By Kathleen Naab

QUERETARO, Mexico, JAN. 22, 2009 ( The Church is an institution that is esteemed and valued around the world, according to Benedict XVI's secretary of state.

This was one of the affirmations made Monday by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during a question-and-answer session following his address to the world of culture and education. The cardinal was in Mexico as the Pope's representative for the 6th World Meeting of Families, which ended last Sunday.

The following day, he spoke at a conference organized by the Mexican episcopate and the Diocese of Queretaro on "The Fulfillment of Reason in the Horizon of Faith."

After a discourse in which he invited listeners to reflect on the presence of the Church and Catholics in the public life of the nation and their role in the configuration of Mexican culture, the cardinal answered five questions from the crowd.

One questioner proposed that a concept exists of the Church as an "institution in crisis," and he noted discrepancy in those who profess to be Catholic but do not follow the Church's teachings in themes, for example, regarding sexual morality.

Cardinal Bertone, calling on his experience as secretary of state for the Holy See, which has diplomatic relations with 177 nations, assured that the Church is far from in crisis.

Instead, he said, "the Church is very appreciated." He noted how the "word of the Church" is sought, as well as its aid in education, particularly in Muslim countries.

The cardinal went on to acknowledge the questioner's concern with discrepancy between faith and life. He cautioned against a "religion of pure worship" versus a "religion of life, of testimony [...] of coherence of life." In this area, the Vatican official affirmed, there is much work to do in pastoral ministry.

Competent Catholics

Regarding a perceived loss of cultural leadership from Catholics -- in areas such as art, literature, etc., Cardinal Bertone called for professionals that are well-formed and "truly competent."

He affirmed that it is the moment for Christian laypeople to take on a leading role, but said that they must be "competent laypeople."

In this regard he noted that there should be witnesses who show that being Catholic is not an obstacle to scientific investigation, and that it is possible to be Christian without sacrificing faith, reason or science.

Finally, taking a question from a student, the cardinal addressed the link between love for Christ and following his commandments.

The youth had asked the secretary of state how to present God without falling into moralizing.

Cardinal Bertone responded by offering the example of Benedict XVI and the need to give reasons behind norms.

He spoke of the Pope's way of answering questions from young people, for example, queries from children making their First Communion. The Pope has an ability, the cardinal assured, though he is a "grand intellectual," to enter into the "hearts of children."