Cardinal Ratzinger: Vatican II Recovered Public Dimension of Christianity

Aimed to Bring the Faith Out of the Realm of the Subjective

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ROME, FEB. 4, 2004 ( The Second Vatican Council served to recover the public dimension of the Christian commitment which had been obscured, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has assessed how the relation between the Church and the world has changed since the council of 1962-1965, in his preface for the book «Introduction to Christianity» («Introducing al Cristianesimo,» Queriniana).

The cardinal, who followed the conciliar sessions as a theological expert, begins by stating that above all, Vatican II intended «to renew the role of Christianity as the motor of history.»

«In the 19th century, in fact, the opinion had spread that religion belonged to the subjective and private sphere, and that it should limit its influence to these realms,» he writes. «Precisely because religion was relegated to the subjective sphere, it could not be presented as the determinant force for the great course of history.»

«Once the working sessions of the Council ended, it had to be made clear again that the Christian faith encompasses the whole of existence, it is the central pivot of history and time, and is not destined to limit its realm of influence» to the subjective, the cardinal adds.

He continues: «Christianity tried — at least from the point of view of the Catholic Church — to come out of the ghetto in which it was enclosed since the 19th century, and to be fully involved again in the world.

«In the determination of the role of Christianity in history, the idea of a new relation between the Church and the world was the main influence. If in the ’30s Romano Guardini had coined (justly) the expression ‘distinction of what is Christian’ (‘Unterscheidung des Christlichen’), now this distinction seems to have lost its importance in favor, rather, of the overcoming of distinctions, of coming close to the world, of participation in the world.»

«The speed with which these ideas could come out of the circle of ecclesiastical academic speeches and acquire a more practical character began to be evident as early as 1968, at the time of the Paris barricades,» the cardinal writes. «The participation in the front line of Catholic and evangelical student communities in the revolutionary movements in the Universities of Europe and outside of Europe confirmed this tendency.»

He adds: «At that time, it seemed that the only path that could be followed was Marxism. It seemed that Marx had assumed the role that Aristotelian thought played in the 13th century, a pre-Christian philosophy (that is, ‘pagan’) which had to be baptized to bring faith and reason closer and to engage in a correct relation.»

Cardinal Ratzinger concludes that «whoever expected that Christianity would be transformed into a mass movement, has realized that he was mistaken.»

«Mass movements do not contain on their own promises for the future,» he states. «The future is born when people meet around profound convictions, capable of giving form to existence. And the future grows positively if these convictions stem from truth and lead to truth.»

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