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IN HIS OWN WORDS - Texts and interviews before JR became Pope

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13/12/2005 05.21
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This section will carry full or partial transcripts of interviews with Joseph Ratzinger, as well as full or partial texts of addresses, lectures and articles written by him before he became Pope.

Last May 13, the Roman newspaper La Repubblica reprinted excerpts from an interview given by Cardinal Ratzinger to Italian television when he was Prefect of the CDF, in which he recalls his participation in the Second Vatican Council. The 40th anniversary of the closing of that Council was the occasion for a reprint. With thanks to Emma in the main forum for posting the Italian item.

Ratzi in 1962 - at the start of Vatican-II

At the time of the Vatican Council, I was a young professor at the University of Bonn; the Archbishop who had jurisdiction over this university was Cardinal Frings of Cologne. I had given a lecture on the theology of the Council which the Cardinal attended; he appreciated it and invited me to join him in the Council.

Before that, he had already asked me to prepare an address for him to deliver in Genoa, at the invitation of Cardinal Siri, about the problems to be dealt with in the Council. Apparently, Pope John XXIII liked the address very much - it might have been considered not exactly revolutionary but rather audacious – and embracing Frings, he told him, “These were precisely my intentions in calling the Council.”

To see the Church alive in the Council, with 3000 bishops present, was truly an exceptional event: rarely in history could one see the Church in that way, grasp its universality, at a time of grand realization of its mission.

Along with the Cardinal, I lived in the Collegio dell’Anima on via della Pace – it was an Austrian institution with a very pleasant atmosphere.

Cardinal Frings gathered all the German-speaking bishops at the College and assigned me to give an overview of the Council agenda to the German episcopate.

I was 32 years old and had just started to teach at University, so for me it was a daunting thing, a heavy charge to take on. In effect, the responsibility for charting the course which the German bishops were to follow during the Council fell on my shoulders. On the one hand, I felt great joy that I was really taking part in the work of the Council, and on the other hand, I felt the weight of my responsibility to God and to history.

The Council was a historic event, even for me personally. I found myself thrown together with so many persons I had only known before through books. For a young professor who until then had only known the academic world, even simply taking part in Roman life was a completely new reality. To go out for coffee and get to know Roman life – so different from the life I knew at university – left me with many impressions that have marked my life.

And then, Pope John XXIII died. I remember the great sorrow that was felt even in Germany. My country is usually not known to be close to Popes, but this time, the whole country suffered for the dying Pope who was very much loved. It was incredible to see how this man had been able to unite everyone
in extraordinary love for him, drawing everyone closer to the Papacy.

Then of course, there was the matter of the succession. As an academic, I had no role in the Conclave. Cardinal Frings and I did not even talk about it. But we all thought that the Archbishop of Milan (Giovanni Battista Montini) should be the next Pope – he became prominent when he was substitute Secretary of State at the Vatican, so that even in 1958, when Pope Pius XXII died, the consensus was, “Too bad Montini is not yet a Cardinal, he deserves to be Pope one day.”

So it was no surprise when we learned that this time, Archbishop Montini had in fact been elected Pope. For us, it meant a guarantee of continuity for the Council in the spirit of Pope John, who himself had let it be known that he wished the Archbishop of Milan to succeed him. The new Pope was welcomed as a bearer of hope.

Roncalli and Montini – alike and yet different. So the Council was a basic experience even for marking the transition between two Popes, who shared the same fundamental intentions although with completely different personalities. It was interesting to have seen Pope John, totally charismatic, who lived in the inspiration of the moment and intimacy with the public, while on the other hand, Pope Paul was an intellectual who reflected on everything with incredible seriousness.

And no, during the Council, I never once met the Archbishop of Cracow [Karol Wojtyla, who, like Ratzinger, had attended all four sessions of Vatican-II. In fact, they met each other for the first time only much later, in the pre-Conclave days after Pope Paul’s death in 1978.]

As a consultant, I sat in the section assigned to us, and I was therefore able to follow the Council. In the first two months of the Council, I was not an official “expert,” just the Cardinal’s private consultant. In November, I was named an official “expert” by the Pope and from that moment, I participated officially in all the sessions. It was a great opportunity to watch all the other experts – De Lubac, Congar and other great names – whom I had known through studying their books.

Similarly, it was a great opportunity to see the representative sof other churches and other Christian confessions, not to mention, of course, the Pope himself. I will never forget that famous night of the torchlight procession under the moon, when the Pope told the mothers present: “Kiss your children tonight and tell them the kiss comes from the Pope.”

And all this was for me an experience that was doubly new because I was unfamiliar with Roman life…

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13/12/2005 19.41
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On joining the French Legion of Honor
Thanks to Beatrice in the French section for this item. Herewith my translation -

On May 11, 1998, Jean-Luis Lucet, then ambassador of France to the Holy See, conferred the decorations of Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honor on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ceremony took place at Villa Bonaparte ( housing the French embassy to the Vatican) in the presence of several cardinals, prelates and ambassadors.

In his acceptance speech – reproduced recently in "Documentation Catholique", Hors-série n°1, "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, discours et conférences de Vatican II à 2005" (Cardinal Ratzinger: Addresses and lectures from Vatican-II to 2005”) - the recipient of the award expressed his sentiments about the country that honored him:

At this time, words fail me, and I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to the President of the Republic of France, who has made me a Commander of the Legion of Honor. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador and Madame, for your friendship and for your involvement.

I would never have dreamed of having the honor and the happiness of finding myself bound in a manner so real and profound to the great cultural and spiritual tradition of France.

Since my youth, I have always been an enthusiastic admirer of “la Douce France.”

In a Germany that was destroyed and humiliated at the end of the Second Wolrd War, the first play that I saw was “Le Soulier de Satin” [The Satin Shoe] by Paul Claudel. It came at an important turn in my life. The symbolism of love and renunciation, of the fecundity of renunciation, of divine grace in human weakness, was transformed for me into a personal message, into a fundamental indication towards the way of life that I should pursue.

At that time, we began reading the great contemporary French writers: Bernanos, Mauriac, Peguy, as well as the lay writers like Anouilh and Sartre.

At that time, Germany’s borders were still sealed, but in 1948, we were introduced to the book “Surnaturel” (Supernatural) by Father Henri de Lubac. This book, with its new anthropology, its profound sensitivity about modern man and its profound fidelity to the true message of the Christian faith, was for us an event. It opened for us a new vision of the world and presented a new synthesis between modernity and tradition.

Not long after, I discovered other French theologians like Congar, Danielou, Chenu. My thinking found a framework through reading these masters, in whom I found an exemplary synthesis between spirituality and science, between intuition and methodological rigor.

For me, it was a great moment when, at the Vatican Council in 1962, I got to meet the venerable Father De Lubac, and I was astounded by the cordiality and humility with which this great man treated the young and obscure German theologian that I was.

Faher De Lubac had been one of the courageous men who provided inspiration to the French Resistance during the war. He had fought against an ideology of violence and lies, not against a people. This resistance also carried in it the true force of reconciliation: Christian humanism, based on the universality and unifying force of the truth.

Truth is a double-edged sword against lies, and Father de Lubac was not afraid to wield this sword against the lies within the Church as well as outside it, before the Council as after the Council. For me, the friendship that I had with Father and later Cardinal De Lubac – during the Council and while working together within the International Theological Commission [of which, Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the CDF, was president ex officio], was one of the greatest gifts I had ever received in life.

This great Christian was, for me, the incarnation of that authentic Christian humanism that can establish a Europe in fraternal communion with all the other continents. Cardinal De Lubac was also for me the incarnation of noble France and a perfect model of evangelical savoir-vivre.

I congratulate France for these great personalities. I thank France for the gift of its humanist culture.

I hope that we, all of us, can contribute to shaping a Europe molded in the great values of Christian tradition that can block the way to all kinds of ideological temptations.

Once again, thank you for the honor of belonging to the Legion of Honor. Long live the friendship between France and Germany! Vive la France!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 13/12/2005 19.44]

19/12/2005 00.17
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I do not know if this has appeared in any of Ratzi's books published in English, but it appeared in a Spanish newspaper the day after Ratzi became Pope (a Spanish translation from something he wrote in German in 1971!). So I have dared make an English translation, and if someone has an "official" English translation, please post it here and I will delete this post.

Why I am a Catholic
By Joseph Ratzinger

We can think of the Catholic Church by comparing it to the moon, not only for the relationship between moon and woman (as mother), but also because the moon does not have its own light. It receives light from the sun, without which it would be in total darkness. The moon shines, but its light is not its own. Lunar probes and astronauts have seen that the moon is nothing but a rocky and desert-like wasteland. They saw rock and sand, the reality quite different from the image we held about it from antiquity. The moon is by and of itself nothing but rock and sand, but it does reflect light.

Is this not an exact image of the Church? Whoever explores it and digs into it with a probe will discover, as in the moon, nothing but desert, sand and rock – the weaknesses of mankind seen as dust, stones, waste. But the decisive fact is that even if she is nothing but sand and stones, she is also Light, by virtue of the Lord.

I am a Catholic because I believe that now as in the past, and independent of us, the Lord stands behind the Church, and we cannot be near Him without staying within His Church. I belong to the Catholic Church because despite everything, I believe that it is His Church, not “ours.”

It is the Church which, despite all the human weaknesses present in her, brings us to Jesus Christ. Only through the Church can I receive Him as a living and powerful reality, here and now. Without the Church, the image of Christ would evaporate, it would crumble, it would disappear. And what would become of mankind deprived of Christ?

I am in the Church for the same reasons that I am a Christian. Because one cannot believe, in isolation. Faith is possible in communion with other believers. Faith by its very nature is a force that binds. And this faith must be ecclesial, or it is not faith at all. And just as one does not believe, in isolation, but only in communion with others, neither can one have faith out of one’s own initiative or invention.

I remain in the Church because I believe that faith, realizable only in the Church and not against her, is a true necessity for the human being and for the world.

I remain in the Church because only the faith the Church professes can save man. The great ideal of our generation is a society free of tyranny, suffering and injustice. In this world, suffering does not come only from inequalities in material wealth and power. There are those who would have us believe that we can realize our humanity without mastery of self, without the patience of surrender and the effort to overcome difficulties; that it is not necessary to make any sacrifice to keep compromises which we accept, nor to bear with patience the constant tension between what should be and what actually is.

In reality, man can only be saved through the Cross and the acceptance of one’s own suffering as well as those of the world, which find their resolution in the Passion of the Lord. Only thus can man become free. All the other “offers at a better price” can only end in failure.

Love is not simply aesthetic and uncritical. The only possibility to change man in a positive sense is to love him truly by transforming him gradually from who he is to who he can be. That is what the Church can do.

19/12/2005 17.55
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In its Christmas issue this year, the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana is including a prayer specially written for its readers by Pope Benedict XVI, along with a copy of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as a gift to its one and a half million readers. Herewith is an English translation of the prayer:


Lord Jesus Christ, appearing to your disciples after your resurrection, you said to them: “Go and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I have commanded you to do. I will be with you to the end of your days, to the end of the world.” (Mt 29, 19).

Because you want all men to reach salvation, you also want all men to know the truth which alone can lead us to salvation (cfr 1 Tim 2,6). You are the Truth. Through you, the truth has become for us the way to follow and which will lead us to life. Without you, we find ourselves in the dark regarding the essential demands of our life. Without you, we are like sheep without a shepherd (Mk 6, 34).

But you, in ascending up to Heaven, have not left us orphans (cfr Jn 14, 18). To your disciples, you did not oNly give the task of teaching to all men the right way to live. You promised them, for all time, the Holy Spirit who, from generation to generation, will guide them to the truth (cfr Jn, 16, 13).

Sustained by the Holy Spirit, the community of your disciples –the Church – will carry your words across time.

In the Church, your word lives; in the Church, your word is always present and reveals the future, because truth is always young and never grows old.

Help us so that, through the word announced by the Church, we may learn to follow all that you have commanded.

Help us to take up with joy the “sweet yoke” of truth (Mt 11, 30), which does not oppress, but which makes us become, through you, the children of God, and which therefore makes us free.

Help us to find you in the word of faith, to learn to know you and to love you.

Help us to become friends of the truth, friends of yours, friends of God.

Help your Church to carry out your mission peaceably without being discouraged amid the disturbances of our time.

Help us to announce your message with frankness, without betraying its genuineness.

Guide us through the Holy Spirit and introduce him into the broad spaces of the truth.

Lord, make us grateful for your word, grateful for the message of the Catechism, in which your word comes forth to us, so that we can learn to say with the psalmist: “How I love your law, my Lord!” (Sl 119, 97). Yes, “A lamp unto my steps is your word, a light along my way.” (Sl 119, 105).


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02/01/2006 18.48
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From Zenit

Date: 2006-01-01

Benedict XVI and European Cultural Renewal

Says Religious Restoration Needs "Creative Minorities"

NEW YORK, JAN. 1, 2006 ( An essay by Benedict XVI on "Europe and Its Discontents" is published in the January issue of the U.S.-based journal First Things.

The essay, originally written before his election to the papacy, will also appear in an upcoming book of the Pope's to be published in February under the title of "Without Roots" (Basic Books).

In the essay, the Holy Father identifies "Europe" as a cultural identity, not simply a geographical concept. Its civilization extends to all of the continents, especially North America.

But according to Benedict XVI, at a time when European civilization is the thoroughly dominant cultural force in the world today, its emphasis on techno-secular progress appears to have weakened the appreciation of its historical value system, culture and faith. To fill this vacuum, people are beginning to look to the religions of pre-Columbian America, Islam and Asian mysticism, he contends.

Benedict XVI states that low birthrates in the West indicate that the "vital energy" of Europe has been lost. There is a lack of regard and hope for the future caused by the secular dogmatisms and ideologies that "view the spirit as produced by matter and morals by circumstances." The fallacy of communist economics has been rejected, but its moral and religious fallacies have not.

The Holy Father compares the competing understandings of the development of civilizations offered by Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee.

Toynbee's line

He notes that while Spengler's "biologistic" thesis meant the death of Europe was inevitable, Toynbee claimed that civilizational progress contained two elements: techno-material and spiritual. The spiritual dimension relies on the free choice of the people. Thus, if the civilization is sick, there can be a remedy. For Europe, Toynbee proposes the recovery of the religious and cultural heritage of Western Christianity.

Pondering whether Toynbee's thesis is correct, Benedict XVI states, "If it is, then we must ask whether it is in our power to reintroduce the religious dimension through a synthesis of what remains of Christianity and the religious heritage of humankind."

Benedict XVI ultimately agrees with Toynbee's understanding of civilizational development, and exhorts Christians to be "creative minorities" within "Europe," cultivating appreciation for the three pillars of European civilization: respect for the dignity of the human person; marriage and the family; and religion.

Christianity is the antidote to a Europe that is beset by materialism, secularism and multiculturalism; a Europe that no longer appreciates its roots and with little interest or energy left to preserve its heritage. This is a heritage the Pope states should be offered for the service of mankind.
02/01/2006 21.22
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The essay referenced above was originally a lecture delivered by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on May 13, 2004, at the Sala Capitolare of the Italian Senate, at the invitation of Senate President Marcello Pera, one of Italy's leading philosophers, who had a distinguished academic career before he got into politics. The book "Without Roots", originally published in Italian last year, also contains Pera's lecture on the same topic, as well as an exchange of letters between the two about their colloquium. This English translation is given here with the original title under which it appeared in Inside the Vatican,in July 2004; it is available on line through

Europe: Its Spiritual Foundation-
Yesterday, Today and in the Future

By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Exactly what is Europe? Very much this same question was posed anew quite explicitly by Jozef Cardinal Glemp during the work of one of the language groups at the Episcopal Synod on Europe: Where does Europe begin? Where does it end? Why, for example, isn't Siberia part of Europe, even though it is also inhabited by Europeans whose way of thinking and living is European? Where do the borders of Europe end in the southernmost reaches of the community of Russian peoples? Where is the border in the Atlantic? Which islands are European and which aren't?
Why aren't they European?

In encounters such as this one, it becomes perfectly clear that only in a completely secondary manner is Europe a geographical concept.

Europe is a cultural and historical concept, not a continent clearly definable in geographical terms.


This becomes rather evident when we make an effort to return to the origins of Europe, which ordinarily means evoking Herodotus (484-425 BC). This historian was certainly the first person to look upon Europe as a geographical concept and he defined it in the following terms: "The Persians consider Asia and the barbarians who live there as their property, while they look upon Europe and the Greek world as a separate country."

The confines of Europe had not been adopted as such, but it is clear that the lands now constituting the core of Europe lay completely outside the visual field of this ancient historian. In fact, the formation of the Hellenic states and the Roman empire led to the formation of a continent that became the basis for later Europe, but which had completely different borders. These borders encompassed all the lands around the Mediterranean, which, as a result of factors such as cultural bonds, sea traffic, trade and a common political system, together made up a continent in the true sense of the word.

Only the triumphal advance of Islam in the 600s and the beginning of the 700s traced a border through the Mediterranean, thereby cutting it into two. As a result, everything which until then had been a single continent was now subdivided into three: Asia, Africa and Europe.

The transformation of the ancient world took place in the East at a slower pace than in the West. With Constantinople as its focal point, the Roman Empire resisted there — albeit pushed to the outskirts more and more — until the 1400s. While, by the year 700, the southern part of the Mediterranean had fallen completely outside what up to then had been considered a cultural continent, a more decisive expansion northward was underway at the same time. The limes, or what up to then had been a continental confine, disappeared, and the way was opened towards a new historical space that now embraced Gaul, Germany and Britannia as core territories, along with an increasing propensity to reach out in the direction of Scandinavia.

In the course of this process of shifting confines, the ideal continuity with the previous Mediterranean continent — geographically gauged in different terms — was guaranteed by the construction of a theology of history: in line with the book of Daniel, the Roman Empire as renewed and transformed by the Christian faith was considered the ultimate and permanent kingdom of the history of the world in general. Therefore, the peoples and states in the process of coming into existence were defined as the Sacrum Imperium Romanum (Holy Roman Empire).

The process involving this new historical and cultural identification took place as an intentional pursuit under the reign of Charlemagne. Likewise, emerging once again was the ancient name "Europe," but with a change in meaning: this title was now used to define the kingdom of Charlemagne, while at the same time expressing an awareness of the continuity and newness with which this new set of states was projecting itself as a force projecting itself into the future. Projecting itself into the future, precisely because it saw itself as the continuation of what had thus far been the history of the world and therefore anchored in what perseveres forever. Likewise expressed in this emerging self comprehension was an awareness of definitiveness, together with an awareness of a mission to be accomplished.

It is true that the concept of "Europe" practically disappeared once again after the demise of the Carolingian reign, while the word itself retained a certain pride of place only in the language of learned persons. In ordinary language, however, it then resurfaced at the beginning of the modem age, as a form of self identification in relation to the threat represented by the Turks, while its widespread and general use brings us all the way up to the 18th century. Independently from this history of the actual word "Europe." the consolidation of the kingdom of the Franks as the never-faded and now reborn Roman Empire, marked the decisive step towards what we now mean when we speak of Europe.

At the same time, however, we certainly must not overlook the fact that there was also a second root of Europe, a non-Western Europe. As mentioned earlier, the Roman Empire resisted in Byzantium against tempests in the forms of the migration of peoples and the Islamic invasion. Moreover, Byzantium considered itself to be the true Rome because this was where the empire had never passed away. As a result. the "east" continued to advance claims against the other half of the empire. the western half. Now, this eastern Roman empire also expanded northward into the heartland of the Slavic world and created its own world, a Greek-Roman world distinct from the Latin Europe of the West because of a different liturgy, a different ecclesiastical constitution, a different culture and the abandonment of Latin as the common language learned by all.

Certainly the elements that could have made these two worlds a single one, a single and common continent, were more than sufficient. First, there was the common heritage of the Bible and the early Church, which, in both worlds, related beyond itself to an origin now outside Europe, in Palestine. Then there was the common idea of "Empire," the common and basic comprehension of the Church, and hence a sharing of the fundamental ideas of rule of law and juridical instruments. Lastly among these elements, I would venture to mention monasticism, which, even in the throes of the major upheavals of history, basically remained the bearer not only of cultural continuity but, above all, of fundamental religious and moral values, ultimate orientations of man. As a pre-political and supra political force, monasticism became the wellspring of ever new and necessary rebirths.

Despite this sharing of an essential ecclesiastical heritage, there was still a profound difference between these two Europes and the importance thereof has been highlighted especially by Endre von Ivanka. In Byzantium, empire and Church were practically identified one with the other. The emperor was also the head of the Church and considered himself the representative of Christ. Much like Melchisedek, who was both king and priest (Gn 14:18), as of the 6th century, the emperor bore the official title of "king and priest."

In the Western empire, however, the departure of the emperors from Rome &3151 begun by Constantine — enabled the autonomous position of bishop of Rome to develop as the successor of Peter and supreme pastor of the Church, in what had been the original capital of the empire. There was, therefore, a dualism of authority, taught already at the outset of the era of Constantine: in effect, Emperor and Pope had separate powers, and neither one of them exercised total authority. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) set forth the vision of the West in his famous letter to Emperor Anastasius and even more explicitly in his fourth treatise, where, in contrast to the Byzantine typology of Melchisedek, he stressed that the unity of authority was to be found exclusively in Christ: "Due to human weakness (pride!), He has separated the two ministries for times to come so no one may become arrogant" (c. 11).

For matters regarding eternal life, the Christian emperors needed Popes (pontifices), who, in their turn, abided by imperial orders regarding temporal affairs. In worldly matters, the Popes had to comply with the laws of the emperor enthroned by divine order, while the latter had to bow to Popes regarding divine affairs. A separation or distinction of powers was thereby introduced, which became of utmost importance for the later development of Europe. We could even say that it laid the foundations for what is specifically typical of the Western world.

Since rebellion against such delimitation was ever vivid on both sides, along with an impulse to concentrate powers and a yearning to impose power over the other side or party, this principle of separation has also become the source of infinite suffering. How this principle should be lived correctly and rendered concrete in both political and religious terms remains a fundamental issue for the Europe of both today and tomorrow.


While on the basis of what has been presented thus far we may consider, on the one hand, the rise of the Carolingian empire and, on the other, the continuation of the Roman empire in Byzantium with its mission towards the Slavic peoples, as the true birth of the continent Europe, the onset of the modem age meant a turning point for both Europes, a radical change affecting both the essence of this continent and its geographical contours.

Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 and O. Hiltbrunner commented upon this event in the following laconic terms: "the last... learned men emigrated towards Italy and to the humanists of the Renaissance handed on the knowledge of the original Greek texts; but the East collapsed in the absence of culture."

Such an affirmation may strike us as being somewhat uncouth, because the reign of the Ottoman dynasty had its culture as well. It is true, however, that this event marked the end of the Greek-Christian, European culture of Byzantium. Therefore, one of Europe's two wings ran the risk of disappearing, but the Byzantine heritage was not dead. Moscow declared itself as the third Rome, founded its own patriarchate on the grounds of the idea of a second translatio imperii, and therefore projected itself as a new metamorphosis of the Sacrum Imperium — a form of Europe in its own right which nonetheless remained united with the West, moving closer and closer — to such an extent that Peter the Great tried to turn Russia into a western nation.

This northward shift of Byzantine Europe also meant that the continent's confines started moving broadly eastwards. The setting of the Urals as the frontier was an extremely arbitrary decision, but the world east of that mountain range was becoming more and more like a sort of substructure of Europe, neither Asia nor Europe; basically forged by Europe as the prime subject, without any possibility of exercising its own rights as a subject and therefore a mere object bereft of any chance to be the bearer of its own history. For all intents and purposes, perhaps that defines the essence of a colonial state.

At one and the same time we witness a dual process of substantial historical significance in the West as well.

First, a large part of the Germanic world separated itself from Rome and a new, enlightened form of Christianity saw the light of day. Therefore, then running through the West was a line of separation which clearly formed a cultural limes, a border between two different ways of thinking and entertaining relations. Within the Protestant world there was also a cleavage; firstly between Lutherans and Reformed believers, who were joined by Methodists and Presbyterians, while the Anglicans tried to assume a middle of the road stance between Catholics and Evangelicals. Then there was the difference between Christianity lived under the form of a state Church, which became the characteristic in Europe, and Christianity lived in the free churches that found refuge in North America. We will return to this at a later point.

Let's take a close look at the second event, the discovery of America, which shaped the situation during the modern age of Latin Europe. Corresponding to the eastward extension of Europe, as Russia moved closer and closer to Asia, was Europe's radical egress from its geographical confines towards America, towards that world on the other side of the ocean. The subdivision of Europe into a Latin Catholic half and a Germanic Protestant half also crossed those waters and had an impact in that part of the planet colonized by Europe. Initially, America was also a colony, a part of an expanded Europe, but, with the upheaval of Europe brought about by the French Revolution, America took on its own stature as an independent subject. Even though marked so deeply by its European birth, from the 19th century onwards America began to assume a position of equality with Europe.

In an effort to learn more about Europe's profound and innermost identity by looking back over its history, we have considered two fundamental turning points in that history. First, the dissolution of the old Mediterranean continent caused by the creation of the Sacrum Imperium located farther north, where, beginning with the Carolingian epoch, Europe began to be formed as a Latin-western world. Together with this there was the continuation of the old Rome at Byzantium with its expansion towards the Slavic world. As a second step in this process, we looked at the downfall of Byzantium and the subsequent shift of a part of Europe northwards and eastwards, as well as the internal division of Europe into a Germanic-Protestant world and a Latin-Catholic world. This was then followed by the leap towards America, which also felt the impact of that internal division, but ended up assuming a position as an independent subject vis-a-vis Europe.

At this point we must focus our attention on a third turning point, whose readily visible beacon was the French Revolution. It is true to say that the Sacrum Imperium was already considered close to its natural demise as a political entity, beginning with the late Middle Ages. It had become increasingly fragile also as a sound and unchallenged interpretation of history. Only now was this spiritual framework formally crumbling into pieces, however; the spiritual framework without which Europe would never have become a reality.

This was a process of considerable magnitude in terms of both politics and ideals. From the viewpoint of ideals it meant that the sacred foundation of history and the existence of a state was rejected.

History was no longer to be gauged on the basis of an idea of God which preceded it and gave it form. Statehood was looked upon in purely secular terms, based on rationality and the will of citizens.

Witnessed for absolutely the first time in history was the emergence of a completely secular or non-denominational state, which abandoned and set aside the divine warranty and divine regulation of the political element, considering such elements as belonging to a mythical vision of the world. In addition, such a state declared God Himself to be a private matter, belonging to neither the sphere of public life nor the common formation of civic volition. The latter was considered to be solely a matter of reason, with respect to which God did not appear clearly knowable.

In other words, religion and faith in God belonged to the sphere of feelings and not that of reason. God and His will ceased to have any relevance in public life.

Towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century this gave rise to a new type of schism, whose seriousness we see only now in clearer terms. There is no real name for it in German, because it spread among German-speaking peoples at a slower pace, but in the neo-Latin languages it was identified as a division between clergy and laity or laypersons. During the last two centuries this laceration penetrated into the "Latin" nations like a deep wound, while Protestant Christianity initially had an easier time in granting freedom of expression to liberal and enlightenment ideas cropping up around it, without causing any destruction to the framework of broad Christian consensus. The realistic political aspect inherent in the dissolution of the old idea of empire can be described in the following terms: the nations or states which had become identifiable as such, following the formation of unified linguistic areas, appeared as the only true bearers of history, thereby obtaining a status unheard of or impossible in the past. The explosive and dramatic gravity of what had now become an historical subject in the plural may be seen in the fact that the major European nations knew they were the stewards of a universal mission. This mission had, of necessity, to lead to conflicts among them and we were the ones who suffered the mortal impact thereof in the century which recently ended.


We must now consider a further process which ushered the history of recent centuries into a new world. Prior to the modem age, the old Europe with its two halves basically knew only one "next door neighbor," with whom it had to deal in matters regarding both life and death; in other words, the world of Islam.

Then there was the turning point of the modem age with the expansion of Europe towards America and parts of Asia essentially bereft of major cultural subjects. Now coming into the picture was a movement towards two continents thus far on the outskirts of Europe's focus of interest: Africa and Asia. Here as well, efforts were made to transform them into branches of Europe, into colonies. To a certain degree this was a successful endeavor, since both Asia and Africa now pursue the ideal of a world forged by technology and its ensuing prosperity. As a result, ancient religious traditions struggle in the throes of crisis there as well, and expressions of purely secular thinking are becoming increasingly dominant in the public arena.

Equally evident, however, is an effect to the contrary. The rebirth of Islam is connected not only with the new material wealth of the Islamic countries, but is nourished by Islam's ability to offer sound spiritual grounds for the life of peoples, grounds which seem to have slipped out of Europe's steady hand. Therefore, despite its lasting political and economic might, Europe is increasingly looked upon as condemned to decline and downfall.

In addition, the major religious traditions of Asia, above all its mystical component expressed in Buddhism, are emerging as spiritual powers against a Europe in the process of denying its religious and moral foundations. The optimism regarding the victory of the European factor which Arnold Toynbee was still able to sustain at the beginning of the 1960s now seems strangely outdated: "Out of 28 cultures we have been able to identify ... 18 have died and 9 of the remaining 10 — actually all of them except ours — reveal that they have already suffered a death blow."

Who would dare to repeat such words today? And, perhaps in more general terms, what is our culture? What is there left of it? Is European culture that civilization of technology and trade so victoriously widespread through the world? Or didn't that civilization come into being in a post European world following the end of the early European cultures? What I see here is a paradoxical synchrony: with things like the victory of the technical-secular/post-European world and the globalization of its model of life and way of thinking, people all over the world, especially in the non-European worlds of Asia and Africa, have the distinct impression that the values, culture and faith of Europe — the very bases of its identity — have reached their end and exited life's stage, while now the center stage is being taken by the value systems of other worlds, such as pre-Colombian America, Islam and Asian mysticism.

At this time, when Europe seems to have reached the pinnacle of success, it seems like it has become empty within, paralyzed by a crisis of its circulatory system, paralyzed by a crisis threatening its very survival, which is entrusted to transplants that cannot help but alter its identity.

Corresponding to this interior sapping of its constituent spiritual forces is the fact that Europe seems to be taking its leave in ethnic terms. In Europe, there is a strange shortage of future-oriented willingness. Offspring represent the future, but children are looked upon as a threat for the here and now. They take something away from our life, people say and think. Children are considered a limitation on the present and not a source of hope for the future. Necessary here is a comparison with the fading Roman empire: it continued to work as a huge historical framework, but was actually living off those who were to dissolve it, because it had no life-giving energy at all.

This brings us to current problems and issues. Regarding Europe's possible future there were two opposing diagnoses. On one hand there was the thesis propounded by Oswald Spengler, who believed he could set a sort of natural law for the major expressions of culture: there were the moments of birth and gradual growth of a culture, its moment of full bloom, followed by its slow corpulence, ageing and death. Spengler enriched this thesis of his in a most impressive manner, using documentation drawn from the history of cultures which depicted this law of natural destiny.
His thesis sustained that the West had reached its final epoch, and was hastening towards its demise, despite all the efforts to avert it. Quite naturally, Europe could hand on its gifts to a new and emerging culture, as had already transpired in previous declines of a culture, but its life span as a subject had come to an end.

Branded as "biological," this thesis met with numerous and impassioned opponents during the period between the two world wars, especially in Catholic circles. The most impressive opponent of all was Arnold Toynbee, even though he used postulates which wouldn't find much of an audience today. Toynbee highlighted material-technical progress on the one hand, and, on the other, real progress which he defined as "spiritualization." He admitted the fact that the West — the western world — was in crisis and saw as the cause of that crisis the lapse from religion to the worship of technology, nationhood, military might, etc. In the final analysis, he considered the crisis to be "secularism."

Having ascertained the cause of the crisis, he felt it was possible to suggest the cure, which meant once again introducing the religious factor.
In his mind this entailed the religious heritage of all cultures, but especially "what there is left of western Christianity."

Opposed here to the biological vision is a voluntaristic one counting on the force of creative minorities and outstanding individual personalities.

Here comes the question: is this diagnosis correct? And if it is, do we have the power and means to once again introduce the religious moment,
in a synthesis of residual Christianity and the religious heritage of humankind? Basically speaking, the issue at stake between Spengler and Toynbee remains an open one, because we are unable to see into the future.

Besides that, however, it is our task to ask ourselves what may guarantee the future, what is able to continue nourishing the interior identity of Europe through all its historical metamorphoses. Or, in much simpler terms, what promises, today and tomorrow, to bestow human dignity and life
in conformity with that dignity.

In order to find an answer to such queries we must once again look within our present and, at the same time, keep ever in mind its historical roots. Earlier on we had reached the point of the French Revolution and the 19th century. That was the time characterized especially by the development of two European models. Adopted in the Latin nations was the secular model, where the state was clearly distinct from religious entities, which were attributed to the private sphere. The state itself rejected any religious foundation and considered itself based solely on reason and its insights.
In the face of the frailty of reason, these systems turned out to be fragile and easily fell the victim of dictatorships. Where they did survive, it was because parts of the old moral conscience continued to persevere even without the previous foundations, thereby making basic moral consensus possible. In the Germanic world, on the other hand, there were various expressions of models of liberal Protestant state churches, in which an enlightened Christian religion — essentially considered as moral life, but with forms of worship guaranteed by the public authorities — guaranteed a moral consensus and a broad-based religious foundation, to which the individual, non-state religions had to adapt. In Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries and, initially also, in Prussian-dominated Germany, this model guaranteed national and social unity for a long time. In Germany, however, the decline of Prussian state Christianity created a vacuum which became an open space that was soon occupied by a dictatorship. Nowadays, state churches have fallen the victim of sheer wear and tear everywhere. Religious entities which are derivations of the state are no longer generating any thing akin to moral force. Then again, the state itself cannot create moral force, but must presuppose it and then construct upon it.

Between these two models we have the United States of America. Formed on the basis of free churches, it began nationhood with a rigid dogma of separation between church and state. Then again, above and beyond single religious denominations, it was molded by an underlying Protestant-Christian consensus not forged in confessional terms, which was linked to a particular awareness of a religious-type mission towards the rest of the world. This bestowed special public weight upon the religious factor, which, insofar as a pre-political and supra-political force, could be a determining element for public life. Certainly, it is quite evident that in the United States, as well, the dissolution of the Christian heritage continues inexorably, while at the same time the rapid increase of the Hispanic element and the presence of religious traditions from all over the world changes the general picture.

Perhaps we should also remark that the United States is actively promoting the spread of Protestantism in Latin America, and consequently the decline of the Catholic Church as a result of inroads made by free churches. This endeavor is based on the conviction that the Catholic Church could not guarantee a stable political and economic system, thereby failing in its duty as an educator of nations. Conversely, what people expect is that the model of free churches would pave the way for a moral consensus and a democratic formation of public volition similar to those in the United States. In order to complicate the picture even more, we must admit that the Catholic Church now forms the largest religious community in the United States and is resolutely on the side of Catholic identity in its life of faith. Regarding the relationship between church and state, however, American Catholics have embraced the traditions of the free churches, in the sense that a church clearly separate from the state constitutes a better guarantee for the moral foundations of everything.

Therefore, the democratic ideal appears as a moral duty in profound alignment with the faith. There are ample grounds for interpreting such a position as an updated continuation of the aforementioned model sustained by Pope Gelasius.

Let's return to Europe. The two models illustrated earlier were joined by a third one in the 19th century; that is to say, socialism, soon subdivided into totalitarian socialism and democratic socialism. Beginning from its point of departure, democratic socialism was able to enter the mainstream of the two existent models as a healthy counterweight to radical liberal positions, both enriching and correcting them. Here, as well, it turned out to be something above and beyond confessions: in England it was the political party of Catholics, who didn't feel comfortable in either the Protestant-conservative camp or the liberal party. In Wilhelm's Germany the Catholic "center" felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly conservative Prussian and Protestant forces. In many ways, democratic socialism was, and is, close to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and, in any case, did contribute quite a bit to the formation of a social conscience.

The totalitarian model of socialism, however, went hand in hand with a rigidly materialistic and atheistic philosophy of history. History, in this model, is understood deterministically as a process of progress passing through the religious phase to the liberal one, in order to reach the absolute and definitive society, where religion is transcended as a relic of the past and the correct interplay of material conditions can guarantee the happiness of all. The apparent scientific basis of this approach, however, conceals an intolerant dogmatism: spirit is produced by matter; morals are produced by circumstances and are to be both defined and practiced in keeping with the aims of society; everything which helps to foster the advent of the final and felicitous state is moral. The overturning of the values which had constructed Europe is complete here. Moreover, here is a complete rupture with respect to the overall moral tradition of humankind. No longer are there such things as values independent from the pursuits of progress. At a given moment in time, everything can be permitted and even necessary, can be "moral" in the new sense of the word. Man, as well, can become an instrument. The individual counts for nothing at all and the future becomes the one and only terrible divinity deciding every thing for everyone.

In the meantime, the Communist systems had run aground and sunk on the reefs of their false economic dogmatism. However, people all-too-readily overlook the fact that they sank, even more deeply, due to their scorn for human rights, for their subordination of morals to the requirements of the system and its promises of a glorious future. The real catastrophes they left in their wake are not economic in nature, but rather the drying up of the soul, the destruction of moral conscience. In this I see an essential problem for Europe and the world at large.

Old line Communists admit the extent of their economic failures and that's why they've all become economic liberals. And yet the moral and religious issue that constitutes the very core of the problem is almost completely swept aside. Therefore, the problem left behind by Marxism is still with us in the dissolution of man's primordial certainties about God, himself and the universe. The dissolution of the awareness of intangible moral values is once again our problem right now and could lead to the self-destruction of the European conscience. Apart from Spengler's vision of cultural decline, we have to begin looking upon this as a real danger.


This brings us face to face with the following question: how must things forge ahead? In the violent upheavals of our time is there an identity of Europe with hopes of a future? An identity for which we can commit ourselves, heart and soul? I am not prepared to delve into a detailed discussion on the future Constitution of Europe. I would just like to indicate the constituent moral elements which, in my opinion, should be included.

A first element is the "unconditional manner" in which human dignity and human rights must be presented as values preceding any and all forms or expressions of state jurisdiction. These fundamental rights are not created by lawmakers, not are they conferred by citizens, "but rather exist by proper law, are always to be respected by lawmakers and are given to them beforehand as values of a superior order." This validity of human dignity prior to any political deed and any political decision ultimately evokes the Creator. Only He can establish values based on the intangible essence of man. The fact that there are values which may not be manipulated by anyone is the real and true guarantee of our freedom and of human greatness. The Christian faith sees in this the mystery of the Creator, and the condition of the image and likeness of God which He has conferred upon man.

Nowadays, practically no one would directly contest the precedence of human dignity and fundamental human rights with respect to any political decision; all too recent are the horrors of Nazism and its racial policy. In the concrete area of the so-called progress of medicine, however, there subsist very real threats for these values: when we think of things such as cloning, or the conservation of human fetuses for purposes of research and organ donation, or the vast field of genetic manipulation, the slow consumption threatening human dignity cannot be disregarded by anyone at all. Added to this, in ever-increasing magnitude, is the trafficking of human beings, the new forms of slavery, the trafficking of human organs for transplants. Ever trumpeted are "good ends" in an effort to justify what can in no way be justified.

Regarding sectors such as these, the Charter of Fundamental Rights does enshrine a series of firm points which deserve applause. Regarding important points, however, the draft of the Constitution is still all too vague, while hanging in the balance there is the principle at stake and its seriousness.

In summary, inscribing the value, dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity of man in the basic affirmations of democracy and rule of law implies an image of man, a moral option and an idea of law, all of which are by no means obvious, but which are fundamental factors in the identity of Europe; an identity which should be guaranteed likewise in the concrete consequences of those factors and which can be defended only if there is a corresponding moral conscience formed, over and over again.

A second important point revealing the identity of Europe concerns marriage and the family. Monogamist marriage as the fundamental structure between man and women, as well as the basic cell in the foiniation of the state community, was forged on the basis of the Biblical faith. This is what bestowed upon both Western and Eastern Europe its particular countenance and humanness, also and precisely because the form of fidelity and sacrifice projected therein always had to be gained anew with great hardship and suffering. Europe would not be Europe if that basic cell of its social edifice were to disappear or be altered in any essential way. The Charter of Fundamental Rights stipulates the right to marriage, but fails to express any juridical and moral protection for it and doesn't even define it in more precise terms. And we all know, the extent to which marriage and the family are threatened — on the one hand by the emptiness inflicted upon their indissolubility through increasingly easier forms of divorce and, on the other, by an increasingly widespread form of behavior involving domestic partnerships between men and women without any legal form of marriage.

In glaring contrast with all that is the request for the life communion of homosexuals, who, rather paradoxically, are now asking for a legal form which should be tantamount to marriage. Such a trend or propensity takes us completely outside the confines of the moral history of humankind, which, despite all kinds of juridical forms of matrimony, always knew that marriage in its essence is the special communion of man and woman open to offspring and hence to the family. It is not a matter of discrimination here, but rather the question of what is the human person insofar as man and woman. as well as how the "being together" of man and woman may receive a juridical form. If, on the one hand. their being together draws farther and farther away from juridical foi ns and, on the other, a homosexual union is increasingly considered as being of the same status as marriage, then we are face to face with a dissolution of the very image of man, whose consequences cannot but be extremely grave.

My final point has to do with the religious issue. I wouldn't want to get involved in the complex debates so recurrent over the past few years, but rather highlight just one aspect fundamental for all cultures: respect for what is sacred for someone else: most especially, respect for sacredness in the loftiest sense, respect for God. If this respect fails to be observed, something essential in society is lost. In society at present, thanks be to God, whoever dishonors the faith of Israel, its image of God and its great personages is liable to punishment in the form of a fine. The same applies to anyone who publicly insults the Koran and the fundamental tenets of Islam. When it is a matter of Christ and what is sacred for Christians, however, freedom of opinion emerges as the supreme good and any limitation thereof is said to threaten or even destroy tolerance and freedom in general. And yet this is exactly where we see the limit of freedom of speech: it may not destroy the honor and dignity of anyone else. Freedom of speech is not the freedom to voice falsehoods or destroy human rights.

Here in the West there is a strange form of self-hate we can only consider pathological. Yes, in a rather praiseworthy manner, the West does strive to be open in full to the comprehension of external values, but it no longer loves itself. All it sees in its own history is what is disgraceful and destructive, while it no longer seems able to perceive what is great and pure. In order to survive, Europe needs a new, critical and humble acceptance of itself; but only if it really wishes to survive. The multi-culturalism now being encouraged and fostered with such passion comes across at times as mostly an abandonment and denial of what is one's own, a sort of flight from self.

Multi-culturalism, however, cannot subsist without shared constants. without points of reference based on one's own values. Part thereof involves reaching out with respect to elements sacred for others, but we may do this only if the Sacred One, God, is not extraneous to us.

We obviously can and must learn from what is sacred in the eyes of others, but before others and for others it is our duty to nurture respect within ourselves for what is sacred and reveals the face of God which has been revealed to us: the face of the God who has mercy on the poor and the weak, widows and orphans, foreigners; the face of the God who is so human that He Himself became man, a man who by virtue of His own suffering bestowed dignity upon distress and filled it with hope.

We would be denying the identity of Europe if we do not do this, but we would also fail to accomplish a service to others, which they have a right to receive from us. In the eyes of the cultures of the world, the absolute profanity gradually assuming form in the West is something profoundly alien. These cultures are convinced that a Godless world has no future. Therefore, multi-culturalism itself summons us to return within ourselves.

We have no idea how things will evolve in Europe. The Charter of Fundamental Rights may be a first step, a sign Europe is once again consciously seeking its soul. In this sense we have to agree with Toynbee that the destiny of a society always depends on creative minorities. Believing Christians should look upon themselves as such a creative minority and help Europe espouse once again the best of its heritage, thereby being at the service of humankind at large.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 02/01/2006 21.27]

05/01/2006 20.53
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Sorry to post this two weeks late, but I was reviewing my Word files of items I had translated,
and I found out I had translated this but failed to post it.

Gabriella, an Italian blogger, contributed this Christmas story from Papa. It is a transcript
from a Bavarian Radio broadcast on 12/6/1980, that is, while Papa was Archbishop of Munich,
in which he tells about the saint whose name and figure eventually gave rise
to both Santa Claus and Weihnachtsmann (Christmas Man), the Bavarian version of Santa Claus.


Whoever has gone through the roads of Bavaria these days or in past Christmases,
would certainly have met a St. Nicholas, not always dressed in bishop’s garments,
and certainly hardly ever with the long white beard with which he has been represented
since the 7th century. But what these representations of St. Nicholas say or do
is not always appropriate for a bishop. Often they scare the children instead of
showing them the charity St. Nicholas showed in many ways, according to legend.

Who was St. Nicholas really? Tradition has always identified him with the Bishop Nicholas
who took part in the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. which formulated the profession
of faith in the full divinity of Jesus Christ. The most ancient sources concur
with this tradition.

Nicholas was one of the first persons venerated as a saint even though he was not a martyr.
During the early years when Christians were persecuted, those who opposed the pagan powers
of the state and who gave their lives for their belief became great witnesses for the faith
and reference points for the faithful.

On the other hand, there is a very beautiful saying about saints: that even magicians
and demons can imitate all possible miracles - which therefore may be considered ambiguous
as a sign of saintliness - whereas there is one thing that is unequivocal and
does not allow for any deception: to be a good man throughout one’s life –
for all of one’s existence, to live the faith in daily life, giving proof of charity and love.

The men of the 4th century experienced that kind of miracle with Nicholas.
All the miraculous deeds that legened later attributed to him were all variations
of the fundamental miracle that man perceived him with wonder and gratitude as someone
in whom the light of Christ burned. In him, the faithful understood what it meant
to have faith in the Incarnation; in him, the creed of Nicaea was translated to
living reality, that others could see and touch.

This ancient description of St. Nicholas reappears in the most ancient images
by which the meaning of Advent is illustrated. Only in the light of God made flesh
can we light anew the flame of humanity to brighten the darkness in this world,
radiating hope and joy. This should be the most profound message that reaches us
through all the different representations of St. Nicholas: to ignite the flame
of a new humanity from the light of Christ himself.


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 04/11/2007 23.56]
17/01/2006 19.08
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The main forum recently started a thread devoted to homilies delivered by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope. One of them dates as far back as 1991, but I am sure that more of them will surface. I will begin translating them, chronologically, and hope I will be able to catch up with the posting. There are at least 5-6 by now (not counting the pre-Conclave homily).

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 17/01/2006 19.09]

17/01/2006 23.13
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Earlier homilies
Wow! Fantastic news and thank you in advance, Teresa-Benedetta!!!
18/01/2006 08.37
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Ratzi.lella in the main forum found this homily which Cardinal Ratzinger delivered in the Marian Sanctuary of Loreto, on September 8, 1991, Feast of the Nativity of Mary, at a Mass that also marked the "twinning" of Loreto and the Marian pilgrimage site of Altoetting in the Cardinal's native Bavaria as "twin cities." It sounds - or reads - to me very much like one of his famous extemporaneous homilies!

The day of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is not a birthday like any other. Celebrating the birthday of any great personage in history, we think of a past life, we think of things past, of deeds that have been achieved by such a person and of the legacy he or she has left. In short, we think about things of this world.

With the Mother of God, that is not so. Mary does not speak of and for herself. From the first moment of her life she was totally transparent for God, like a radiant icon of divine goodness. Mary, with the totality of her person, is a living message of God to us. That is why Mary does not belong to the past, she is contemporary to us all, to all generations.

With her openness to the will of God, she virtually turned over the human time of her own life into the hands of God, and thus united human time with divine time. With her permanent presence, therefore, Mary transcends history and is always present in history, present among us.

Mary represents in person the living message of God. But what does the life of Mary tell us exactly today, on the day of her nativity? It seems to me that this Sanctuary of Loreto, built around Mary’s terrestrial home, built around the house of Nazareth, can help us understand better the Madonna’s message of life.

These walls preserve for us the moment in which the angel came to Mary with the great news of the Incarnation, the memory of her answer: “Here I am, the handmaid of the Lord.” This humble home is a concrete and palpable witness of the greatest event in our history - the Incarnation of the Son of God.

The Word was made flesh. Mary, the servant of God, became the door through which God could enter our world. But not only the door. She became the “dwelling” of the Lord, a ”living home,” where the Creator of the world resided. Mary offered her body so that the Son of God could become one of us. And here we are reminded of the words with which, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, Christ began his human life, saying to the Father: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me… Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.'" (Heb 10, 5-7). The handmaiden of the Lord says the same thing: you have prepared a body for me, here I am.

In this coincidence of the words of the Son with those of the Mother, heaven and earth not only touch each other but they unite, God the creator with his creature: God became man, Mary became the living house of the Lord, a temple where the Highest dwells.

To this we add another consideration: where God lives, we are all “at home”. Where Christ is, his brothers and sisters cannot be strangers. So it is also with the house of Mary and her life itself – it is open to all of us. The mother of Christ is also our Mother, of all those who have become the Body of Christ, the Church, who constitute the family of Christ Jesus. Those who are with Christ and his Mother - they are the family of God.

Mary has opened her life and her house to us because, opening herself to God, she opened herself for all of us, and offers us her house as the common house of the one family of God. We can say- home is where Mary is; where God is, we are all “at home.”
Our faith gives us a home in this world and unites us all in one family.

But this raises a serious question: our faith tells us that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, one family – but we must ask ourselves, is this true? If it is not true, why not? Why do we have among us so much conflct, wars, cutting egoism?

The House of Nazareth is not a relic of the past; it speaks in the present and provokes an examination of conscience - to ask ourselves if we too are truly open to the Lord, if we wish to offer our lvies to him so he may dwell in us. Or do we fear the presence of the Lord? Do we fear that his presence could limit our human dignity? Do we perhaps want to reserve a part of our life to belong to us alone, not to be known to God, to be kept away from Him?

It seems to me that this House of Nazareth has, even from this point of view, a very precious symbolism. As you know, this House only has three walls – it is therefore an invitation, like an open embrace. It tells us: open up your homes, your your families, your lives, to the presence of the Lord.

This house is open to the family of God, to all the children of God, to the brothers and sisters of Christ. Let us be challenged, let us accept the word of the Mother of God who tells us: Come in, come into my house, so that even you may become, every day of your life, a dwelling for the Lord.

This House of Nazareth hides yet another message. We have said that God is not an abstract God, someone who is purely spiritual, far from us. Because God chose to be bound to the earth, to have a common history with us, a palpable, visible story, which we can see in the signs of his earthly existence like this house, but most of all, in the Church and its sacraments.

Our faith makes us “dwell” but also makes us “walk.” Here, too, the house of Nazareth keeps an important teaching. When the Crusaders transferred the stones of the house of Nazareth from the Holy Land to here, on Italian soil, they chose to place the Holy House on a road. I think it is very strange, because “house” and “road” seem to be mutually exclusive. Is it a house or is it a road? But that is the true message of this House, which is not the private house of any one person, or one family, or one clan, but is along the way for all of us, an open house for all. A house that both makes us dwell and walk.

Life itself is home for the family of God, which is on a pilgrimage with God, towards God, towards our final home, towards the “new city.” Here, we can be even more concrete.
All the sacntuaries, the great sanctruaries of the world, have always offered to diverse nations, races, religions, this precious experience of being in the house of the family of all the children of God. But the experience of coming home presupposes the experience of a trip, of a pilgrimage. And pilgrimage is a fundamental dimension of Christian life.

Only through being on the way, on a pilgrimage, are we able to overcome the frontiers of nations, of religions, of races. We can become united only by walking together towards God. The significance of this “twinning” netween Loreto and Altoetting lies in this fact: It tells us that we must walk together, we must become pilgrims of the eternal, we should raise ourselves anew towards God, towards unity with him in the one family of God.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 8 September 1991
Tradition has it that angels carried the House of Nazareth from the Holy Land to Illyria and then finally, in the early 13th century to Loreto in Italy. For more about the Holy House of Loreto, go to

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 18/01/2006 8.46]

27/01/2006 14.48
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Lest we forget. The encyclical ends with this beautiful prayer:

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.
01/02/2006 16.37
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Beatrice has superimposed the French version of the prayer on a picture of Mary:

11/04/2006 00.55
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In preparation for Good Friday and before the 2006 Way of the Cross Meditations and Prayers (prepared by Bishop Angelo Comastri) come out tomorrow on the VatiCan website and in bookstores, there is probably no better way to start the Holy Week than with a re-reading and if possible, actual performance of the Stations of the Cross in Church, using the Meditations and Prayers prepared for Good Friday last year by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Meditations and Prayers, like homilies, are a literary form that only priests usually have a chance to execute. Not every priest is called on to do it. But the Pope does have occasion to ask his cardinals, archbishops and bishops to prepare meditations and prayers for certain occasions.

The most notable in recent Vatican history have to do with meditations for the annual spiritual exercises or Lenten retreat of the Pope and the Roman Curia, and the meditations and prayers for the traditional Good Friday Way of the Cross held at the Colosseum of Rome.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla preached the meditations for the 1976 Papal-Curial retreat, two years before he became Pope. Cardinal Ratzinger took his turn in 1983, shortly after he came to Rome to take on his position as Prefect of the CDF. And Pope John Paul II asked him to prepare last year's Via Crucis.

The complete Meditations and Prayers for Good Friday 2005 may be found on
(Presentation and Opening Prayer)
(Meditations and Prayers for the 14 Stations)
[Note: Click on the box for each station to get the full text for each station]




The leitmotiv of the present Way of the Cross appears immediately, in the opening prayer, and again at the Fourteenth Station. It is found in the words spoken by Jesus on Palm Sunday, after entering Jerusalem, in reply to the question of some Greeks who sought to see him: “unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

In this saying, the Lord compares the course of his whole earthly existence to that of a grain of wheat, which only by dying can produce fruit. He interprets his earthly life, his death and resurrection from the standpoint of the Most Holy Eucharist, which recapitulates his entire mystery.

He had experienced his death as an act of self-oblation, an act of love, and his body was then transfigured in the new life of the Resurrection. He, the Incarnate Word, now becomes our food, food which leads to true life, life eternal. The Eternal Word –the power which creates life – comes down from heaven as the true manna, the bread bestowed upon man in faith and in sacrament.

The Way of the Cross is thus a path leading to the heart of the Eucharistic mystery: popular piety and sacramental piety of the Church blend together and become one. The prayer of the Way of the Cross is a path leading to a deep spiritual communion with Jesus; lacking this, our sacramental communion would remain empty. The Way of the Cross is thus a “mystagogical” way.

This vision contrasts with a purely sentimental approach to the Way of the Cross. In the Eighth Station our Lord speaks of this danger to the women of Jerusalem who weep for him. Mere sentiment is never enough; the Way of the Cross ought to be a school of faith, the faith which by its very nature “works through love” (Gal 5:6).

This is not to say that sentiment does not have its proper place. The Fathers considered heartlessness to be the primary vice of the pagans, and they appealed to the vision of Ezechiel, who announced to the People of Israel God’s promise to take away their hearts of stone and to give them hearts of flesh (cf. Ez 11:19).

In the Way of the Cross we see a God who shares in human sufferings, a God whose love does not remain aloof and distant, but comes into our midst, even enduring death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8). The God who shares our sufferings, the God who became man in order to bear our cross, wants to transform our hearts of stone; he invites us to share in the sufferings of others. He wants to give us a “heart of flesh” which will not remain stony before the suffering of others, but can be touched and led to the love which heals and restores.

Here, once again, we return to the words of Jesus about the grain of wheat, which he himself laid down as the fundamental axiom of the Christian life: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25; cf. Mat 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24 and 17:33: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it”).

We also see more clearly the meaning of the words which, in the Synoptic Gospels, precede this summation of Christ’s message: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24).

Jesus himself interpreted for us the meaning of the “Way of the Cross”; he taught us how to pray it and follow it: the Way of the Cross is the path of losing ourselves, the path of true love. On this path he has gone before us, on it he teaches us how to pray the Way of the Cross.

Once again we come back to the grain of wheat, to the Most Holy Eucharist, in which the fruits of Christ’s death and Resurrection are continually made present in our midst. In the Eucharist Jesus walks at our side, as he did with the disciples of Emmaus, making himself ever anew a part of our history.



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

R. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake you became like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, so that it may bear much fruit (Jn 12:24). You invited us to follow you along this path when you told us that “the one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25).

Yet we are attached to our life. We do not want to abandon it; we want to keep it all for ourselves. We want to hold on to it, not to give it away. But you go before us, showing us that it is only by giving away our life that we can save it.

As we walk with you on the Way of the Cross, you lead us along the way of the grain of wheat, the way of a fruitfulness which leads to eternity.

The cross – our self-offering – weighs heavily upon us. Along your own Way of the Cross you also carried my cross. Nor did you carry it just at one distant moment in the past, for your love continues to accompany every moment of my life.

Today you carry that cross with me and for me, and, amazingly, you want me, like Simon of Cyrene, to join you in carrying your Cross; you want me to walk at your side and place myself with you at the service of the world’s redemption.

Grant that my Way of the Cross may not be just a moment of passing piety. Help all of us to accompany you not only with noble thoughts, but with all our hearts and in every step we take each day of our lives. Help us resolutely to set out on the Way of the Cross and to persevere on your path.

Free us from the fear of the Cross, from the fear of mockery, from the fear that our life may escape our grasp unless we cling possessively to everything it has to offer. Help us to unmask all those temptations that promise life, but whose enticements in the end leave us only empty and deluded.

Help us not to take life, but to give it. As you accompany us on the path of the grain of wheat, help us to discover, in “losing our lives”, the path of love, the path which gives us true life, and life in abundance (Jn 10:10).


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 11/04/2006 2.32]

19/04/2006 12.52
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At this hour of great responsibility, we hear with special consideration what the Lord says to us in his own words. From the three readings I would like to examine just a few passages which concern us directly at this time.

The first reading gives us a prophetic depiction of the person of the Messiah – a depiction which takes all its meaning from the moment Jesus reads the text in the synagogue in Nazareth, when he says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4,21).

At the core of the prophetic text we find a word which seems contradictory, at least at first sight. The Messiah, speaking of himself, says that he was sent “To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God” (Is 61,2).

We hear with joy the news of a year of favor: divine mercy puts a limit on evil – the Holy Father told us. Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person: encountering Christ means encountering the mercy of God. Christ’s mandate has become our mandate through priestly anointing. We are called to proclaim – not only with our words, but with our lives, and through the valuable signs of the sacraments, the “year of favor from the Lord”.

But what does the prophet Isaiah mean when he announces the “day of vindication by our God”? In Nazareth, Jesus did not pronounce these words in his reading of the prophet’s text – Jesus concluded by announcing the year of favor. Was this, perhaps, the reason for the scandal which took place after his sermon? We do not know. In any case, the Lord gave a genuine commentary on these words by being put to death on the cross.

Saint Peter says: “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross” (1 Pe 2,24). And Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree’, that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3, 13s).

The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace; it does not presume a trivialization of evil. Christ carries in his body and on his soul all the weight of evil, and all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil through suffering, in the fire of his suffering love.

The day of vindication and the year of favor meet in the paschal mystery, in Christ died and risen. This is the vindication of God: he himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with his suffering – and become willing to bear in our flesh “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1, 24).

In the second reading, the letter to the Ephesians, we see basically three aspects: first, the ministries and charisms in the Church, as gifts of the Lord risen and ascended into heaven. Then there is the maturing of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, as a condition and essence of unity in the body of Christ. Finally, there is the common participation in the growth of the body of Christ - of the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord.

Let us dwell on only two points. The first is the journey towards “the maturity of Christ” as it is said in the Italian text, simplifying it a bit. More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the “measure of the fullness of Christ”, to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith.

We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth.

Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards.

We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.

We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words - in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence.

In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13,1).

Looking now at the richness of the Gospel reading, I would like to make only two small observations. The Lord addresses to us these wonderful words: “I no longer call you slaves…I have called you friends” (Jn 15,15). So many times we feel like, and it is true, that we are only useless servants. (cf Lk 17,10). And despite this, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship.

The Lord defines friendship in a dual way. There are no secrets among friends: Christ tells us all everything he hears from the Father; he gives us his full trust, and with that, also knowledge.

He reveals his face and his heart to us. He shows us his tenderness for us, his passionate love that goes to the madness of the cross.

He entrusts us, he gives us power to speak in his name: “this is my body…,” “I forgive you….” He entrusts us with his body, the Church.

He entrusts our weak minds and our weak hands with his truth – the mystery of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jn 3, 16). He made us his friends – and how do we respond?

The second element with which Jesus defines friendship is the communion of wills. For the Romans “Idem velle – idem nolle,” (same desires, same dislikes ) was also the definition of friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15, 14).

Friendship with Christ coincides with what is said in the third request of the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. At the hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will in a will shaped and united to the divine will. He suffered the whole experience of our autonomy – and precisely bringing our will into the hands of God, he have us true freedom: “Not my will, but your will be done."

In this communion of wills our redemption takes place: being friends of Jesus to become friends of God. How much more we love Jesus, how much more we know him, how much more our true freedom grows as well as our joy in being redeemed. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship!

The other element of the Gospel to which I would like to refer is the teaching of Jesus on bearing fruit: “I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15, 16). It is here that is expressed the dynamic existence of the Christian, the apostle: I chose you to go and bear fruit….”

We must be inspired by a holy restlessness: restlessness to bring to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. In truth, the love and friendship of God was given to us so that it would also be shared with others. We have received the faith to give it to others – we are priests meant to serve others. And we must bring a fruit that will remain.

All people want to leave a mark which lasts. But what remains? Money does not. Buildings do not, nor books. After a certain amount of time, whether long or short, all these things disappear. The only thing which remains forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.

The fruit which remains then is that which we have sowed in human souls – love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching the heart, words which open the soul to joy in the Lord. Let us then go to the Lord and pray to him, so that he may help us bear fruit which remains. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.

In conclusion, returning again to the letter to the Ephesians, which says with words from Psalm 68 that Christ, ascending into heaven, “gave gifts to men” (Eph 4,8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Our ministry is a gift of Christ to humankind, to build up his body – the new world. We live out our ministry in this way, as a gift of Christ to humanity! But at this time, above all, we pray with insistence to the Lord, so that after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, he again gives us a pastor according to his own heart, a pastor who guides us to knowledge in Christ, to his love and to true joy. Amen.

01/05/2006 02.50
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Here is a translation of an excerpt published in 30 GIORNI last January from the eulogy delivered by Professor Fr. Ratzinger at the funeral of his ex-professor, Gottfried Soehngen in Cologne, on November 19, 1971.


...It was the scope of his thinking that determined his greatness as well as his destiny.He who poses questions with suh a vast openness of spirit cannot produced a closed synthesis. Soehngen knew that - he knew that the time had not yet come for summae theologicae. He knew he had to be content with fragments, to think of the fragments in the context of the whole, and to describe them as reflections of that whole.

This also allows us to surmise his basic spiritual attitude. He was someone who posed his questions radically and critically. Even today, one cannot ask questions more radically than he did. But he was a radical thinker hoimself. What never ceased to fascinate us, his students, was precisely the union in him of these two elements - the courage with which he posed questions and his evident conviciton that the faith had nothing to fear from seeking through a wide range of knowledge.

That is why he never feared that his thinking might appear hesitant, tentative, ingenuous or contradictory with respect to any author or even to an entire era of thought!..He knew it was not necessary to force solutions if in truth, easy solutuons could not be found...It was clear to him that the theologian does not speak for himself, even if he must give himself over completely to his task, but that he is affirming the faith of the Church, a faith he has received, not one he invents.

His courage to question was born of the deep conviction that we would not be able to ask questions if they had not been prompted by the truth, if truth had not first found us. I think that his humor, his naturalness, and the ease of manner which he retained through all his scholarly efforts had to do with that belief.

It is on the same basis that we understand his relation to the Church, which was never in question despite his critical approach to theology, probably because the relation was quite concrete. For him, the Church was not a remote abstraction. It was as immediate to him as his bishop, the cardinal of Cologne. [At that time, it would still have been Cardinal Frings, who brought the young Ratzinger to Vatican-II.]

And this, too, was one of Soehngen's characteristics: his love for Cologne, his mother-city. All his life, it was only here he felt at home, a city with a very ancient Roman and Christian culture, and he knew that through his bishop, he was intimately present within the Church, the one, holy, catholic Church...

Now he has left us. But the direction he gave us remains. And he himself rests - in the hands of God.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 04/11/2007 23.59]
01/05/2006 03.11
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Though 30 GIORNI only used a small part of this address (the one that refers to Prof. Laepple) for the sidebar to the magazine's long interview article with Prof. Laepple about Joseph Ratzinger as a student, I am posting the entire address here. It probably is not a coincidence that Ratzinger also pays tribute in this same speech to Prof. Soehngen.

Most of all, I find the address rich and dense with many thoughts that are so apropos today, especially for those whose mantra is "primacy of conscience", which is taken to mean as "I make my own rules." And also for Ratzi in his present role as Pope.

This English translation is taken from the Vatican website

Rome, 28 April 1990

Prof. Laepple says:
"In those days,Newman
was not just a topic.
He was our passion."

I do not feel competent to speak on Newman's figure or work, but perhaps it is meaningful if I tell a little about my own way to Newman, in which indeed something is reflected of the presence of this great English theologian in the intellectual and spiritual struggle of our time.

In January 1946, when I began my study of theology in the Seminary in Freising which had finally reopened after the confusion of the war, an older student was assigned as prefect to our group, who had begun to work on a dissertation on Newman's theology of conscience even before the beginning of the war. In all the years of his military service he had not lost sight of this theme, which he now turned to with new enthusiasm and energy.

We were soon bonded by a personal friendship, wholly centred on the great problems of philosophy and theology. Of course, Newman was always present. Alfred Läpple - the name of the above-mentioned prefect - published his dissertation in 1952 with the title: Der Einzelne in der Kirche (The Individual in the Church).

For us at that time, Newman's teaching on conscience became an important foundation for theological personalism, which was drawing us all in its sway. Our image of the human being as well as our image of the Church was permeated by this point of departure.

We had experienced the claim of a totalitarian party, which understood itself as the fulfilment of history and which negated the conscience of the individual. One of its leaders had said: "I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolf Hitler". The appalling devastation of humanity that followed was before our eyes.

So it was liberating and essential for us to know that the "we" of the Church does not rest on a cancellation of conscience, but that, exactly the opposite, it can only develop from conscience.

Precisely because Newman interpreted the existence of the human being from conscience, that is, from the relationship between God and the soul, was it clear that this personalism is not individualism, and that being bound by conscience does not mean being free to make random choices - the exact opposite is the case.

It was from Newman that we learned to understand the primacy of the Pope. Freedom of conscience, Newman told us, is not identical with the right "to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations".

Thus, conscience in its true sense is the bedrock of Papal authority; its power comes from revelation that completes natural conscience, which is imperfectly enlightened, and "the championship of the Moral Law and of conscience is its raison d'être".

I certainly need not explicitly mention that this teaching on conscience has become ever more important for me in the continued development of the Church and the world. Ever more I see how it first opens in the context of the biography of the Cardinal, which is only to be understood in connection with the drama of his century and so speaks to us.

Newman had become a convert as a man of conscience; it was his conscience that led him out of the old ties and securities into the world of Catholicism, which was difficult and strange for him. But this way of conscience is everything except a way of self-sufficient subjectivity: it is a way of obedience to objective truth.

The second step in Newman's lifelong journey of conversion was overcoming the subjective evangelical position in favour of an understanding of Christendom based on the objectivity of dogma.

In this connection I find a formulation from one of his early sermons to be especially significant today:

"True Christendom is shown... in obedience and not through a state of consciousness. Thus, the whole duty and work of a Christian is made up of these two parts, Faith and Obedience; "looking unto Jesus' (Heb 2: 9)... and acting according to His will....

"I conceive that we are in danger, in this day, of insisting on neither of these as we ought; regarding all true and careful consideration of the Object of faith as barren orthodoxy, technical subtlety... and... making the test of our being religious to consist in our having what is called a spiritual state of heart...".

In this context some sentences from The Arians of the Fourth Century, which may sound rather astonishing at first, seem important to me: " detect and to approve the principle on which... peace is grounded in Scripture; to submit to the dictation of truth, as such, as a primary authority in matters of political and private conduct; to understand... zeal to be prior in the succession of Christian graces to benevolence".

For me it is always fascinating to see and consider how in just this way and only in this way, through commitment to the truth, to God, conscience receives its rank, dignity and strength.

I would like in this context to add but one sentence from the Apologia, which shows the realism in this idea of person and Church: "Living movements do not come out of committees".

Very briefly I would like to return to the autobiographical thread. When I continued my studies in Munich in 1947, I found a well-read and enthusiastic follower of Newman in the fundamental theologian, Gottlieb Söhngen, who was my true teacher in theology. He opened up the Grammar of Assent to us and in doing so, the special manner and form of certainty in religious knowledge.

Even deeper for me was the contribution which Heinrich Fries published in connection with the Jubilee of Chalcedon. Here I found access to Newman's teaching on the development of doctrine, which I regard along with his doctrine on conscience as his decisive contribution to the renewal of theology.

With this he had placed the key in our hand to build historical thought into theology, or much more, he taught us to think historically in theology and so to recognize the identity of faith in all developments.

Here I have to refrain from deepening these ideas further. It seems to me that Newman's starting point, also in modern theology, has not yet been fully evaluated. Fruitful possibilities awaiting development are still hidden in it.
At this point I would only like to refer again to the biographical background of this concept.

It is known how Newman's insight into the ideas of development influenced his way to Catholicism. But it is not just a matter of an unfolding of ideas. In the concept of development, Newman's own life plays a role. That seems to become visible to me in his well-known words: " live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often".

Throughout his entire life, Newman was a person converting, a person being transformed, and thus he always remained and became ever more himself.

Here the figure of St Augustine comes to my mind, with whom Newman was so associated. When Augustine was converted in the garden at Cassiciacum, he understood conversion according to the system of the revered master Plotin and the Neo-Platonic philosophers.

He thought that his past sinful life would now be definitively cast off; from now on the convert would be someone wholly new and different, and his further journey would be a steady climb to the ever purer heights of closeness to God.

It was something like that which Gregory of Nyssa described in his Ascent of Moses: "Just as bodies, after having received the first push downwards, fall effortlessly into the depths with ever greater speed, so, on the contrary, the soul which has loosed itself from earthly passion rises up in a rapid upward movement... constantly overcoming itself in a steady upward flight".

Augustine's actual experience was a different one. He had to learn that being a Christian is always a difficult journey with all its heights and depths.

The image of ascensus is exchanged for that of iter, whose tiring weight is lightened and borne up by moments of light which we may receive now and then. Conversion is the iter - the roadway of a whole lifetime. And faith is always "development", and precisely in this manner it is the maturation of the soul to truth, to God, who is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves.

In the idea of "development" Newman had written his own experience of a never finished conversion and interpreted for us, not only the way of Christian doctrine, but that of the Christian life.

The characteristic of the great Doctor of the Church, it seems to me, is that he teaches not only through his thought and speech but also by his life, because within him, thought and life are interpenetrated and defined.

If this is so, then Newman belongs to the great teachers of the Church, because he both touches our hearts and enlightens our thinking.

Beloved Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict, you are such a one!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 01/05/2006 8.56]

01/05/2006 03.29
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Here is a translation from Italian of part of a letter written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to his friend Professor Alfred Laepple in June 1995. The letter was published in Italian translation in the January-February 2006 issue of 30 GIORNI.


Left, Prof. Laepple in 1946; Right, Prof Laepple today,
with a bound copy of Joseph Ratzinger's first 'book' -
a translation of an Aquinas work on love

23 June 1995
Vatican City

Dear Alfred,

...You opened my eyes to philosophy much more than did our teachers at the University. Thanks to you, I became acquainted with the great figures of Western thought in their perennial relevance, and so I started to think with them.

Then, in assigning me toi translate the Quaestio disputatio of St. Thomas Aquinas on love, you also introduced me to the world of original sources, you taught me to write first-hand myself and to school myself directly after the masters.

Therefore, you were at the start of my philosophical and theological path, and what you gave me was an essential part of that path.

Thanks to your tireless work and creativity, you have produced a bountiful harvest of published works which are too many to count and with which you have been able to orient so many persons in the disarray of our times.

You have never lost the openness and generosity of spirit that impressed us all in 1946. At the same time, you have shown in all your work that an open mind and faith, the freedom to think and faithfulness to the Church, are not in opposition as many think today - even as it becomes more and more evident that it is precisely the loss of a living rapport with the Church that can turn thought sterile.

For all this, I thank you with all my heart, and do not think it is just an expression of courtesy when I add to my thanks the wish that you will continue to enrich us for a long time more, with your spiritual gifts.

I greet you as with one heart and with gratitude. With my most sincere blessing -


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 05/11/2007 00.02]
13/05/2006 19.09
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As Joseph Ratzinger, our Holy Father has written so many articles, letters, messages and official documents, given so many addresses and interviews, and taken part in so many press conferences and public discussions that we will never exhaust his output nor be able to present them in a systematic way.

Even a complete bibliography of his published writings before he became Pope is not yet available, as far as I know. This endeavor is complicated by the fact that the original versions are mostly in German or Italian, with a few in French, Spanish and English, which are then translated into multiple languages.

For the moment, therefore, we will reproduce here whatever material in English comes to hand or is opportune because of news value or particular timeliness and relevance.

AsiaNews this week is highlighting Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to bishops in 2004 about the church's views on the role of men and women.

It is a most beautiful document that very much prefigures Deus caritas est and should be required reading for militant 'feminists' whose 'feminism' in effect amounts to nothing more than penis envy. True feminism cannot be anything other than humanism in its most Christian sense - it is never adversarial and is motivated only by love for fellowmen, not resentment.

You may print out the document nicely by going to

Here is the complete text, followed by a commentary from Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, director of AsiaNews:



1. The Church, expert in humanity, has a perennial interest in whatever concerns men and women. In recent times, much reflection has been given to the question of the dignity of women and to women's rights and duties in the different areas of civil society and the Church.

Having contributed to a deeper understanding of this fundamental question, in particular through the teaching of John Paul II (1) the Church is called today to address certain currents of thought which are often at variance with the authentic advancement of women.

After a brief presentation and critical evaluation of some current conceptions of human nature, this document will offer reflections – inspired by the doctrinal elements of the biblical vision of the human person that are indispensable for safeguarding his or her identity – on some of the essentials of a correct understanding of active collaboration, in recognition of the difference between men and women in the Church and in the world.

These reflections are meant as a starting point for further examination in the Church, as well as an impetus for dialogue with all men and women of good will, in a sincere search for the truth and in a common commitment to the development of ever more authentic relationships.


2. Recent years have seen new approaches to women's issues. A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men. Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power.

This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family.

A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning.

In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels.

This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.

3. While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women's roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one's biological conditioning(2.)

According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.

This perspective has many consequences. Above all it strengthens the idea that the liberation of women entails criticism of Sacred Scripture, which would be seen as handing on a patriarchal conception of God nourished by an essentially male-dominated culture. Second, this tendency would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.

4. In the face of these currents of thought, the Church, enlightened by faith in Jesus Christ, speaks instead of active collaboration between the sexes precisely in the recognition of the difference between man and woman.

To understand better the basis, meaning and consequences of this response it is helpful to turn briefly to the Sacred Scriptures, rich also in human wisdom, in which this response is progressively manifested thanks to God's intervention on behalf of humanity.(3)


5. The first biblical texts to examine are the first three chapters of Genesis. Here we “enter into the setting of the biblical ‘beginning'. In it the revealed truth concerning the human person as ‘the image and likeness' of God constitutes the immutable basis of all Christian anthropology”.(4)

The first text (Gn 1:1-2:4) describes the creative power of the Word of God, which makes distinctions in the original chaos. Light and darkness appear, sea and dry land, day and night, grass and trees, fish and birds, “each according to its kind”. An ordered world is born out of differences, carrying with them also the promise of relationships.

Here we see a sketch of the framework in which the creation of the human race takes place: “God said ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'” (Gn 1:26). And then: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gn1:27).

From the very beginning therefore, humanity is described as articulated in the male-female relationship. This is the humanity, sexually differentiated, which is explicitly declared “the image of God”.

6. The second creation account (Gn 2:4-25) confirms in a definitive way the importance of sexual difference. Formed by God and placed in the garden which he was to cultivate, the man, who is still referred to with the generic expression Adam, experienced a loneliness which the presence of the animals is not able to overcome. He needs a helpmate who will be his partner. The term here does not refer to an inferior, but to a vital helper.(5)

This is so that Adam's life does not sink into a sterile and, in the end, baneful encounter with himself. It is necessary that he enter into relationship with another being on his own level. Only the woman, created from the same “flesh” and cloaked in the same mystery, can give a future to the life of the man.

It is therefore above all on the ontological level that this takes place, in the sense that God's creation of woman characterizes humanity as a relational reality. In this encounter, the man speaks words for the first time, expressive of his wonderment: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2:23).

As the Holy Father has written with regard to this text from Genesis, “...woman is another ‘I' in a common humanity. From the very beginning they appear as a ‘unity of the two', and this signifies that the original solitude is overcome, the solitude in which man does not find ‘a helper fit for him' (Gn 2:20). Is it only a question here of a ‘helper' in activity, in ‘subduing the earth' (cf. Gn 1:28)? Certainly it is a matter of a life's companion with whom, as a wife, the man can unite himself, becoming with her ‘one flesh' and for this reason leaving ‘his father and his mother'(cf. Gn 2:24)”.6

This vital difference is oriented toward communion and was lived in peace, expressed by their nakedness: “And the man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame” (Gn 2:25). In this way, the human body, marked with the sign of masculinity or femininity, “includes right from the beginning the nuptial attribute, that is, the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift and – by means of this gift – fulfils the meaning of his being and his existence”. (7)

Continuing his commentary on these verses of Genesis, the Holy Father writes: “In this peculiarity, the body is the expression of the spirit and is called, in the mystery of creation, to exist in the communion of persons in the image of God”.(8)

Through this same spousal perspective, the ancient Genesis narrative allows us to understand how woman, in her deepest and original being, exists “for the other” (cf. 1 Cor 11:9): this is a statement which, far from any sense of alienation, expresses a fundamental aspect of the similarity with the Triune God, whose Persons, with the coming of Christ, are revealed as being in a communion of love, each for the others.

“In the ‘unity of the two', man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist ‘side by side' or ‘together', but they are also called to exist mutually ‘one for the other'
... The text of Genesis 2:18-25 shows that marriage is the first and, in a sense, the fundamental dimension of this call.

But it is not the only one. The whole of human history unfolds within the context of this call. In this history, on the basis of the principle of mutually being ‘for' the other in interpersonal ‘communion', there develops in humanity itself, in accordance with God's will, the integration of what is ‘masculine' and what is ‘feminine'”.(9)

The peaceful vision which concludes the second creation account recalls the “indeed it was very good” (Gn 1:31) at the end of the first account. Here we find the heart of God's original plan and the deepest truth about man and woman, as willed and created by him. Although God's original plan for man and woman will later be upset and darkened by sin, it can never be abrogated.

7. Original sin changes the way in which the man and the woman receive and live the Word of God as well as their relationship with the Creator. Immediately after having given them the gift of the garden, God gives them a positive command (cf. Gn 2:16), followed by a negative one (cf. Gn 2:17), in which the essential difference between God and humanity is implicitly expressed.

Following enticement by the serpent, the man and the woman deny this difference. As a consequence, the way in which they live their sexual difference is also upset. In this way, the Genesis account establishes a relationship of cause and effect between the two differences: when humanity considers God its enemy, the relationship between man and woman becomes distorted. When this relationship is damaged, their access to the face of God risks being compromised in turn.

God's decisive words to the woman after the first sin express the kind of relationship which has now been introduced between man and woman: “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gn 3:16).

It will be a relationship in which love will frequently be debased into pure self-seeking, in a relationship which ignores and kills love and replaces it with the yoke of domination of one sex over the other. Indeed the story of humanity is continuously marked by this situation, which recalls the three-fold concupiscence mentioned by Saint John: the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). In this tragic situation, the equality, respect and love that are required in the relationship of man and woman according to God's original plan, are lost.

8. Reviewing these fundamental texts allows us to formulate some of the principal elements of the biblical vision of the human person.

Above all, the fact that human beings are persons needs to be underscored: “Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God”. (10)

Their equal dignity as persons is realized as physical, psychological and ontological complementarity, giving rise to a harmonious relationship of “uni-duality”, which only sin and “the structures of sin” inscribed in culture render potentially conflictual.

The biblical vision of the human person suggests that problems related to sexual difference, whether on the public or private level, should be addressed by a relational approach and not by competition or retaliation.

Furthermore, the importance and the meaning of sexual difference, as a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman, needs to be noted. “Sexuality characterizes man and woman not only on the physical level, but also on the psychological and spiritual, making its mark on each of their expressions”.(11)

It cannot be reduced to a pure and insignificant biological fact, but rather “is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love”. (12) This capacity to love – reflection and image of God who is Love – is disclosed in the spousal character of the body, in which the masculinity or femininity of the person is expressed.

The human dimension of sexuality is inseparable from the theological dimension. The human creature, in its unity of soul and body, is characterized therefore, from the very beginning, by the relationship with the other-beyond-the-self.

This relationship is presented as still good and yet, at the same time, changed. It is good from its original goodness, declared by God from the first moment of creation. It has been changed however by the disharmony between God and humanity introduced by sin. This alteration does not correspond to the initial plan of God for man and woman, nor to the truth of the relationship between the sexes. It follows then that the relationship is good, but wounded and in need of healing.

What might be the ways of this healing? Considering and analyzing the problems in the relationship between the sexes solely from the standpoint of the situation marked by sin would lead to a return to the errors mentioned above. The logic of sin needs to be broken and a way forward needs to be found that is capable of banishing it from the hearts of sinful humanity.

A clear orientation in this sense is provided in the third chapter of Genesis by God's promise of a Saviour, involving the “woman” and her “offspring” (cf. Gn 3:15). It is a promise which will be preceded by a long preparation in history before it is realized.

9. An early victory over evil is seen in the story of Noah, the just man, who guided by God, avoids the flood with his family and the various species of animals (cf. Gn 6-9). But it is above all in God's choice of Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gn 12:1ff) that the hope of salvation is confirmed.

God begins in this way to unveil his countenance so that, through the chosen people, humanity will learn the path of divine likeness, that is, the way of holiness, and thus of transformation of heart.

Among the many ways in which God reveals himself to his people (cf. Heb 1:1), in keeping with a long and patient pedagogy, there is the recurring theme of the covenant between man and woman.

This is paradoxical if we consider the drama recounted in Genesis and its concrete repetition in the time of the prophets, as well as the mixing of the sacred and the sexual found in the religions which surrounded Israel.

And yet this symbolism is indispensable for understanding the way in which God loves his people: God makes himself known as the Bridegroom who loves Israel his Bride.

If, in this relationship, God can be described as a “jealous God” (cf. Ex 20:5; Nah 1:2) and Israel denounced as an “adulterous” bride or “prostitute” (cf. Hos 2:4-15; Ez 16:15-34), it is because of the hope, reinforced by the prophets, of seeing Jerusalem become the perfect bride: “For as a young man marries a virgin so shall your creator marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Is 62:5).

Recreated “in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” (Hos 2:21), she who had wandered far away to search for life and happiness in false gods will return, and “shall respond as in the days of her youth” (Hos 2:17) to him who will speak to her heart; she will hear it said: “Your bridegroom is your Creator” (Is54:5).

It is substantially the same reality which is expressed when, parallel to the mystery of God's action through the male figure of the suffering Servant, the Book of the prophet Isaiah evokes the feminine figure of Zion, adorned with a transcendence and a sanctity which prefigure the gift of salvation destined for Israel.

The Song of Songs is an important moment in the use of this form of revelation. In the words of a most human love, which celebrate the beauty of the human body and the joy of mutual seeking, God's love for his people is also expressed.

The Church's recognition of her relationship to Christ in this audacious conjunction of language about what is most human with language about what is most divine, cannot be said to be mistaken

In the course of the Old Testament, a story of salvation takes shape which involves the simultaneous participation of male and female. While having an evident metaphorical dimension, the terms bridegroom and bride – and covenant as well – which characterize the dynamic of salvation, are much more than simple metaphors.

This spousal language touches on the very nature of the relationship which God establishes with his people, even though that relationship is more expansive than human spousal experience.

Likewise, the same concrete conditions of redemption are at play in the way in which prophetic statements, such as those of Isaiah, associate masculine and feminine roles in proclaiming and prefiguring the work of salvation which God is about to undertake. This salvation orients the reader both toward the male figure of the suffering Servant as well as to the female figure of Zion.

The prophetic utterances of Isaiah in fact alternate between this figure and the Servant of God, before culminating at the end of the book with the mystical vision of Jerusalem, which gives birth to a people in a single day (cf. Is 66: 7-14), a prophecy of the great new things which God is about to do (cf. Is 48: 6-8).

10. All these prefigurations find their fulfillment in the New Testament. On the one hand, Mary, the chosen daughter of Zion, in her femininity, sums up and transfigures the condition of Israel/Bride waiting for the day of her salvation. On the other hand, the masculinity of the Son shows how Jesus assumes in his person all that the Old Testament symbolism had applied to the love of God for his people, described as the love of a bridegroom for his bride.

The figures of Jesus and Mary his mother not only assure the continuity of the New Testament with the Old, but go beyond it, since – as Saint Irenaeus wrote – with Jesus Christ “all newness” appears.(13)

This aspect is particularly evident in the Gospel of John. In the scene of the wedding feast at Cana, for example, Jesus is asked by his mother, who is called “woman”, to offer, as a sign, the new wine of the future wedding with humanity (cf. Jn 2:1-12).

This messianic wedding is accomplished on the Cross when, again in the presence of his mother, once again called “woman”, the blood/wine of the New Covenant pours forth from the open heart of the crucified Christ (cf. Jn 19:25-27, 34).(14)

It is therefore not at all surprising that John the Baptist, when asked who he is, describes himself as “the friend of the bridegroom”, who rejoices to hear the bridegroom's voice and must be eclipsed by his coming: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn3:29-30).15

In his apostolic activity, Paul develops the whole nuptial significance of the redemption by seeing Christian life as a nuptial mystery. He writes to the Church in Corinth, which he had founded: “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a chaste virgin to her one husband” (2 Cor 11:2).

In the Letter to the Ephesians, the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church is taken up again and deepened in its implications. In the New Covenant, the beloved bride is the Church, and as the Holy Father teaches in his Letter to Families: “This bride, of whom the Letter to the Ephesians speaks, is present in each of the baptized and is like one who presents herself before her Bridegroom: ‘Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her..., that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish' (Eph 5:25-27)”. (16)

Reflecting on the unity of man and woman as described at the moment of the world's creation (cf. Gn 2:24), the Apostle exclaims: “this mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:32).

The love of a man and a woman, lived out in the power of baptismal life, now becomes the sacrament of the love between Christ and his Church, and a witness to the mystery of fidelity and unity from which the “New Eve” is born and by which she lives in her earthly pilgrimage toward the fullness of the eternal wedding.

11. Drawn into the Paschal mystery and made living signs of the love of Christ and his Church, the hearts of Christian spouses are renewed and they are able to avoid elements of concupiscence in their relationship, as well as the subjugation introduced into the life of the first married couple by the break with God caused by sin.

For Christian spouses, the goodness of love, for which the wounded human heart has continued to long, is revealed with new accents and possibilities. It is in this light that Jesus, faced with the question about divorce (cf. Mt 19:3-9), recalls the demands of the covenant between man and woman as willed by God at the beginning, that is, before the eruption of sin which had justified the later accommodations found in the Mosaic Law.

Far from being the imposition of a hard and inflexible order, these words of Jesus are actually the proclamation of the “good news” of that faithfulness which is stronger than sin. The power of the resurrection makes possible the victory of faithfulness over weakness, over injuries and over the couple's sins. In the grace of Christ which renews their hearts, man and woman become capable of being freed from sin and of knowing the joy of mutual giving.

12. “For all of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ... there is neither male nor female”, writes Saint Paul to the Galatians (3:27-28). The Apostle Paul does not say that the distinction between man and woman, which in other places is referred to the plan of God, has been erased. He means rather that in Christ the rivalry, enmity and violence which disfigured the relationship between men and women can be overcome and have been overcome.

In this sense, the distinction between man and woman is reaffirmed more than ever; indeed, it is present in biblical revelation up to the very end. In the final hour of present history, the Book of Revelation of Saint John, speaking of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), presents the vision of a feminine Jerusalem “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2). Revelation concludes with the words of the Bride and the Spirit who beseech the coming of the Bridegroom, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev22:20).

Male and female are thus revealed as belonging ontologically to creation and destined therefore to outlast the present time, evidently in a transfigured form. In this way, they characterize the “love that never ends” (1Cor 13:8), although the temporal and earthly expression of sexuality is transient and ordered to a phase of life marked by procreation and death.

Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom seeks to be the prophecy of this form of future existence of male and female. For those who live it, it is an anticipation of the reality of a life which, while remaining that of a man and a woman, will no longer be subject to the present limitations of the marriage relationship (cf. Mt22:30). For those in married life, celibacy becomes the reminder and prophecy of the completion which their own relationship will find in the face-to-face encounter with God.

From the first moment of their creation, man and woman are distinct, and will remain so for all eternity. Placed within Christ's Paschal mystery, they no longer see their difference as a source of discord to be overcome by denial or eradication, but rather as the possibility for collaboration, to be cultivated with mutual respect for their difference.

From here, new perspectives open up for a deeper understanding of the dignity of women and their role in human society and in the Church.


13. Among the fundamental values linked to women's actual lives is what has been called a “capacity for the other”. Although a certain type of feminist rhetoric makes demands “for ourselves”, women preserve the deep intuition of the goodness in their lives of those actions which elicit life, and contribute to the growth and protection of the other.

This intuition is linked to women's physical capacity to give life. Whether lived out or remaining potential, this capacity is a reality that structures the female personality in a profound way. It allows her to acquire maturity very quickly, and gives a sense of the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities. A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society.

It is women, in the end, who even in very desperate situations, as attested by history past and present, possess a singular capacity to persevere in adversity, to keep life going even in extreme situations, to hold tenaciously to the future, and finally to remember with tears the value of every human life.

Although motherhood is a key element of women's identity, this does not mean that women should be considered from the sole perspective of physical procreation. In this area, there can be serious distortions, which extol biological fecundity in purely quantitative terms and are often accompanied by dangerous disrespect for women.

The existence of the Christian vocation of virginity, radical with regard to both the Old Testament tradition and the demands made by many societies, is of the greatest importance in this regard.(17)

Virginity refutes any attempt to enclose women in mere biological destiny. Just as virginity receives from physical motherhood the insight that there is no Christian vocation except in the concrete gift of oneself to the other, so physical motherhood receives from virginity an insight into its fundamentally spiritual dimension: it is in not being content only to give physical life that the other truly comes into existence. This means that motherhood can find forms of full realization also where there is no physical procreation. (18)

In this perspective, one understands the irreplaceable role of women in all aspects of family and social life involving human relationships and caring for others. Here, what John Paul II has termed the genius of women becomes very clear.(19)

It implies first of all that women be significantly and actively present in the family, “the primordial and, in a certain sense sovereign society” (20), since it is here above all that the features of a people take shape; it is here that its members acquire basic teachings.

They learn to love inasmuch as they are unconditionally loved, they learn respect for others inasmuch as they are respected, they learn to know the face of God inasmuch as they receive a first revelation of it from a father and a mother full of attention in their regard.

Whenever these fundamental experiences are lacking, society as a whole suffers violence and becomes in turn the progenitor of more violence.

It means also that women should be present in the world of work and in the organization of society, and that women should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems.

In this regard, it cannot be forgotten that the interrelationship between these two activities – family and work – has, for women, characteristics different from those in the case of men.

The harmonization of the organization of work and laws governing work with the demands stemming from the mission of women within the family is a challenge. The question is not only legal, economic and organizational; it is above all a question of mentality, culture, and respect.

Indeed, a just valuing of the work of women within the family is required. In this way, women who freely desire will be able to devote the totality of their time to the work of the household without being stigmatized by society or penalized financially, while those who wish also to engage in other work may be able to do so with an appropriate work-schedule, and not have to choose between relinquishing their family life or enduring continual stress, with negative consequences for one's own equilibrium and the harmony of the family.

As John Paul II has written, “it will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother – without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination and without penalizing her as compared with other women – to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age”. (21)

14. It is appropriate however to recall that the feminine values mentioned here are above all human values: the human condition of man and woman created in the image of God is one and indivisible. It is only because women are more immediately attuned to these values that they are the reminder and the privileged sign of such values.

But, in the final analysis, every human being, man or woman, is destined to be “for the other”. In this perspective, that which is called “femininity” is more than simply an attribute of the female sex. The word designates indeed the fundamental human capacity to live for the other and because of the other.

Therefore, the promotion of women within society must be understood and desired as a humanization accomplished through those values, rediscovered thanks to women. Every outlook which presents itself as a conflict between the sexes is only an illusion and a danger: it would end in segregation and competition between men and women, and would promote a solipsism nourished by a false conception of freedom.

Without prejudice to the advancement of women's rights in society and the family, these observations seek to correct the perspective which views men as enemies to be overcome. The proper condition of the male-female relationship cannot be a kind of mistrustful and defensive opposition. Their relationship needs to be lived in peace and in the happiness of shared love.

On a more concrete level, if social policies – in the areas of education, work, family, access to services and civic participation – must combat all unjust sexual discrimination, they must also listen to the aspirations and identify the needs of all.

The defence and promotion of equal dignity and common personal values must be harmonized with attentive recognition of the difference and reciprocity between the sexes where this is relevant to the realization of one's humanity, whether male or female.


15. In the Church, woman as “sign” is more than ever central and fruitful, following as it does from the very identity of the Church, as received from God and accepted in faith. It is this “mystical” identity, profound and essential, which needs to be kept in mind when reflecting on the respective roles of men and women in the Church.

From the beginning of Christianity, the Church has understood herself to be a community, brought into existence by Christ and joined to him by a relationship of love, of which the nuptial experience is the privileged expression.

From this it follows that the Church's first task is to remain in the presence of this mystery of God's love, manifested in Jesus Christ, to contemplate and to celebrate it.

In this regard, the figure of Mary constitutes the fundamental reference in the Church. One could say metaphorically that Mary is a mirror placed before the Church, in which the Church is invited to recognize her own identity as well as the dispositions of the heart, the attitudes and the actions which God expects from her.

The existence of Mary is an invitation to the Church to root her very being in listening and receiving the Word of God, because faith is not so much the search for God on the part of human beings, as the recognition by men and women that God comes to us; he visits us and speaks to us.

This faith, which believes that “nothing is impossible for God” (cf. Gn18:14; Lk 1:37), lives and becomes deeper through the humble and loving obedience by which the Church can say to the Father: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Faith continually makes reference to Jesus: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) and accompanies Jesus on his way, even to the foot of the Cross. Mary, in the hour of darkness, perseveres courageously in faithfulness, with the sole certainty of trust in the Word of God.

It is from Mary that the Church always learns the intimacy of Christ. Mary, who carried the small child of Bethlehem in her arms, teaches us to recognize the infinite humility of God. She who received the broken body of Jesus from the Cross shows the Church how to receive all those in this world whose lives have been wounded by violence and sin.

From Mary, the Church learns the meaning of the power of love, as revealed by God in the life of his beloved Son: “he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their heart... he has lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:51-52).

From Mary, the disciples of Christ continually receive the sense and the delight of praise for the work of God's hands: “The Almighty has done great things for me” (Lk1:49). They learn that they are in the world to preserve the memory of those “great things”, and to keep vigil in expectation of the day of the Lord.

16. To look at Mary and imitate her does not mean, however, that the Church should adopt a passivity inspired by an outdated conception of femininity. Nor does it condemn the Church to a dangerous vulnerability in a world where what count above all are domination and power.

In reality, the way of Christ is neither one of domination (cf. Phil 2:6) nor of power as understood by the world (cf. Jn18:36). From the Son of God one learns that this “passivity” is in reality the way of love; it is a royal power which vanquishes all violence; it is “passion” which saves the world from sin and death and recreates humanity.

In entrusting his mother to the Apostle John, Jesus on the Cross invites his Church to learn from Mary the secret of the love that is victorious.

Far from giving the Church an identity based on an historically conditioned model of femininity, the reference to Mary, with her dispositions of listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting, places the Church in continuity with the spiritual history of Israel.

In Jesus and through him, these attributes become the vocation of every baptized Christian. Regardless of conditions, states of life, different vocations with or without public responsibilities, they are an essential aspect of Christian life.

While these traits should be characteristic of every baptized person, women in fact live them with particular intensity and naturalness. In this way, women play a role of maximum importance in the Church's life by recalling these dispositions to all the baptized and contributing in a unique way to showing the true face of the Church, spouse of Christ and mother of believers.

In this perspective one understands how the reservation of priestly ordination solely to men (22) does not hamper in any way women's access to the heart of Christian life. Women are called to be unique examples and witnesses for all Christians of how the Bride is to respond in love to the love of the Bridegroom.


17. In Jesus Christ all things have been made new (cf. Rev 21:5). Renewal in grace, however, cannot take place without conversion of heart. Gazing at Jesus and confessing him as Lord means recognizing the path of love, triumphant over sin, which he sets out for his disciples.

In this way, man's relationship with woman is transformed, and the three-fold concupiscence described in the First Letter of John (1 Jn 2:16) ceases to have the upper hand.

The witness of women's lives must be received with respect and appreciation, as revealing those values without which humanity would be closed in self-sufficiency, dreams of power and the drama of violence.

Women too, for their part, need to follow the path of conversion and recognize the unique values and great capacity for loving others which their femininity bears.

In both cases, it is a question of humanity's conversion to God, so that both men and women may come to know God as their “helper”, as the Creator full of tenderness, as the Redeemer who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16).

Such a conversion cannot take place without humble prayer to God for that penetrating gaze which is able to recognize one's own sin and also the grace which heals it. In a particular way, we need to ask this of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman in accord with the heart of God, she who is “blessed among women” (cf. Lk 1:42), chosen to reveal to men and women the way of love.

Only in this way, can the “image of God”, the sacred likeness inscribed in every man and woman, emerge according to the specific grace received by each (cf. Gn 1:27). Only thus can the path of peace and wonderment be recovered, witnessed in the verses of the Song of Songs, where bodies and hearts celebrate the same jubilee.

The Church certainly knows the power of sin at work in individuals and in societies, which at times almost leads one to despair of the goodness of married couples. But through her faith in Jesus crucified and risen, the Church knows even more the power of forgiveness and self-giving in spite of any injury or injustice.

The peace and wonderment which she trustfully proposes to men and women today are the peace and wonderment of the garden of the resurrection, which have enlightened our world and its history with the revelation that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16).

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Letter, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 31, 2004, the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger

+ Angelo Amato, SDB
Titular Archbishop of Sila


1 Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (November 22, 1981): AAS 74 (1982), 81-191; Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988): AAS 80 (1988), 1653-1729; Letter to Families (February 2, 1994): AAS 86 (1994), 868-925; Letter to Women (June 29, 1995): AAS 87 (1995), 803-812; Catechesi sull'amore umano (1979-1984): Insegnamenti II (1979) – VII (1984): English translation in The Theology of the Body, (Boston: Pauline Books Media, 1997); Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidance in Human Love (November 1, 1983); Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family (December 8, 1995).

2 On the complex question of gender, see also The Pontifical Council for the Family, Family, Marriage and “De facto unions” (July 26, 2000), 8.

3 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio (September 14, 1998), 21: AAS 91 (1999), 22: “This opening to the mystery, which came to him [biblical man] through Revelation, was for him, in the end, the source of true knowledge. It was this which allowed his reason to enter the realm of the infinite where an understanding for which until then he had not dared to hope became a possibility”.

4 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1662; cf. St. Ireneus, Adversus haereses, 5,6,1; 5, 16, 2-3: SC 153, 72-81; 216-221; St. Gregory of Nyssa, De hominis opificio, 16: PG 44, 180; In Canticum homilia, 2: PG 44, 805-808; St.Augustine, Enarratio in Psalmum, 4, 8: CCL 38, 17.

5 The Hebrew word ezer which is translated as “helpmate” indicates the assistance which only a person can render to another. It carries no implication of inferiority or exploitation if we remember that God too is at times called ezer with regard to human beings (cf. Ex 18:4; Ps10:14).

6 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1664.

7 John Paul II, General Audience of January 16, 1980, reprinted in The Theology of the Body, (Boston: Pauline Books Media, 1997), 63.

8 John Paul II, General Audience of July 23, 1980, reprinted in The Theology of the Body, (Boston: Pauline Books Media, 1997), 125.

9 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 7: AAS 80 (1988), 1666.

10 Ibid., 6, l. c., 1663.

11 Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidance in Human Love (November 1, 1983), 4.

12 Ibid.

13 Adversus haereses, 4, 34, 1: SC 100, 846: “Omnem novitatem attulit semetipsum afferens”.

14 The ancient exegetical tradition sees in Mary at Cana the “figura Synagogae” and the “inchoatio Ecclesiae”.

15 Here the Fourth Gospel presents in a deeper way an element found also in the Synoptic Gospels (cf. Mt 9:15 and parallel texts). On the theme of Christ the Bridegroom, see John Paul II, Letter to Families (February 2, 1994), 18: AAS 86 (1994), 906-910.

16 John Paul II, Letter to Families (February 2, 1994), 19: AAS 86 (1994), 911; cf. Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988), 23- 25: AAS 80 (1988), 1708-1715.

17 Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (November 22, 1981), 16: AAS 74 (1982), 98-99.

18 Ibid., 41, l.c., 132-133; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae (February 22, 1987), II, 8: AAS 80 (1988), 96-97.

19 Cf. John Paul II, Letter to Women (June 29, 1995), 9-10: AAS 87 (1995), 809-810.

20 John Paul II, Letter to Families (February 2, 1994), 17: AAS 86 (1994), 906.

21 Encyclical Letter Laborem exercens (September 14, 1981), 19: AAS 73 (1981), 627.

22 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994): AAS 86 (1994), 545-548; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responsum ad dubium regarding the doctrine of the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis (October 28, 1995): AAS 87 (1995), 1114.


Men and women:
love and peace, not war

by Bernardo Cervellera

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – By viewing relations between men and women in adversarial terms and reducing sex to a simple element of cultural choice, radical feminism and gender ideology are undermining men, women, the family and society.

Sounding the alarm, Cardinal Jozef Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, released today a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World”. It did receive the Pope’s stamp of approval.

It is important to point out that the Letter is not some sort of obscurantist anathema flung at pernicious modern tendencies. It is instead an account of how to positively and creatively view physical love, men and women, and their commitment to society.

In short, the Letter wants to demonstrate how men and women are not warring factions but partners in “active collaboration, [and] in recognition of [their] difference” (No. 1).

According to Cardinal Ratzinger, radical feminism has led women onto a path of self-destruction. It started as an attempt to free women from their “subordination” and it did so by adopting a “power-seeking strategy” in which gender relations were seen as inherently antagonistic. It now threatens women’s lives undermining the structures of the family.

Against this “solitary and sterile encounter with oneself” stands the biblical conception found in the Book of Genesis wherein God created humanity as both “male and female” overcoming the “original solitude.” Cardinal Ratzinger evokes here the biblical theme of “nakedness” not as a challenge or showing off, but as “a vital difference . . . oriented towards communion and . . . lived in peace” (No. 6).

The Letter does not limit itself to the sterile anger of radical feminism but deals also with another issue, that of “gender”, a notion that has become an important part in many a United Nations document on women and the family. Fearful that of gender supremacy, the “physical difference, termed sex, is minimised”.

Other differences are seen as irrelevant, homosexuality and heterosexuality are treated as virtually equivalent, suggesting that humans can choose their nature at will, free from “biological determinism”, and evolve according to “a new model of polymorphous sexuality” (Nos. 2-3).

Here the Letter clearly responds to all the battles, especially in the Western world, that place heterosexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism, and transsexuality on the same level.

Here too, the Letter finds inspiration in the Book of Genesis, where the human body, marked by the “sign of masculinity and femininity”, is seen as a sign of a person’s destiny and “becomes a gift to the other” (No. 6).

Equal dignity for men and women as persons is realised, the Letter reads, “as physical complementarity . . . [And] sexuality . . . cannot be reduced to a pure and insignificant biological fact, but rather is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love” (No. 8).

Quoting various passages from the Bible, including some from the Book of Revelation, Cardinal Ratzinger explains that “man and woman are distinct, and will remain so for all eternity”. Their relationship celebrates the “beauty of the human body and the joy of mutual seeking” and expresses “what is most human” and “most divine” in human history and the destiny of Man.

How did we get to this point? To a war of the sexes? To a sterile and faceless encounter with one self? Drawing once again from the Book of Genesis, Cardinal Ratzinger suggests the root cause of everything is atheism and the abrogation of the difference between “God and humanity”.

When God becomes the enemy the relationship between men and women becomes perverse. Love moves away from giving oneself to the other towards selfishness. The sexes cease collaborating and seek dominion over one another. At the same time, Ratzinger writes: “When this relationship [between men and women] is damaged, their access to the face of God risks being compromised in turn” (No. 7).

The third chapter is an important part of the letter for it is dedicated to the urgent need to speak about feminine values in society. Through the “genius of women” children are born, not only in a biological but also in a moral sense for they experience love and respect.

Through it, the “features of a people take shape”. Through it society acquires the capacity to” persevere in adversity, . . . to hold tenaciously to the future” (No. 13). This feminine capacity to “live for the other” makes women’s progress a way of humanising society and exposing it, men included, to feminine values. In this sense, women are the pre-eminent source of social good.

Similarly, within the Church, women – with Mary as their model – are the true image of what Christians ought to be. This image bears witness to the “secret of the love that is victorious”. From this perspective women are called to be “unique examples and witnesses for all Christians”, including priests and bishops, “the heart of Christian life” even though they cannot be ordained” (No. 16).

To save our society from the hopeless violence that rules, Christians and men and women of good will must rediscover their original identity and the equal dignity and complementarity that render them in “the image of God”.

What's more, a “conversion” to the faith in Christ crucified and risen Christ is required. Otherwise, “the power of sin . . . [could] lead one to despair of the goodness of married couples”. In faith, the Church finds “the power of forgiveness and self-giving in spite of any injury of injustice” (No. 17).

Contemporary society too must undergo a “cultural” conversion. It must find ways to empower women and allow them to reconcile family life and work, making the workplace more accommodating to their contribution. Indeed, “just valuing of the work of women within the family is required” (No. 13) thus acknowledging their social and economic worth.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 05/11/2007 00.14]
12/06/2006 03.27
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A few days ago, I posted the following link
to the site of Bayerischen Rundfunk (Bavarian State Radio) with an audio-tape of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger speaking about football on the occasion of the 1978 World Cup.

It was from a radio broadcast, "Zum Sonntag" (On Sundays), by the then Archbishop of Munich-Freising, on June 3, 1978.

On the site, I found the transcript of that broadcast in German. Here is a translation, and below it, the German text, for those of you who might want to listen to the tape again and follow the text (for anyone who's learning German, it's a great exercise in listening to how the words are pronounced by a Bavarian with the clear bell-like tones of an angel!


When one looks at the newspapers or in radio and TV programs these days (June 1978), one can easily see that one subject dominates: the World Cup in football. In 1970, 700 million people watched the World Cup Games on television; this year it will certainly be more.

Football has become a global event which has brought men from all around the world across all boundaries into one and the same ‘place for the soul’, where they are united by hopes, anxieties, passions and joy. Hardly any other event on earth can achieve a similar widespread effect.

That shows that it must address something primal in men and leads us to ask where the power of sport lies. The pessimist will say, it is like it was in ancient Rome. The word for the masses was ‘panem et circenses' -bread and circuses. Food and play make up the lifestyle of a decadent society which knows of no higher goal.

But even when one accepts this, it is not enough. One must then ask: What is the fascination of play that it can have equal importance as food? One can answer that by looking back at ancient Rome, in which the cry for bread and circuses was really the expression of a desire for a paradisiacal life, for a life of satiety without effort, and of fulfilled leisure.

Because that is what play means: action, that is truly free - without a goal and without a need to do it - while harnessing and fulfilling all of one’s personal forces.

In this sense, sport becomes a sort of foretaste of Paradise: a stepping out of the slavish earnestness of our daily life and its concerns into the free seriousness of something that should not be serious and is therefore beautiful. In that way sport overcomes daily life. But it has another character, especially with children: It is a training for life. It symbolizes life itself carried forward in freeform manner.

It seems to me the fascination of football consists of the fact that it unites both aspects in a very persuasive manner.

Iit compels a man to take himself in hand so that through training, he may gain control over himself; through control, mastery; and through mastery, freedom.

It also teaches him, however, a disciplined cooperation with others. In team play, he learns to put his individuality in the service of the whole. Sport unites people in a common goal: the success and failure of each one lies in the success or failure of everyone.

And finally, sport teaches fair competition, in which the rules of the game, which everyone mutually supports, binds and unites the competitors. The freedom of playfulness, when everything is played as it should, the seriousness of competition, resolves into the freedom of a completed game.

In watching a game, the spectator identifies himself with the game and the players. He feels himself part of both the team play and the competition, he participates in the players’ seriousness and in their freedom of action. The players become a symbol of his own life; and that works vice-versa. The players know that the spectators are seeing themselves represented in them, being affirmed by them.

Of course, all of this can be spoiled by commercialism, which casts the grim pall of money over everything, and changes sport into an industry which can produce an unreal world of horrifying dimensions.

But this illusory world cannot exist when sport is based on positive values: as training for life and as a stepping over from our daily life in the direction of our lost Paradise.

In both cases however, it means to find a discipline for freedom, to train oneself to follow the rules of teamwork, of competition and of self-discipline. Perhaps if we think of these, we can learn from sport to live anew.

Because sport makes fundamentals visible: Man does not live by bread alone. Yes, the material world is only the preliminary stage for the truly human, the world of freedom. But that freedom is based on rules, on the discipline of teamwork and fair competition, independent of outward success or arbitrariness, and is thereby truly free.

Sport as life. If we look at it profoundly, then the phenomenon of a football-crazy world can give us more than sheer entertainment.

Fußballbegeisterung kann mehr sein
als bloße Unterhaltung

Wenn man in diesen Tagen des Juni 1978 in die Zeitungen oder in die Rundfunk- und Fernsehprogramme blickt, kann man sehr schnell feststellen, daß es e i n beherrschendes Thema gibt: die Fußballweltmeisterschaft. Im Jahr 1970 waren es 700 Millionen Menschen, die sich über das Fernsehen daran beteiligten; diesmal werden es sicher noch mehr sein.

Fußball ist zu einem globalen Ereignis geworden, das die Menschen rund um unseren Erdkreis über alle Grenzen hinweg in ein und derselben Seelenlage, in Hoffnungen, Ängsten, Leidenschaften und Freuden verbindet. Kaum irgend ein anderer Vorgang auf der Erde kann eine ähnliche Breitenwirkung erzielen.

Das zeigt, daß hier etwas Urmenschliches angesprochen sein muß und es steht die Frage auf, worin diese Macht eines Spiels begründet liegt. Der Pessimist wird sagen, es sei das Gleiche wie im alten Rom. Die Parole der Massen lautete: panem et circenses, Brot und Zirkus. Brot und Spiele seien nun einmal der Lebensinhalt einer dekadenten Gesellschaft, die keine höheren Zwecke mehr kennt.

Aber selbst wenn man diese Auskunft annähme, würde sie noch keineswegs ausreichen. Es müßte noch einmal gefragt werden: Worin liegt die Faszination des Spiels, daß es mit gleicher Wichtigkeit neben das Brot tritt? Darauf könnte man abermals im Blick auf das alte Rom antworten, der Schrei nach Brot und Spielen sei eigentlich der Ausdruck für das Verlangen nach dem paradiesischen Leben gewesen, nach einem Leben der Sättigung ohne Mühsal und der erfüllten Freiheit.

Denn das ist letztlich mit dem Spiel gemeint: in Tun, das ganz frei ist, ohne Zweck und ohne Nötigung, und das dabei doch alle Kräfte des Menschen anspannt und ausfüllt.

In diesem Sinn wäre das Spiel also eine Art von versuchter Heimkehr ins Paradies: das Heraustreten aus dem versklavenden Ernst des Alltags und seiner Lebensbesorgung in den freien Ernst dessen, was nicht sein muß und gerade darum schön ist.

Demgemäß überschreitet das Spiel in gewisser Hinsicht das Alltagsleben; es hat aber zunächst, vor allem beim Kind, noch einen anderen Charakter: Es ist Einübung ins Leben. Es symbolisiert das Leben selbst und nimmt es sozusagen in einer frei gestalteten Weise voraus.

Mir scheint, die Faszination des Fußballs bestehe wesentlich darin, daß er diese beiden Aspekte in einer sehr überzeugenden Form verbindet. Er nötigt den Menschen, zunächst sich selbst in Zucht zu nehmen, so daß er durch Training die Verfügung über sich gewinnt, durch Verfügung Überlegenheit und durch Überlegenheit Freiheit.

Er lehrt ihn aber dann vor allem auch das disziplinierte Miteinander; als Mannschaftsspiel zwingt er zur Einordnung des Eigenen ins Ganze. Er verbindet durch das gemeinsame Ziel; Erfolg und Mißerfolg jedes einzelnen liegen in Erfolg und Mißerfolg des Ganzen.

Und er lehrt schließlich ein faires Gegeneinander bei dem die gemeinsame Regel, der man sich unterstellt, in der Gegnerschaft das Verbindende und Einende bleibt und überdies die Freiheit des Spielerischen, wenn es mit rechten Dingen zugeht, den Ernst des gespielten Gegeneinander wieder in die Freiheit des beendigten Spiels auflöst.

Im Zusehen identifizieren sich die Menschen mit dem Spiel und den Spielern und sind so selber am Miteinander und Gegeneinander, an seinem Ernst und seiner Freiheit beteiligt: Die Spieler werden zum Symbol des eigenen Lebens; das wirkt wieder auf sie zurück. Sie wissen, daß die Menschen in ihnen sich selbst dargestellt und bestätigt finden.

Natürlich kann dies alles verdorben werden durch einen Geschäftsgeist, der das Ganze dem düsteren Ernst des Geldes unterwirft und das Spiel aus einem Spiel in eine Industrie verkehrt, die eine Scheinwelt von erschreckendem Ausmaß hervorbringt.

Aber selbst diese Scheinwelt könnte nicht bestehen, wenn es nicht den positiven Grund gäbe, der dem Spiel zugrundeliegt: die Vorübung des Lebens und die Überschreitung des Lebens in Richtung des verlorenen Paradieses.

Beide Male aber geht es darum, eine Disziplin der Freiheit zu suchen; in der Bindung an die Regel das Miteinander, das Gegeneinander und das Auskommen mit sich selbst zu üben. Vielleicht könnten wir, indem wir dies bedenken, wirklich vom Spiel her das Leben neu erlernen.

Denn in ihm wird Grundlegendes sichtbar: Der Mensch lebt nicht vom Brot allein, ja, die Brotwelt ist eigentlich nur die Vorstufe für das eigentlich Menschliche, für die Welt der Freiheit. Die Freiheit aber lebt von der Regel, von der Zucht, die das Miteinander und das rechte Gegeneinander, die Unabhängigkeit vom äußeren Erfolg und von der Willkür erlernt und eben damit wirklich frei wird.

Das Spiel ein Leben - wenn wir in die Tiefe gehen, könnte das Phänomen einer fußballbegeisterten Welt uns mehr geben als bloße Unterhaltung.
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15/07/2006 18.24
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Here is a translation of the article published by Cardinal Ratzinger in the December 29, 2000, issue of
L'Osservatore Romano. It was taken from an Italian site by Sandro Magister, who points out that in this
article, Ratzinger already said the things his critics accused him of 'keeping silence about' (specifically,
a denunciation of the anti-Semitism that marked the attitude of many Christians over the centuries) in his
discourse delivered in Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 28. 2006

Abraham's legacy -
a Christmas gift

By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

We exchange gifts at Christmas to give joy to each other and in this way, participate in the joy that
the chorus of angels announced to the shepherds, calling to mind the gift par excellence that God made
to mankind in sending us His Son Jesus Christ.

But God had prepared this over a long time, during which, as St. Irinaeus said, God habituated Himself
to be with man, and man habituated himself to be in communion with God.

The story begins with the faith of Abraham, father of believers, father also of the faith of Christians.
The story continues in the blessings on the patriarchs, in the revelations to Moses and Israel's exodus
towards the Promised Land.

A new stage began with the promise to David and his race of a kingdom without end. The prophets
in their turn interpreted history, called their people to penitence and conversion, and thereby
prepared the hearts of men to receive the supreme gift.

Abraham, father of the people of Israel, father of the faith, is therefore at the root of the blessing,
that in him, "all the families of the world will count themselves blessed" (Gen 12,3).

It was the mission of the chosen people to give their God, the one true God, to all other peoples,
and in truth, we Christians are heirs of their faith in the one God.

Therefore, we acknowledge our Hebrew brothers, who - notwithstanding the difficulties of their history -
have kept up to now their faith in this God and bear witness of Him to other peoples who, not knowing
about the one God, "are in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Lk 1,79).

The God of the Jewish Bible - which, with the New Testament, is also the Bible of Christians - a God
of infinite tenderness, as well as a God who strikes fear, is also the God of Jesus Christ and
the Apostles.

The Church of the second century had to resist the denial of this God by the gnostics and above all
of Marcione[?], who opposed the God of the New Testament to God the Creator and demiurge in the Old
Testament, whereas the Church has always kept faith in one God, creator of the world and author
of both testaments.

The New Testament concept of God which culminates in the Apostle John's "God is love" (1 Jn 4,16)
does not contradict the past, but rather sums up the entire story of salvation, in which the initial
protagonist was Israel.

That is why the voice of Moses and the prophets continue to echo in the liturgy of the Church, from
the beginning and up to now. Israel's psaltery is also the great book of prayer of the Church.

Therefore, the primitive Church did not oppose itself to Israel but believed in all simplicity that it was
its legitimate continuation.

The splendid image of Apocalypse 12, a lady dressed in the sun and crowned by twelve stars, pregnant
and suffering from the pain of childbirth, is Israel giving birth to Him "who will govern all the nations
with an iron scepter" (Ps 2,9); and yet, this lady is then transformed into the new Israel, mother
of new peoples, personified in Mary, the mother of Jesus. This unification of three meanings - Israel,
Mary, the Church - shows how, in the faith of Christians, Israel and the Church were and are inseparable.

We know that every birth is difficult. Certainly, from the beginning, the relation between the nascent Church
and Israel was often of a conflicting character. The Church was considered a degenerate daughter,
while the Christians thought the mother was blind and obstinate.

In the history of Christinanity, such relations, already difficult to begin with, degenerated further,
directly giving rise in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes which have produced deplorable acts
of violence throughout history

Even if the last execrable experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian
ideology, which wished to strike at the Christian faith in its Abramic roots, through the people
of Israel, it cannot be denied that insufficient resistance on the part of Christians to this atrocity
could be explained by the anti-Jewish legacy present in the hearts of not a few Christians

Probably because of the drama of this last tragedy, a new vision of the relation between Israel and
the Church has arisen, a sincere wish to overcome every type of anti-Judaism and to initiate
a constructive dialog of reciprocal knowledge and reconciliation.

Such a dialog, in order to be fruitful, must start with a prayer to God that He may grant us Christians,
first of all, greater respect and love for this people, the Israelites
, who have " the adoption,
the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs,
and from them, as man (a creature of flesh), Christ who is above all, God forever blessed, Amen."(Rom 9, 4-5);
and not only in the past, but even at present "because the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable"
(Rom 11,29).

Let us pray equally that He may give to the people of Israel a better knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth,
their son and the gift they have given us. Because together we await the final redemption,
let us pray that we may proceed along convergent ways

It is evident that our dialog with the Jews has a different premise from that with other religions.
The faith witnessed in the Bible of the Jews, which is the Old Testament for Christians, is not
another religion to us, but the foundation of our faith.
That is why Christians - today, more than ever,
in collaboration with our brother Jews - attentively read and study these books of Sacred Scripture
as part of our common patrimony.

It is true that Islam also considers itself a son of Abraham and has inherited from the Jews and
Christians the same God, but Islam runs a different course which requires other parameters of dialog.

Going back to the exchange of Christmas gifts with which I started this meditation, we must first
recognize that all we have and do is a gift of God, which is obtained through humble and sincere prayer,
a gift which must be shared among different races, among religions in search of better knowledge of
the divine mystery, among nations who seek peace and peoples who wish to establish a society ruled
by justice and love.

This is the program outlined by the Second Vatican Council for the church of the future, and
we Catholics pray to the Lord to help us persevere on this road.

It is remarkable how consistent Joseph Ratzinger has been over the years. What he said in Birkenau
on May 28 was already pre-figured (or even said outright) in this article. So is his favorite
Biblical reference, the Johanine 'God is love'. And so is his thinking that Islam needs to be dealt with differently

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