“The confrontation between radically atheist conceptions of the State and the rise of a radically religious State in Islamist Movements, leads our time to an explosive situation, whose consequences we experience every day.” Four years have passed since Benedict XVI’s renunciation of the pontificate, but his clear political as well as theological vision continues to enlighten.
The Pope Emeritus expressed himself thus in a letter to the participants in a Symposium in his honor, entitled “The Concept of State in the Perspective of the Teaching of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI,” which was held April 19, 2017, in Warsaw. The event, held on the occasion of Joseph Ratzinger’s 90th birthday, was organized by the Polish Bishops and sponsored by the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda.
Benedict XVI was moved, grateful and happy for this recognition. And in his missive he sketched an analysis of the challenges of today’s politics. He speaks of the “explosive situation” in connection with the confrontation between atheism and Islamic fundamentalism, and launches an appeal to Christians: “These radicalisms exact urgently that we develop a convincing conception of the State, which supports the confrontation with these challenges and can go beyond them.”
The task for those who today govern nations and Christian religious institutions is to pick up Ratzinger’s testimony, looking at “two great figures” that “Poland has given to humanity”: Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Saint John Paul II. In his message, Benedict XVI stresses that these two men of the Church “not only reflected on this question, but assumed themselves the suffering and the living experience and, therefore, continue to indicate the way to the future.”
Pope Francis was appreciative of the Symposium in honor of Benedict XVI, sponsored by the Ratzinger Foundation and the Polish Cathoic Kai agency. The reigning Pontiff also sent a message, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, in which he stressed “the meritorious work of his beloved Predecessor.” Bergoglio hoped that the event would arouse a “renewed commitment to a respectful and fruitful dialogue between State and Church in view of the building of the civilization of love.”
Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, former Director of the Holy See Press Office and President of the Ratzinger Foundation, opened the works at Warsaw, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, being among those who took part. Father Lombardi clarified that the objective of the Symposium was to “render homage” to Benedict XVI and to thank him for his service to the Church, “keeping alive the legacy of his thought and his spiritual inspiration.”
The Jesuit recalled the years spent by the German Pope’s side, during which he was able to “understand ever better how his perspective of service, although oriented primarily to the community of Catholic faithful, was not at all limited to it, but was extended to the good of every human person, seen as image of God, to the respect and promotion of his lofty dignity, to his defense from all forms of contempt, unlawful acts <and> violence.”
In this perspective was “his warning,” pronounced in September 2011 in the German Parliament, “on the terrible consequences of an exercise of power free from the awareness of its relative nature, which, therefore no longer recognizes itself responsible in relation to an objective moral order, to a superior and inalienable foundation to power itself.”
The former Vatican spokesman recalled also that Benedict XVI addressed these subjects with courage, highlighting how “the denial or forgetfulness of God, the marginalization of religion from public life and from every perspective of transcendence of the culture are, in reality, causes of a very negative process and grave risks for the life of society and for the defense of the dignity of every human person.” The German Pope confirmed this often, at the cost of not receiving applause but rather “strong opposition,” but “in the conviction that it was his precise responsibility in addressing the present cultural evolution of European society and the role of Europe in face of the history of the world.”
See then, recalled Father Lombardi in regard to Ratzinger’s thought, that State and Church must share ”the commitment” to reach truth though “human reason.” Hence the latter “must not shut itself in the limitations of positivism but, precisely to be able to find and do justice and peace in this world, must remain confidently and courageously open to the great horizons of the human, of its meaning and its foundations.” It is about a profitable collaboration between faith and reason. “In this, faith offers its help to reason, and reason in turn protects religion from the grave risk of fundamentalisms,” concluded Father Lombardi.