Benedict XVI Shows Youthful Spirit in Spain Visit

Interview with Cardinal Julián Herranz

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By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2010 ( During Benedict XVI’s visit to Spain last weekend, the Pope showed that “mature and permanent youth” of one in love with Christ, says Cardinal Julián Herranz.

The former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, an expert in Canon Law, spoke with ZENIT about his experience traveling with the Pontiff to the prelate’s homeland.

ZENIT: Aboard the papal plane, the Holy Father defended the engagement of laicism and faith, something that some of the media misinterpreted as a failure of the two to meet. Do you think that after this apostolic visit Benedict XVI’s proposal is clearer in public opinion on Church-state relations?

Cardinal Herranz: The media that you refer to seem to interpret ordinarily any information or event on Church-state relations following their known agnostic and relativistic ideology. This unfortunately has led readers, it seems to me, to aggressive attitudes, to foment ruptures and mix-ups, when in reality, knowing Benedict XVI, there is a constant will to dialogue, to meet serenely and constructively.

In reality, in this trip as in his past stay in the United Kingdom and on many other occasions, Benedict XVI has proposed again, with the evangelizing spirit that is characteristic of him, and without engaging in politics, a type of society in which the harmony between faith and reason is the measure of true humanism, and where a healthy concept of laicism, which respects the dignity of the person and his inalienable rights, among them religious liberty, liberty of worship and of conscience, will allow for surmounting secular fundamentalism, hostile — not only in Spain and other European nations, but also in other places of the world — to the family, to the cultural and social importance of Christianity and in general of religion.

But Benedict XVI’s will has been at all times, inside and outside Spain, completely positive, and I would say constructive, for dialogue and harmony, never rupture or the failure to meet, but encounter.

ZENIT: In the church of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) the Pope confirmed the Christian anthropological view on the family. It is a very positive and purposeful view, but in much of the media it was interpreted as an “attack” on the model of present-day society. Why is the evangelical message of love and fidelity not perceived as a positive message in our society?

Cardinal Herranz: I think that the Pope, to the great satisfaction of the immense majority of Spanish families that constitute the present society, and of the common feeling of the people, repeated what must be considered true marriage as only the union between a man and a woman, a stable union open to fecundity and he affirmed that this is the real foundation of the family, the natural institution and fundamental cell of society.

This is the vision he gives, the Christian vision of human love, and of the family, which coincides fully with the vision of correct anthropology, which inspired for example the message sent in these days by the president of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, to the Forum of Families.

This vision of human love and of the family bothers those who are inspired by that ideology of relativism and agnosticism, which inspires much of the media, and try continually to oppose the real society, imposing that philosophy that is contrary not only to the Christian vision but to the correct anthropological vision of marriage and the family.

In reality, it is that relativistic philosophy which, denying fundamental human and social values, attacks present-day society.

ZENIT: In Santiago de Compostela the Pope showed the Christian roots of Europe, which at the institutional level seems to be a debate that has been surmounted, and he invited us not to be afraid of God. He described the Church as “God’s embrace of men.” What would you recommend to the laity or to priests for the world to rediscover the Church as “God’s embrace” in the light of the words of the Holy Father?

Cardinal Herranz: First, that we go out to meet all men with a Christian spirit, that is, creating bridges of friendship, of understanding, of trust, to offer them with the word and with the testimony of life — not just with the word — the treasure of the Gospel.

The Holy Father spoke of the “treasure of the Gospel” several times during these days. Thus these friends of ours will discover, or understand again with new lights the true foundation of happiness and hope, because Christianity is precisely that, God’s embrace of men, the encounter with incarnate Truth, with Christ who reveals to man not only the mystery of God but also the mystery of man, the sublime dignity of his nature and his eternal end.

ZENIT: You accompanied the Holy Father in these two days. What moment of the trip impressed you most?

Cardinal Herranz: I would say that I was impressed by all the moments, because I have seen him constantly, despite the years, think, speak and act with the mature and permanent youth of one in love with the love of Christ. I say it thus, because it is as he is seen.

If you ask me to point out a concrete moment I would point out the “Obra Benefico-Social Nen Deu” (social charity God-Child), carried out by the Franciscan religious, where I saw him particularly moved, with profound tenderness, hearing the phrase of a Down’s syndrome girl which moved all of us.

The girl said: “Although we are different, our hearts love like all hearts and we want to be loved.” She drew immense applause to which the Holy Father joined himself personally because she moved us very much. I think that it moved not only him particularly but all the others.

On that same occasion, the Pope recalled that in the morning he had consecrated the magnificent basilica of the Holy Family and he added: “Every man is a true shrine of God, who must be treated with utmost respect and affection, above all when he is in need.”

For me this was the moment that impressed me most by the way in which the Pope to take advantage to defend the divine, and also human, meaning and wonder of any human life, even that which might seem full of limitations.

ZENIT: What phrase of the Pope do you have engraved in your heart after this trip?

Cardinal Herranz: Several. I was quite impressed when the Pope, taking the Christian example that Antonio Gaudí was, invited all of us to overcome the separation between human conscience and Christian conscience, between the beauty of things and God as beauty, that is, an exhortation to the unity of life, the Christian’s unity of life, but also the unity of life of any man who is able to discover the existing harmony.

In my opinion that phrase reflects the constant teaching not only of these days, but in general the teaching of Benedict XVI: the harmony between the human and the divine, between reason and faith, between the beauty of art and the beauty of God.

This unity of life he seeks to have realized in the life of every Christian, but is also transmitted to society precisely to avoid those failures to meet and seek the harmony that Christianity brings to the world.

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