VATICAN CITY, 23 NOV 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present a new book published by the Vatican Publishing House. The volume is entitled: "Light of the World. The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times. A conversation of Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald".
The conference was presented by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, and the journalist Luigi Accattoli.
Also present were Peter Seewald, who conducted the interviews with the Pope, and Fr. Giuseppe Costa S.D.B., director of the Vatican Publishing House.
Archbishop Fisichella explained how Seewald had asked the Pope "about the great questions facing modern theology, the various political events that have always marked relations between States and, finally, the themes that often occupy a large part of public debate. We have a Pope who does not evade any question, who wishes to clarify everything using a language that is simple but not for that reason less profound, and who benevolently accepts the provocations inherent in so many questions.
"Nonetheless", the archbishop added, "reducing the entire interview to one phrase removed from its context and from the entirety of Benedict XVI's thought would be an offence to the Pope's intelligence and a gratuitous manipulation of his words. What emerges from these pages overall is, in fact, the vision of a Church called to be 'Light of the world', a sign of unity for the whole human race".
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation went on to explain that "this book was not written by Benedict XVI, yet it brings together his ideas, concerns and sufferings over these years, his pastoral projects and his hopes for the future. The impression that emerges is that of a Pope optimistic about the life of the Church, despite the difficulties which have always existed".
This book published today "is an interview which, in many ways, provokes us to undertake a serious examination of conscience, both inside and outside the Church, in order to achieve true conversion of heart and mind. The conditions of life in society, sexuality, economy and finance, the Church herself; all these questions require special dedication in order to verify the cultural drift of today's world and the possibilities for the future. Benedict XVI does not allow himself to be alarmed by the figures emerging from opinion polls because the truth has completely different criteria: 'statistics are not the measure of morality'".
"In these pages Benedict XVI often returns to the relationship between modernity and Christianity, which cannot and must not be seen as parallels. Rather, the relationship must be lived by correctly uniting faith and reason, individual rights and social responsibility; in a word, by 'putting God first'. ... This is the conversion that Benedict XVI asks of Christians and of anyone who wishes to listen to him. ... This is the task the Pope sets for his own pontificate and we cannot, in all honesty, deny how difficult it seems to be".
Archbishop Fisichella concluded his remarks by highlighting how "simplicity and truth are the characteristics of this interview, which was chosen by Benedict XVI as a way of making the public at large more familiar with his ideas, his way of being and his way of understanding the mission with which he has been entrusted. This is no easy task at a time when communication often tends to underline specific fragments and overlooks the global picture. A book to be read and mediated upon, in order to understand once again how the Church in the world can announce the good news which brings joy and serenity".
For his part, Luigi Accattoli suggested his journalist colleagues should "read this book as a guided visit to the papal workshop of Benedict XVI and to the world of Joseph Ratzinger. ... Above all we will see this man who was called to become Pope in the same perspective as when he published the two volumes on Jesus of Nazareth, which he presents not as documents of the Magisterium, but as testimony of his own search for the face of the Lord".
"From the beginning of the book he warns us that 'the Pope can have erroneous personal opinions'; he certainly does have 'the power of final decision' in matters of faith but this 'does not mean that he can continuously produce infallibility'. It is perhaps in this statement that we must seek the original roots of this book of interviews", said the journalist.
In various places the Holy Father reviews his eighty-three years of life, "and reflects on the suitability of resigning should he find himself in a position where he cannot carry out his mission. On the same page he denies he ever thought of resigning over the paedophile scandal: 'We cannot run away in the moment of greatest danger', he says. We all know that modern Popes - from Pius XII on - have considered the problem of resigning, but prior to this interview none of them had done so in public".
In this book, Accattoli continued his explanations, the Holy Father "dedicates ample space to the conflict between the Christian faith and modernity. However, in at least two passages he recognises 'the morality of modernity' and the evidence of 'a good and just modernity'. These positive affirmations should be read alongside passages in which he recognises the religious crimes of the past: from the 'atrocities' committed 'in the name of truth' to 'the wars of religion', and that 'rigorism' towards corporeity which was used to 'frighten man'. In the conflict with the modern world, then, it is necessary to ask 'in what is secularism right' and where 'should it be resisted'".
The Pope "is not afraid to use such expressions as 'the sinfulness of the Church'; ... while the term 'dirt' to indicate the sin that exists in the Church ... is used at least three times to refer to paedophilia among the clergy and to the 'enormous shock' it aroused". In this context the Pontiff also "repeatedly recognises the positive role played by the communications media, something he has expressed on various occasions in the past but never so explicitly: 'As long as they seek to bring the truth to light, we must be grateful', he says. On this subject he also gives us one of the book's most effective aphorisms: 'Only because evil was within the Church were others able to use it against her'".
The Holy Father, Accattoli continued, "assures us that he would not have removed the excommunication from Bishop Williamson without undertaking further investigation, had he known the prelate's views on Holocaust denial".
"Cautiously and courageously Benedict XVI seeks a pragmatic way in which missionaries and other ecclesial workers can help to defeat the AIDS pandemic, without approving - but also without excluding, in particular cases - the use of the condom. He likewise reaffirms the 'prophetic' nature of Paul VI's 'Humanae vitae', though without concealing the existence of real difficulties in 'finding paths that can be followed in a human way', ... and recognising that 'in this field many things must be rethought and expressed in new terms'".
The Pope "declares himself to be optimistic concerning the fact that Christianity is facing new dynamics' which will perhaps bring it 'to assume a different cultural appearance'; yet also 'disillusioned' because 'the general tendency of our time is one of hostility to the Church'".
Finally, Accattoli concluded, the Pope "dreams that people will rediscover the 'simplicity' and 'radicalism' of the Gospel and Christianity". This involves "understanding the drama of our times, remaining firmly rooted in the Word of God as the decisive word, and at the same time giving Christianity that simplicity and profundity without which it cannot function".