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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Pope says the Church is open to dialogue, but cannot renounce spreading the Gospel

In his address to the Roman Curia, Benedict XVI speaks of his Letter to the Chinese, affirming that he reiterated the principals of Catholic ecclesiology and openness towards the Government, as well as the letter written by the 138 Muslim religious leaders, the beginning of a common dialogue in defence of human dignity. Other themes touched on include the defence of nature, drugs which could be defined as the devils’ bluff and secularism.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) The Church is open to dialogue, but cannot renounce announcing the Good News to the world, because it knows that through its work not only is salvation realised, but justice and peace brought to bear.  This is the Benedict XVI’s reading of the principal events which have taken place in the year that is ending: from the “perennial principals” of catholic ecclesiology underlined in his Letter to Chinese Catholics – where openness to the authorities is also reaffirmed – to the hopes for serene coexistence initiated by the Letter from 138 Muslim religious leaders, as well as affirmations in favour of human rights for the protection of nature, “the Creators’ message”.

The address given to the Roman Curia as is tradition for an exchange of Christmas greetings was an occasion to reflect upon the events which have signed 2007 for Benedict 2007. Inspired by his May trip to Brazil, the Pope confronts the central theme of the entire discourse, that of evangelisation: “by coming to know Christ, we come to know God, and only by knowing God we understand man and the world, a world which otherwise remains a senseless question”.  Therefore, faith “is everything; this word indicates both being with Christ and being with his justice.  In faith we receive Christ’s justice, we live it in first person and we transmit it”.

“A disciple of Jesus Christ – he continues -must also be a missionary”, but “today is it still permissible to “evangelise”? Instead should not all of the world’s religions and concepts not simply seek to peacefully coexist and together try to do their best for humanity each in their own way? Well, it is beyond discussion that we must coexist and cooperate in tolerance and reciprocal respect.  The Catholic Church is energetically committed to this”.  But “this desire for dialogue and collaboration perhaps means at the time means that we can no longer transmit the message of Jesus Christ, no longer put forward to mankind and the world this call and the hope that is derived from it? Those who recognise a great truth, those who have found great joy, must transmit it; they cannot simply keep it to themselves”.  And “in order for this to happen, history needs the announcement of the Good News to all peoples and all men”, because “through our encounter with Jesus Christ and his saints, through our encounter with God, the balance of humanity is replenished in the force of good, without which all of programmes of social order never become a reality, but – in the face of other powerful pressures from interests contrary to peace and justice – they remain simply abstract theories”.

But affirming the “duty” of evangelisation, in the words of the Pope, does not eliminate the Churches choice for dialogue.  Benedict XVI today underlined two particular aspects of this: the letter from the 138 Muslim scholars regarding the relationship between faiths and the letter he wrote to Chinese Catholics regarding the relationship with civil authorities.  Regarding the latter the Pope recalled both its ecclesiological affirmations regarding the structure of the Church and its Episcopal nominations – as well as its opening towards the government.  “With this Letter – he said today – I desired to show my deep spiritual affection for all of the Catholics in China as well as my cordial esteem for the Chinese People.  In it I recalled the perennial principals of the Catholic Church tradition as well as those of the Second Vatican Council in the field of ecclesiology.  In the light of the “original design”, which Christ had of his Church, I outlined some directions to face and resolve, in a spirit of communion and truth, the delicate and complex problems regarding the life of the Church in China.  I also indicated the willingness of the Holy See to building a serene and constructive dialogue with the Civil Authorities in order to find a solution regarding the various problems regarding the Catholic community.  The Letter was welcomed with joy and gratitude by the Catholics in China.  I formulate the hope that, with God’s help, it will produce the fruits hoped for”.

Regarding the Letter from the 138 Muslim scholars, the Pope maintained that it was written “as a testament to their common commitment to promoting peace in the world.  With great joy I answered expressing my convinced agreement with such noble intentions while at the same time underlining the urgency of a common commitment to safeguarding values of reciprocal respect and collaboration.  The shared recognition of a shared existence in one God, provident creator and Universal Judge in the behaviour of each one of us, constitutes the preamble of a common action in defence of an effective respect of human dignity in order to build a more just society, a society of agreement”.

A very particular solidarity, solidarity towards nature, was then traced by Benedict XVI when he reflected on his visit to the Fazenda da Esperança, in Brazil, “where people, fallen to the slavery of drugs, find regained freedom and hope.  On arriving there – he said – the first very thing I perceived in a completely new way the healing power of God’s creation.  Green mountains cradle the ample valley; leading one’s gaze upwards towards the heavens, at the same time giving a sense of protection.  From the tabernacle of the Carmelite Chapel flows a fountain of clear water which recalls the prophecy of Ezekiel, of water flowing from the Temple to cleansing the salted earth, nourishing trees which give life.  We must – he continued – defend creation not only ion view of our needs, but for itself – as a message from the Creator, as a gift of beauty, which is a promise of hope.  Yes man needs transcendence.  God alone is enough, said Teresa of Avila. If He is removed then man must try to overcome the limits of the world on his own, to open before him the unlimited space for which he was created. Thus drugs almost become a necessity for him.  But all too soon he discovers that it is an illusory limitlessness – a bluff, one could say, which the devil carries out on mankind.  There, in the Fazenda da Esperança, the limits of this world are really overcome, eyes are opened to God, towards the breadth of our life, and thus healing takes place”. 

Certainly, in this as well as in other aspects of life in today’s world “we must not be deluded: the problems posed by secularism in our time and the pressures of ideological presumptions towards which secularised consciences tend in there exclusivist pretence of definitive rationalism, are not few.  

We know this, and we know the fatigue of the battle imposed on us in this field.  But we also know that the Lord keeps his promises: ‘Behold, I am with you always, until the end of time’ (Mt 28,20)”. (FP)

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