By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2008 ( At the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God, and rediscovering that is the key to overcoming the current crisis of ethics in Europe and the world, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope wrote this in a letter sent in September to Italian philosopher and senator Marcello Pera, in response to the latter's latest book titled "Perche dobbiamo dirci cristiani. Il liberalismo, l'Europa, l'etica" (Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians: Liberalism, Europe, and Ethics").

Published by Mondadori, the Italian-language book will be presented Thursday in Rome. The letter appears as a foreward in the text.

Marcello Pera, 65, president of the Italian Senate during the last legislature, dedicated his academic research to his friend Karl Popper, Austrian philosopher of the "open society."

In his letter, Benedict XVI acknowledged the text to be "a fascinating read," and he applauded Pera's analysis of liberalism. "With an exceptional knowledge of the foundations, and with convincing logic, you analyze the essence of liberalism from its principles, showing that rooted in the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God."

"With irreproachable logic, you show how liberalism loses its base and destroys itself if it abandons this foundation," he added.

The Pope also expressed his admiration for Pera's analysis of liberty, and the concept of multiculturalism, in which he "shows the internal contradiction of this concept and, therefore, its political and cultural impossibility."

"Of fundamental importance is your analysis of what Europe and a European Constitution can be in which Europe is not transformed into a cosmopolitan reality, but finds -- from its Christian-liberal foundation -- its own identity," he notes.

The Holy Father also reflects on the senator's analysis of the concepts of interreligious and intercultural dialogue: "You explain with great clarity that interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible, while intercultural dialogue is particularly urgent, which analyzes the cultural consequences of the underlying religious decision."

"Although it is true that as regard the latter, no true dialogue is possible without putting aside one's own faith, in the public debate it is necessary to address the cultural consequences of the underlying religious decisions," he indicates.

The Holy Father said he believed Pera's proposals are necessary to overcome "the contemporary crisis of ethics."

"You show that liberalism, without failing to be liberalism -- rather, to be faithful to itself -- can refer to a doctrine of the good, in particular the Christian, which is familiar to it, thus truly offering a contribution to overcome the crisis," he continued.


In an interview Saturday on Vatican Radio, Pera explained the reasons why on occasions liberalism has become anti-Christian.

"In so far as Europe is concerned, in particular, a historic explanation is given. Many have often found themselves in conflict with the Catholic Church, and it is a bitter fact of the history of Europe, which is not the case in the history of the United States," he explained.

"Some national States -- Italy, France, etc. -- have constituted themselves as nation-states with a struggle, with a dispute against the Catholic Church," he noted.

"This has generated what is known as the phenomenon of anti-clericalism, and anti-clericalism has generated another: what in the book I call 'secular equation,' namely, 'liberal equals non-Christian.'"

"This is an error," he said, "as one can argue historically on the merits and demerits of the Catholic Church in Europe at the time of the foundation of the national states, but the importance of the Christian message cannot be disputed."

If one opts for anti-Christianity, what the Pope calls "the apostasy of Christianity," added Pera, "we lose the very virtues, the very foundations of those liberties and rights on which are liberal States are founded."