalist with knowledge of five languages. He is founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine.

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  • disqus_LssQQVkvlX

    We seem to have become so overly sophisticated that we have lost sight of the simple but profound beauty of the message of Love and Truth. This vision is so hopeful , discouraging and encouraging at the same time.. I love you Lord, I love you Holy Father. Thank you so much for your self-donation, your sacrifice for Love.Thank you for your faithfulness.

  • rosebud

    How many TRUE friends does one really need ?
    Dare I say, the distinguishing features of this “irrelevant” church will be its members realizing the 2 “Keys” to greater union with Divine Presence; 1) Eucharist – Acknowledging the Historical/Biblical Truth that intellectual & Heartfelt Presence of Jesus has flowed from the unbroken line of priesthood since Jesus’ last supper. [ (New)Testament & (New)Covenant were interchangable words in the early church. The Word of God was never shared apart from “The Breaking of Bread” ] 2) Our Lady – Acknowledging the Historical/Biblical Truth of God’s design of Mary’s importance, shown by allowing our salvation to “Hinge” on Her faith-filled “Yes” and his depending on Her humanity(DNA & motherly care) to become like us.

  • chaco

    I would add that the main trial in all of this is the WAITING. A couple tools to help with that are 1) realizing that God is outside of time; Union with God feels like Time stops 2) Technology and the resulting “Free Flow” of information/ Truth would make one think that the transition will occur much faster than the medieval to modern times transition.

  • rosebud

    Benedict XVI has also empasized how RELATIVism (no truthexcept that which is RELATIVE to one’s own appetites or experience) is the greatest enemy of our times. It is having its “Moment in the Spotlight” by stressing that if there is no absolute truth, then we won’t fight about who’s right or wrong. It looks good on paper but in real practise it always deteriorates into fallen human nature/ Original sin / W.H.P.; selfish seeking of W ealth – H onor (popularity) – P leasure. But never forget ! ; Evil/ deciept has to come in “Sheep’s Clothing”. If they call us narrow-closed minded, just say; “That’s not very nice.” This holds them accountable to their committment to tolerance of differring views.