Benedict XVI, a Lover of Nature and Sports

Interview With Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2005 ( An archbishop who worked for years under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican says the new Pope «is an exceptional person of genuine humanity, extremely affable.»

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, remembered Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, as «a man who stops on the street to listen to people and to respond. The stereotypes portrayed by some of the media are absolutely false.»

In an interview on «One-O-Five Live,» the FM and Internet channel of Vatican Radio, the Genoa prelate spoke about the German-born Pope. He had worked under Cardinal Ratzinger for many years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

«He is a man with musical sensitivity and sensitivity to nature, who in his walks to Borgo Pio and the Vatican Gardens even spoke to cats,» said Cardinal Bertone, a friend of Benedict XVI. «I tried to understand his language with cats that were always delighted when they met him.»

The Italian prelate continued: «The Pope loves the mountains, exuberant nature. He spent his vacations in the mountains of Bavaria and, in Italy, near Bressanone. He went on his daily walk to Borgo Pio and the Vatican Gardens around 3:30 in the afternoon.

«But the Pope is also a man of sports. Let’s not forget that he was a fan of Monaco’s Bayern when Bayern’s coach was, toward the end of the ’90s, Giovanni Trapattoni, a famous Juventus coach. I often spoke with him about sports, I am a soccer fan, and the Pope has dedicated books of his written in German to Trapattoni.»

«Trapattoni read Cardinal Ratzinger’s books in German,» continued the archbishop of Genoa. «It is a beautiful relationship, with a great coach whom he knew personally, with whom he talked and chatted. Benedict XVI appreciates Giovanni Trapattoni and he will have a positive relationship with sports.»

Asked about how some press outlets reported on Cardinal Ratzinger’s election to the papal throne — «The German Shepherd,» blared a headline in the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto — Cardinal Bertone spared no criticism.

«Yes, it was scandalous. Absolutely disrespectful,» he said. «Such an attitude is disgraceful. I don’t think that among all the journalists of some English tabloids, such as the Guardian, there is a man who is as gentle, as respectful of every person as Cardinal Ratzinger. I say it frankly, and I hope that such episodes will not be repeated.»

«A certain press has treated this man, who is a man of the Church, animated by so much humanity and loved by so many of the faithful, in a way that in fact bordered on contempt,» the Genoa cardinal added. «I even heard about an Italian Vaticanist who wondered if a man of science, a man of culture, is capable of preaching the Gospel. This is also scandalous.»

Cardinal Bertone, however, was quick to point out the positive coverage of Benedict XVI shown by many in the media.

«In general the totality of the press, the media, were precisely the spokesmen in these days of the contents of the faith, of the patrimony of the faith, of the great spirituality lived by believers,» he said.

«I think that thanks to the majority of the press, a catechesis of worldwide scope was multiplied. I am also thinking of Arab TV, which transmitted hours and hours of Catholic religious programs,» the cardinal said. «Therefore, honor to the press and to the means of communication and also to Internet sites, which communicated these contents of the faith. But certainly reprobation for unworthy attitudes. Every person must be respected, including the Pope.»

The prelate continued with his personal assessment of the new Pope: «He is a man who also knows how to make witty remarks, who knows how to be a friend and cultivates stable friendships. A man of friendship. …

«We know he always had a positive relationship with the [new ecclesial] movements. He appreciated them, recognizing in them the gift of the Spirit in the springtime after the Second Vatican Council.»

Cardinal Bertone speculated on the key tasks ahead for the Holy Father.

«Benedict XVI’s first challenge is the proclamation of the Gospel, the New Evangelization,» he said. «The Pope asked us cardinals especially to help him in this titanic work, to give reasons for the faith to the people of our time. Cardinal Ratzinger got us accustomed to, educated us to give reasons for our faith; a clear Christian identity in order to dialogue with everyone. It is necessary to begin from an understanding and a testimony of one’s own identity of faith, with respect for all, proposing and not imposing, as he has always done in his dialogue with dissidents.»

«The second challenge is to implement the Second Vatican Council, in faithful continuity with the 2,000-year tradition of the Church.»

Asked if the debate will reopen on the Judeo-Christian roots of Europe, Cardinal Bertone replied: «I believe that we must not give up and that Benedict XVI will guide us in the work of refounding our culture, the life of our society, of our nations, on the Judeo-Christian roots and, therefore, we will also be able to see a flowering of testimonies, namely of those who demonstrate how it is possible to live according to our Christian roots. There are so many who want this. So many who follow the Pope.»

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