Balthasar and John Paul II

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI considered Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Adrienne von Speyr to be spiritual teachers, masters well-suited to illuminate Christian life with a profoundly Catholic doctrine.

In the fall of 1949, Alfred Läpple had given me Catholicism, perhaps Henri de Lubac’s most significant work, in the masterful translation by Hans Urs von Balthasar. This book was for me a key reading event. It gave me not only a new and deeper connection with the thought of the Fathers but also a new way of looking at theology and faith as such. Faith had here become an interior contemplation and, precisely by thinking with the Fathers, a present reality. In this book one could detect a quiet debate going on with both liberalism and Marxism, the dramatic struggle of French Catholicism for a new penetration of the faith into the intellectual life of our time. De Lubac was leading his readers out of a narrowly individualistic and moralist mode of faith and into the freedom of an essentially social faith, conceived and lived as a we – a faith that, precisely as such and according to its nature, was also hope, affecting history as a whole, and not only the promise of a private blissfulness to individuals.

Joseph Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977


The Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that Balthasar is right in what he teaches of the Faith, that he points the way to the sources of living water – a witness to the Word which teaches us Christ and which teaches us how to live.

Joseph Ratzinger, Balthasar’s Funeral, Lucern, July 1, 1988

Pope Benedict XVI

I consider that [Balthasar’s] theological reflection keeps its deep actuality intact to this day and still stirs many to penetrate ever further into the depths of the mystery of faith, holding the hand of this most authoritative guide. […] I can testify that von Balthasar’s life was a genuine quest for the truth, which he understood as a search for true Life. He sought everywhere for traces of God’s presence and truth: in philosophy, in literature, in the religions, always managing to break those circuits that make reason a prisoner of itself and opening it to the spaces of the infinite. Hans Urs von Balthasar was a theologian who put his research at the service of the Church, since he was convinced that theology could not but have ecclesial connotations. Theology, as he conceived it, had to be married to spirituality; only in this way, in fact, can it be profound and effective. […] The example that von Balthasar has bequeathed to us is that of a true theologian who had discovered in contemplation coherent action for Christian witness in the world. Let us remember him on this significant occasion as a man of faith, a priest who in obedience and concealment, never sought his own personal affirmation, but in a truly Ignatian spirit always desired the greatest glory of God.

Benedict XVI, Message for the centenary of the birth of
Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar
, Rome, October 6, 2005