Cardinal Ratzinger Tells Why Many Misperceive Christianity

Says It Is Not Seen as an Encounter With Christ

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ROME, MAY 7, 2004 ( Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional — rather than as an encounter with Christ — which explains why they don’t see it as a source of joy, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

«Today, Christianity is seen as an old tradition, weighed down by old Commandments, something we already know which tells us nothing new; a strong institution, one of the great institutions that weigh on our shoulders,» said the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

«If we stay with this impression, we do not live the essence of Christianity, which is an ever new encounter, an event thanks to which we can encounter the God who speaks to us, who approaches us, who befriends us,» the cardinal said in the latest issue of the Italian Catholic weekly Vita Trentina.

«It is critical to come to this fundamental point of a personal encounter with God, who also today makes himself present, and who is contemporary,» he added.

«If one finds this essential center, one also understands all the other things,» the cardinal said. «But if this encounter is not realized, which touches the heart, all the rest remains like a weight, almost like something absurd.»

Regarding the present situation of the Church, Cardinal Ratzinger said that there is still much to assimilate of the Second Vatican Council. «It seems difficult to me that one generation can really assimilate the legacy of the Council,» he said.

«From my point of view, perhaps in the last 10 years, we have taken a step forward to make truly our own the liturgical reformation, which is not something arbitrary nor is it reduced to external gestures, but consists in really engaging in a dialogue of faith,» he said.

«Another fundamental element of the Council that we are called to assimilate better affects the need to understand Christianity in a personal way, from the point of view of an encounter with Christ,» the cardinal said.

«The central character of Christ was, I would say, the heart of the message of Vatican Council II,» he contended. «Unfortunately, we concentrated on many external things so that this central character of Christian personalism remains to be discovered.»

«The Council, in fact, wished to show that Christianity is not against reason, against modernity, but that on the contrary it is a help so that reason in its totality can work not only on technical questions, but also on human, moral and religious knowledge,» he revealed.

In a world dominated by an economy governed by «materialist principles» and by liberalism, what is excluded is «the heart,» namely, «the highest point of human intelligence, that is, the possibility to see God and to introduce also into the world of work, trade and politics, the light of moral responsibility, love and justice,» Cardinal Ratzinger said.

He added: «If on one hand it is important that priests proclaim well the essence of the Christian faith, on the other hand there must be persons who in the different realms of the world commit themselves to make present the principles of the Christian faith, which will transform human realities from within.»

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