Rome, Italy, Feb 12, 2013 / 01:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A German journalist and acquaintance of Pope Benedict XVI says atheists in their native country are more respectful of him after realizing their perception of the pontiff was wrong.
"The atheists are very respectful now of him because they had a completely invalid image of him clinging to his power, although it meant nothing to him," said Paul Badde, Die Welt's Vatican correspondent since Feb. 2002.
"They saw him as harsh, as the German shepherd clinging to his throne," he said.
But Badde, who met Pope Benedict personally in the early 1980s in theological debates and close inner circles, also said many Germans did not take full advantage of his efforts to help change their society.
"The Germans could have done much more, but they gave him a very hard time and now they're more shocked than any other nation," said Badde.
He explained that Germans could have followed the example of the Poles, who worked with Blessed John Paul II to make huge changes in their country.
"What did the Poles accomplish in their identification with their Pope? They brought the Soviet Union down and they changed the course of history," he remarked.
In Badde’s view, "Germany has been a twisted nation for centuries."
And while “it is too much for a single pontiff to reconcile a nation,” Pope Benedict “opened an opportunity for them which they sadly missed.”
Badde told CNA he is most proud of the fact that his book “The Divine Face” inspired Pope Benedict to travel to Manopello, Italy, to see the Veil of Veronica.
On a personal level, Badde said that Pope Benedict's resignation has left him feeling "fatherless and disoriented." He is also "very saddened, but in a confused way because he is not dead."
"I'm very shocked, but I have heard from people very close to him that he is in a state of serenity, so there is a sense of relief coming," said Badde.
"He must have realized that he wasn't capable of doing this anymore, but he was capable of many other things like writing books. And now he's capable of praying for the Church," he said.
"The Church is being attacked now as it has never been before in my entire life and so it needs a captain and a commander who knows how to wage a war," Badde remarked.