Benedict XVI's Comments en Route to Scotland

“I Go Forward With Great Courage and Joy”

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ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, SEPT. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a transcription of the press conference Benedict XVI gave today aboard the papal plane en route to Edinburgh, Scotland. The Pope is on a four-day state visit to the United Kingdom.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, led the press conference.

* * *

Father Lombardi: Your Holiness, welcome here with us, and thank you for your availability. We are a group of 70 journalists present from various parts of the world; naturally some came from the United Kingdom already to join with our group here. As customary, in the last few days my colleagues have proposed various questions that we offer you during this first conversation at the beginning of a long-awaited and exacting trip, which we hope will be marvelous. I have selected a series of questions from among those that were proposed. I will ask them in Italian so as to not tire you out too much; the journalists will help each other out if they do not know Italian well.

Q: There were controversies and opposition presented during the preparation of the trip, [and] in the tradition of this country, there are strong anti-Catholic positions. During the preparations for the trip, Great Britain has been presented as an anti-Catholic country. Are you worried about how you will be received?

Benedict XVI: First of all, good morning and I wish all of us a good flight! 

I must say that I’m not worried because when I was in France it was said that it was the most anti-clerical country, with strong anti-clerical currents and with a minimum number of faithful. When I went to the Czech Republic it was said that it was the most anti-religious country of Europe and also the most anti-clerical. In this way, all the Western countries, each according to their history and their own style, have many anti-clerical and anti-Catholic currents, but they have also always had a strong presence of faith. 

In France and in the Czech Republic I saw and experienced a warm welcome on the part of the Catholic community; careful attentiveness from agnostics — who, nevertheless, are searching, who want to know and find the values that lead humanity forward — and were also very attentive to see if they could hear something from me in this regard; and tolerance and respect from those who are anti-Catholic. 

Now Great Britain has its own history of anti-Catholicism, this is obvious, but it is also a country with a history of tolerance. I’m sure that on one hand there will be a positive reception by Catholics and believers in general, attention from all those who seek how to go forward in these times of ours, and mutual respect and tolerance where there is anti-Catholicism. I go forward with great courage and joy.

Q: The United Kingdom, like many other Western countries — which is a theme that was touched upon in the first response — is considered a secularized country, with a strong atheistic movement that also has even cultural motivations. However, there are also signs that religious faith, in particular in Jesus Christ, is still alive at the personal level. What can this mean for Catholics and Anglicans? Can something be done to render the Church as an institution also more credible and attractive for all?

Benedict XVI: I would say that a church that seeks above all to be attractive is already on the wrong path. Because the Church doesn’t work for herself, does not work to increase her numbers, her own power. The Church is at the service of Another, she doesn’t serve herself. She doesn’t exist to be a strong body, but rather serves to render accessible the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the great truths, the great forces of love, of reconciliation, which appeared in this Figure and which always come from the presence of Jesus Christ. 

In this sense the Church does not seek her own attractiveness but must be transparent so that Jesus Christ shines through. And in the measure that she is not for herself, like a strong and powerful body in the world, but makes herself simply the voice of Another, she really becomes transparency for the great figure of Christ and the great truths that he has brought to humanity, the strength of love. If she is like this, then she is listened to and accepted.

The Church should not consider herself, but help to consider the Other, and she herself should see and speak of Another and for Another. In this connection it seems to me that Anglicans and Catholics have the same task, the same direction to undertake. If Anglicans and Catholics both see that they do not serve themselves but are instruments for Christ, friend of the Bridegroom, as St. John says, if both follow the priority of Christ and not of themselves, they go forward together. Because then the priority of Christ joins them and they cease to be competitors seeking the greatest number, but are joined in the commitment to the truth of Christ in this world, and thus they find themselves mutually in a true and fruitful ecumenism.

Q: Thank you, Your Holiness. The third question: It is well-known that recent surveys have shown the scandal of sexual abuses has shaken the faithful’s trust in the Church. How do you think you will be able to contribute to re-establish this trust?

Benedict XVI: First of all I must say that these revelations were a shock to me, a great sadness; it is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible. At the moment of ordination, the priest, prepared for years for this moment, says “yes” to Christ to be his voice, his mouth, his hands and to serve with all his life so that the Good Shepherd who loves, who helps, who guides to truth will be present in the world. How a man who has done and said this can then fall into this perversion is difficult to understand. It is a great sadness, a great sadness also that the authority of the Church was not sufficiently vigilant and not sufficiently quick and resolute in taking the necessary measures. 

Because of all this we are in a moment of penance, of humility, of renewed sincerity, as I wrote to the Irish bishops. It seems to me that we must now engage in a time of penance, a time of humility and renew and re-learn absolute sincerity. 

As to the victims, I would say three things are important. The first concern is the victims: How can we make reparation? What can we do to help these persons overcome this trauma, to rediscover life, to find again as well trust in the message of Christ. Concern for the victims is the first priority with material, psychological and spiritual help. 

The second is the problem of the guilty persons: the just punishment of excluding them from any possibility of access to young people, because we know that this is an illness, that free will does not function where this illness exists; hence, we must protect these persons from themselves and find the way to help them and keep them from any access to young people.

And the third point is prevention and education in the selection of candidates to the priesthood. To be careful so that, inasmuch as humanly possible, future cases are prevented. At this moment I would also like to thank the British episcopate for its care and collaboration both with the See of St. Peter and with public entities and its attention to the victims and the law. It seems to me that the British episcopate has done and does a great job, hence I am very grateful.

Q: Your Holiness, the figure of Cardinal Newman is very significant for you. And for Cardinal Newman you are making the exception of presiding over his beatification. Do you think that his memory might help to overcome the divisions between Anglicans and Catholics? And what are the aspects of his personality that you most wish to stress?

Benedict XVI: On one hand, Newman is, above all, a modern man who lived the whole problem of modernity, who also lived the problem of agnosticism, the problem of the impossi
bility of knowing God, of believing. A man who throughout his whole life was on a journey, on a journey to allow himself to be transformed by truth in a search of great sincerity and great willingness to know and to find and to accept the path that gives true life. This interior modernity of his life implies the modernity of his faith. It is not a faith in formulas of past times but a very personal faith, lived, suffered, found in a long journey of renewal and conversion. He is a man of great learning who on one hand participates in our skeptical culture of today, in the question of whether we can be certain in our understanding about the truth of man, and how we can come to convergence in these truths. A man with great learning and knowledge of the Church Fathers, who studied and renewed the origin and the gift of faith, thus recognizing the essentially interior figure. He was a man of great spirituality and of great humanism, a man of prayer, of a profound relationship with God and a deep relationship also with the people of his time.

Hence, I would say three elements in his life: the modernity of his existence with all the doubts and problems of our existence today; great learning, knowledge of the great treasures of the culture of humanity, and willingness for a permanent search, for permanent renewal; and spirituality, spiritual life with God. These elements give this man an exceptional greatness in our time and because of this he is a figure of a doctor of the Church for us and for all, and a bridge between Anglicans and Catholics.

Q: The last question. This visit is considered a state visit. That’s how it has been classified. What is the significance of this visit for relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom. Are there important points of agreement with the English authorities in addressing the great present challenges?

Benedict XVI: I am very grateful to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who wished to give this visit the rank of a state visit, to express the public character of this visit and also the joint responsibility of politics and religion for the future of the continent and also for the future of humanity. It shows the great common responsibility so that the values that create justice and politics and that come from religion are united in our times. Naturally, the fact that juridically this is a state visit does not render my visit a political event, because if the Pope is a head of state, this is only an instrument to guarantee the independence of his proclamation and the public character of his pastoral work. In this sense, a state visit also remains substantially and essentially a pastoral visit, namely, a visit in the responsibility of the faith for which the Supreme Pontiff, the Pope, exists. 

And the classification of state visit focuses attention precisely on the coincidences between political and religious interests. Politics substantially seeks to guarantee justice, and with justice, liberty. But justice is a moral, religious value and thus the proclamation of the faith is linked to politics in the realm of justice. From here comes common interests. Great Britain has broad experience and widespread activity in the fight against the evil of this time, misery, poverty, illnesses, drugs — and all these struggles against misery, poverty, man’s slaveries, are also objectives of the faith because they are objectives of the humanization of man so that he is restored to the image of God as opposed to destruction and devastation. 

The second common task is the commitment to peace in the world and the ability to live in peace, education in peace. To create the virtues that make man capable of peace. And finally the essential element of peace is the dialogue of religions, tolerance, openness of man to the other. And this is a profound objective both for Great Britain, as a society, and for the Catholic faith: to open the heart, to open to dialogue, thus to open to truth, to the common journey of humanity and to the rediscovery of values that are the foundation of our humanism.

[Transcription and translation by ZENIT]
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