Press Conference on the Plane to Mexico

«We must try not to lose the heart, but to link heart and reason»

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ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, MARCH 26, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the press conference Benedict XVI gave Friday on the flight from Rome to Mexico.

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Father Lombardi: Holiness, thank you for being among us, at the beginning of this beautiful and important journey. As you see, our traveling assembly is numerous: there are more than 70 journalists that follow it with attention, and the most important group -besides the Italians – are, of course, the Mexicans, which are a good group: there are at least 14 representatives of Mexican media who will follow and cover the whole trip. 

There is also a good group from the United States, a good group from France and from other countries. As you can see, we are, hence, representatives of the whole world. As usual, in past days we collected different questions from journalists and we chose five, which are expressions, to a degree, of the general expectation. And this time, given that we have more space and a bit more time, I don’t ask them, but the journalists themselves who formulated them will do so, which we have distributed among ourselves. 

Now, we begin with a question that is posed by Mrs. Maria Collins for «Univision» television, which is one of the television stations that is following this trip; she is a Mexican who will ask the question in Spanish and then I will repeat it in Italian for everyone.  

1st Question: Holy Father, Mexico and Cuba are lands in which the trips of your Predecessor made history. With what spirit and with what hopes do you follow today in his footsteps?  

Holy Father: Dear friends, first of all I would like to say: welcome and thank you for your accompaniment on this trip, which we hope will be blessed by the Lord. On this trip, I feel totally in continuity with Pope John Paul II. I remember his first trip to Mexico very well, which was really historic. In a juridical situation which was still very confused, he opened the doors, he began a new phase of collaboration between the Church, society and State. And I also remember well his historic trip to Cuba. Therefore, I try to follow in his footsteps and to continue what he began. From the beginning, for me, there was a desire to visit Mexico. As a cardinal I was in Mexico with excellent memories and every Wednesday I hear the applause, the joy of the Mexicans. Now that I am Pope here, it is a great joy and answers a desire that I have had for a long time. To tell what sentiments touch me, there come to mind the words of Vatican II «Gaudium et spes, luctus etangor,» joy and hope, but also mourning and anguish. I share the joys and hopes, but also the mourning and difficulties of this great country. I am going to encourage and to learn, to comfort in faith, hope and charity, and to comfort in the commitment for the good and the commitment in the struggle against evil. We hope the Lord will help us!  

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. And now we give the word to Dr. Javier Alatorre Soria, who represents Tele Azteca, one of the great Mexican television stations that will follow us during these days:  

2nd Question: Holiness, Mexico is a country with marvelous resources and possibilities, but in these years we know that it is also a land of violence because of the problem of drug trafficking. There is talk of 50,000 dead over the last five years. How does the Catholic Church address this situation? Will you have words for those responsible and for the traffickers that at times profess themselves to be Catholics or even benefactors of the Church?  

Holy Father: We know very well the beauties of Mexico, but also this great problem of drug trafficking and violence. It is certainly a great responsibility for the Catholic Church in a country with 80% of Catholics. We must do everything possible against this evil, destructive of humanity and of our young people. I would say that the first act is to proclaim God: God is the judge, God who loves us, but he loves us to draw us to the good, to the truth against the evil. Therefore, it is a great responsibility of the Church to educate consciences, to educate to moral responsibility and to unmask the evil, to unmask this idolatry of money, which enslaves men only for this thing; to unmask also the false promises, lies, fraud that is behind drugs. We must see that man has need of the infinite. If God is not there, the infinite creates its own paradises, an appearance of «infinitude» which can be only a lie. Because of this, it is very important that God be present, accessible; it is a great responsibility before God who guides us, who draws us to the truth and the good, and in this sense the Church must unmask the evil, render the goodness of God present, render his truth present, the true infinite for which we thirst. It is the great duty of the Church. Let us all together do what is possible, always more.   

Father Lombardi: Holiness, the third question is posed by Valentina Alazraki for Televisa, one of the veterans of our trips, whom you know well and who is so happy that you can finally go also to her country.    

3rd Question: Holiness, we really give you our welcome to Mexico: we are all happy that you are going to Mexico. The question is the following: Holy Father, from Mexico you have said that you wish to address the whole of Latin America in the bicentenary of its Independence. Despite its development, Latin America continues to be a great region of social contrasts, where the very rich are found next to the very poor. At times it seems that the Catholic Church is not sufficiently encouraging and committed in this field. Can we continue to speak of «theology of liberation» in a positive way, after certain excesses — on Marxism or violence — have been corrected?  

Holy Father: Naturally the Church must always ask if she is doing enough for social justice in this great continent. This is a question of conscience that we must always ask ourselves. We must ask: what can and must the Church do, what can she not and must not do. The Church is not a political power, she is not a party, but a moral reality, a moral power. In regard to politics, she must be, fundamentally, a moral reality; in this line she has, fundamentally, something to do with politics. I repeat what I have already said: the first thought of the Church is to educate consciences and thus create the necessary responsibility; to educate consciences be it in individual ethics, be it in public ethics. And here, perhaps, there is a lack. One sees in Latin America, but also elsewhere, in not a few Catholics, a certain schizophrenia between individual and public morality: personally, in the individual sphere, they are Catholics, believers, but in public life they follow other ways that do not correspond to the great values of the Gospel, which are necessary for the foundation of a just society. Hence, it is necessary to educate to surmount this schizophrenia, to educate not only to an individual morality, but to a public morality, and we try to do this with the Social Doctrine of the Church, because, naturally, this public morality must be a reasonable morality, shared and to be shared also with non-believers, a morality of the reason. Of course, in the light of faith we can see so many things better that reason can also see, but, in fact, faith serves also to liberate the reason from false interests and from the darkening of interests, and thus create in the social doctrine substantial models for political collaboration, above all for the surmounting of these social, anti-social divisions which, unfortunately, exist. We want to work in this sense. I don’t know if the word «theology of liberation», which can also be interpreted very well, would help us much. What is important is the common rationality to which the Church offers a fundamental contribution and must always help in the education of consciences, be it for public life, be it for private life.   

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. And now a fourth question. This is made by one of our «deans» of these
trips, but always young, Paloma Gomez Borrero, who also represents Spain on this trip, which of course is also of great interest for the Spanish.    

4th Question: Holiness, we look at Cuba. We all remember John Paul II’s famous words: «May Cuba open to the world and may the world open to Cuba.» Fourteen years have passed, but it seems that these words are still timely. As you know, while awaiting your trip, many voices of opponents and supporters of human rights made themselves heard. Holiness, are you thinking of taking up John Paul II’s message, thinking either of the internal or the international situation of Cuba?   

Holy Father: As I have already said, I feel in absolute continuity with the words of the Holy Father John Paul II which are still very timely. This visit of the Pope opened a way of collaboration and of constructive dialogue; a way that is long and calls for patience, but it goes forward. Today it is evident that the Marxist ideology as it was conceived, no longer responds to the reality: thus one can no longer respond and build a society; new models must be found, with patience and constructively. In this process, which calls for patience but also determination, we wish to help in a spirit of dialogue, to avoid traumas and to help the way towards a fraternal and just society as we desire for the whole world and we want to collaborate in this sense. It is obvious that the Church is always on the side of liberty: liberty of conscience, liberty of religion. In this sense we contribute; in fact, simple faithful contribute on this way to go forward.   

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness, as you can imagine, there will be great attention on the part of us all to your addresses in Cuba. And now, for the fifth question we give the word to a Frenchman, because in fact there are other peoples who are present. Jean Louis de La Vaissiere is the correspondent of France Press in Rome and he has asked us several interesting questions for this trip, so it was right that he should also interpret our questions and our expectations.   

5th Question: Holiness, after the Conference of Aparecida, there has been talk of a «continental mission» of the Church in Latin America; in a few months the Synod on the New Evangelization will take place and the Year of Faith will begin. In Latin America there is also the challenges of secularization, of sects. In Cuba there are the consequences of a long propaganda of atheism; Afro-Cuban religiosity is very widespread. Do you think that this trip  is an encouragement for the «New Evangelization» and what are the points that are closest to your heart in this perspective?  

Holy Father: The period of the New Evangelization began with the Council. This was essentially the intention of Pope John XXIII. It was greatly stressed by Pope John Paul II and its necessity, in a world that is in great change, becomes ever more evident. Necessity in the sense that the Gospel must be expressed in new ways; necessity also in the other sense, that the world is in need of a word in the confusion, in the difficulty of orienting oneself today. It is a common situation of the world, there is secularization, the absence of God, the difficulty in finding access to him, of seeing him as a reality that concerns my life. And on the other hand, there are specific contexts; you have referred to those of Cuba with Afro-Cuban syncretism, with so many other difficulties, but every country has its specific cultural situation. And, on one hand, we must begin from the common problem: as today, in this context of our modern rationality, we can rediscover God again as the fundamental orientation of our life, the fundamental hope of our life, the foundation of values that really build a society, and to proclaim a God who responds to our reason, because we see the rationality of the cosmos, we see that that there is something behind, but we do not see how close this God is, how he concerns me and this synthesis of the great and majestic God of the small God who is close to me, orients me, shows me the values of my life which is the nucleus of the evangelization. Hence an essential Christianity, where the fundamental nucleus is really found to live today with all the problems of our time. And on the other hand, to take into account the concrete reality. In Latin America, in general, it is very important that Christianity is never so much something of reason but of the heart. Our Lady of Guadalupe is known and loved by all, because they understand that she is a Mother for all and has been present from the beginning in this new Latin America, after the arrival of the Europeans. And also in Cuba we have Our Lady of Cobre, who touches hearts and all know intuitively that it is true, that this Our Lady helps us, that she exists, that she loves and helps us. But this intuition of the heart must be linked with the rationality of the faith and with the profundity of the faith that goes beyond reason. We must try not to lose the heart, but to link heart and reason, so that they cooperate, because only thus will man be complete and really be able to help and to work for a better future.  

[Translation by ZENIT]
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