Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian novelist who won the Nobel Prize for literature for such works as "The War of the End of the World" praised both the intellectual prowess and spiritual stature of Pope Benedict XVI who, on February 28, left behind the papacy to enter a life of prayer. Vargas Llosa considered the retirement a loss for the entire world. “I don’t know why Benedict XVI’s abdication has been such a surprise,” he said. “Although it is unusual, it was not unpredictable,” said Vargas Llosa of the Pope's retirement. “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 wrote in the Madrid daily, El Pais.
The Peruvian author, who has criticized Catholic moral teachings, said that the Pope'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.” Even while his works were "always conceived within Christian orthodoxy,” said Vargas Llosa, 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 said that Benedict XVI’s term in the 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 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 Nobel Prize winning author said that Pope Benedict 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.” It is, therefore, 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.”