VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Firm hope is absolutely necessary to face the difficulties and challenges of modern life, said one of the two cardinals who presented Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Spe Salvi.”
Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, retired professor of New Testament at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, said this today as he and Cardinal Georges Cottier, retired theologian of the Pontifical Household, presented the Pope’s encyclical in the Vatican.
Cardinal Vanhoye indicated that the Pontiff’s introduction “immediately makes clear the decisive importance of hope, which is later reiterated on a number of occasions. In order to be able to face the present with all its problems and difficulties, we have an absolute need for hope and for a truly valid and firm hope.”
The cardinal said that in Nos. 10-12, on the theme of eternal life, “the Holy Father uses vivid realism to explain the current mentality of many people.”
“Eternal life is the subject of hope,” he continued, “but many people ‘today do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life. […] Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end — this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable.'”
Cardinal Vanhoye explained how the second part of the encyclical describes the “settings for learning and practicing hope,” and thus has a direct and tangible link to Christian life.
Three “settings” are identified: “Prayer as a school of hope. Action and suffering as settings for learning hope. Judgment as a setting for learning and practicing hope.”
The 84-year-old cardinal added that the encyclical also “presents profound reflections on the terrible problem of evil and justice.”
Cardinal Cottier said, “Christian hope has been subject to ever-harsher criticisms,” to the effect that “it is pure individualism: By abandoning the world to its misery, Christians allegedly take refuge in an eternal salvation which is exclusive and private.”
“A question remains,” said the cardinal, “a question that cannot be eluded: How did the idea arise that, with Christianity, the quest for salvation became a selfish quest that refuses service to others?”
He added that new problems “have a vital impact on the modern crisis of Christian faith and hope,” and there emerges “a new form of hope which is called ‘faith in progress,’ oriented toward a new world, the world of the ‘kingdom of man’.”
“Faith in progress,” Cardinal Cottier explained, “has become the ever more dominant conviction of modernity, and two categories are becoming increasingly central to the idea of progress: reason and freedom.”
The 85-year-old prelate added that “reason is considered as a power of good and for good,” and progress, having “overcome all forms of dependency,” is “moving toward perfect freedom. In this perspective, freedom appears as a promise for the full realization of man.”