ROME, JULY 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Paul Cordes, a longtime friend of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, is convinced the new Pope is “God’s response” to the spread of secularism.
In this interview with ZENIT, the 70-year-old president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” who oversees the coordination of the Church’s charity institutions, describes some of Joseph Ratzinger’s essential features.
Q: According to some observers, John Paul II was for communism what Benedict XVI will be for moral and religious relativism. In your opinion, to what degree is this affirmation valid?
Archbishop Cordes: In his appointments, God undoubtedly has in mind the biographical experience and specific capacities of his messengers.
In his youth and as bishop of Krakow, the deceased Pope had lived the painful experience of communism. And for this reason he fought energetically against the regime’s atheist forces. …
As Bishop of Rome, he never ceased to struggle before kings and presidents on behalf of freedom and people’s dignity. Unfortunately, his ardent desire to visit Russia and China was not heard.
As a professor of theology, Pope Benedict XVI has always transmitted the truth of the faith and Tradition in a clear and comprehensible way. He formed future priests and catechists in the university. He tried to identify and spread in the intellectual world the arguments for an understanding of Revelation.
As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he helped John Paul II in his work of formulating theological directives for the people of God; suffice it to think of the writing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
It is obvious, therefore, that as Pope he will not be resigned in the face of moral and religious relativism.
Q: A journalist has said that John Paul II filled the squares, while Benedict XVI will fill the churches. Given the enthusiasm that has arisen in these first months, it seems that Benedict XVI will fill the squares and the churches. What do you think?
Archbishop Cordes: I wholly agree with you. The stream of pilgrims arriving in Rome is enough to describe that journalist’s judgment as precipitous.
Undoubtedly, John Paul II has helped and continues to help from heaven to make interest in the person and ministry of Pope Joseph Ratzinger have such amazing repercussion. …
Q: Another significant element is the novelty, after almost 1,000 years, of a German Pope. It is even more significant that it takes place after the fall of the Berlin Wall. St. Benedict saved civilization from the ruin of the Roman Empire; Benedict XVI has been given the task to revive the Judeo-Christian tradition in Europe and the West in the face of moral and religious decadence. Germany is a decisive nation for the future of Europe and, in this connection, a German Pope seems to be providential. What do you think?
Archbishop Cordes: The secularism of the so-called First World was of profound concern to John Paul II.
Although he came from a land firmly rooted in the Christian tradition, which through political challenge had succeeded in mobilizing further its religious energies, nevertheless he saw with clarity the signs of decadence.
Because of this, on the occasion of his trip to Austria in 1983, and despite the fact that he was advised against it by ecclesial diplomats, he wished to visit Kahlenberg, on the outskirts of Vienna, to commemorate the third centenary of the “fortunate victory,” which had protected Europe from the penetration of the Turks and their religion.
When meeting with Austrian bishops on that occasion, he expressed acute thoughts on the sickness of Europe: “The experience of the apparent absence of God weighs not only on those who are absent or those most distanced, but is general. The spiritual current of today’s conscience has a profound influence also on the active members of the Church. For this reason, the Good Shepherd feels obliged to leave space in the world and the Church above all to the light that comes from faith, in the active presence of God.”
The new Pope is certainly God’s response to the danger of secularism. And it is not just the name he has chosen which makes reference to it. Pope Benedict has expressed clearly his regret over the lack of reference to God in the preamble of the European Constitutional Treaty.
However, for several reasons I think too much importance must not be given to the contribution of Germany in the correct establishment of Christianity in Europe.
I count rather on a revitalization of the faith in our continent thanks to the new spiritual movements that have arisen in Italy, Spain and France, and which are found in the origin of World Youth Day.
Pope Benedict also considers necessary that on the occasion of Pentecost 2006 they come here again, to Rome, to have a great meeting.
Q: Many observers have described Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as a severe guardian of orthodoxy. Could you, who have had the possibility to know the Pontiff, describe the one who has portrayed himself as “a simple and humble laborer in the Lord’s vineyard”?
Archbishop Cordes: Surely, the few weeks of his pontificate have been enough to eliminate this prejudice. Those who knew Cardinal Ratzinger never shared this opinion. Those who did not know him, have now had to change their opinion.
The reason why he was discredited in this way was due to the fact that he always had to remind about disagreeable truths on the faith and Tradition. But, how can those who transmit these messages vent their resentment? Meanwhile, they diminish the message or hardly recognize something positive in it.
The world of information has always been characterized by the aggressions of some journalists. But then they were astounded by the innumerable pilgrims who came to see John Paul II or those who unexpectedly want to see and hear Benedict XVI.