ROME, APR. 10, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger defined hell as the absence of God, and pointed to the horrors of the past century as manifestations of this absence.
The prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith cited places like Auschwitz and the Gulag archipelago, and names like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, in recalling the horrors of the 20th century.
The cardinal expressed these thoughts during his Lenten address at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The text of his address was published in the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.
“These hells were made to prepare a future world where men would be sufficient unto themselves, convinced of no longer having a need for God,” Cardinal Ratzinger said. “Where God is absent, hell appears, and hell simply continues while God is absent.”
One can also arrive at hell through more subtle ways, “almost always saying that one desires the good of men,” he added. “When, as today, there is a market in human organs, when fetuses are produced to make spare organs available, or to make progress in research and preventive medicine, many regard the human content of these practices as implicit. But the contempt for man that underlies it, when man is used and abused, leads — like it or not — to a descent into hell.”
He pointed out that Christians´ response to this situation “is both simple and enormous: to witness to God, to open windows wide and so ensure that his light will shine among us, so that we can leave room for his presence. We turn things around: Heaven is where God is; life is illuminated, despite … the miseries of our existence.”