an interview with the Secretary of State on the eve of the 'Celestine
On Friday, 28 August
, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, went to L'Aquila
in the Abruzzi Region of Central Italy to preside at Mass and open the
Holy Door at the traditional ceremony for the Celestine Pardon.
It was the first time that a Secretary of State has taken part in the
historic celebration. His participation was a sign of the Pope's
closeness to the people of Abruzzi, struck by a severe earthquake in
April this year.
This year is also the
eighth centenary of the birth of Pope Celestine V, who introduced the
"Pardon". Peter of Morrone, a hermit elected Pope, was crowned on 29
August 1294 in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio where he is
also buried. He took the name of Celestine V and later issued a Papal
Bull granting the Great Pardon, a universal Indulgence for sins. To gain
the Indulgence the faithful had to pass through the Basilica's Holy Door
after making their confession and repenting of their sins.
Today, to commemorate the
event, people in costume parade through the town from the Piazza
Palazzo, where the Bull of the Indulgence is kept, to the Basilica. This
year the relics of Pope St Celestine, recovered unharmed from the debris
of the earthquake, were displayed to the faithful outside the Basilica.
Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L'Aquila and the Committee for the
Celestine Pardon, in inviting Cardinal Bertone, originally intended to
organize a dinner for the occasion but instead gave the equivalent sum
to people in difficulty after the earthquake. In the morning, the
Secretary of State visited the local fire brigade to express his
gratitude and his appreciation for all they have done.
The following are excerpts
from an exclusive interview that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone granted
L'Osservatore Romano prior to his visit to L'Aquila, translated from
Why did the Secretary of State decide to take part this
year in the celebrations for the Celestine Pardon?
The Secretary of State is a Bishop and as the Pope's
first collaborator shares in his pastoral mission for the good of the
People of God. After celebrating the funeral of the earthquake victims,
I was invited to preside at the inauguration of the Celestine Year. I
gladly accepted, in continuity with the Pope's closeness to the peoples
hit by the earthquake. Since his visit to L'Aquila, the Pope has kept up
to date with the Church's action. Like all of us, he hopes that nothing
will stand in the way of the efforts to help people resume their normal
Celestine V's Pardon was an important project for
liberally extending spiritual indulgences, thus making them available
even to the humblest of Christians. What attention does the Church of
Benedict pay to the poor?
Celestine V's act impelled
Boniface VIII to promulgate the Jubilee with an indulgence that was to
be extended to the whole world.
As for Benedict XVI's
attitude to the poor, I would first like to stress his special attention
to the lowly. In spite of being a great theologian, Pope Ratzinger
enables everyone to understand that he is close to the people, so that
everyone can perceive the truth in what he says and grasp the meaning of
his faith and fatherly human wisdom.
Benedict XVI reaches out to
many in different situations of poverty across the world, through the
Secretariat of State, the Office of Papal Charities, the Pontifical
Council "Cor Unum" and other institutions. Through them he distributes
not only the donations he receives but also the royalties from his
books. Lastly, he intervenes, recalls, admonishes and invites
governments and international organizations to remedy the most blatant
inequalities and forms of discrimination.
You are aware of the
solidarity that surrounds Benedict XVI but also of certain reservations,
especially regarding his fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and his
reform of the Church. Are there grounds for these fears?
To understand the intentions and action of Benedict
XVI's government, one must refer to his history... and to the Discourse
inaugurating his Pontificate, his Address to the Roman Curia on 22
December 2005, and precise acts. Rumours about documents presumed to be
turning the clock back are pure invention, a standardized and
obstinately re-hashed cliché.
I would just like to mention some Second Vatican Council
requirements that he has constantly presented with intelligence and
depth: more comprehensive relations with the Orthodox and Eastern
Churches and dialogue with the Jews and with the Muslims. These have led
to answers and to deeper knowledge as was never previously the case and
to his direct, brotherly and fatherly relationship with all the Bishops.
Nor should we forget his introduction of free interventions during the
Synod Assemblies, his precise answers and reflections and the direct
contact he set up with the Heads of the Dicasteries, receiving them at
As for Church reform, Benedict has called us to return
to the source of the Word of God, to the law of the Gospel and to the
heart of the Church's life. Let us not forget what he wrote in the
Letter to Catholic Bishops on 10 March about the remission of the
excommunication of the Bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre, on the
overriding priority of making God present in this world.
What have been the key interventions in the Roman Curia
and what can be expected?
Benedict has a profound knowledge of the Roman Curia in
which he held a pre-eminent role as Prefect of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith. This has enabled him to continue the appointment
process started by John Paul II, free from manipulation and gossip.
Benedict has appointed more than 70 superiors to the Dicasteries of the
Curia, and many new Apostolic Nuncios and Bishops.
His criteria are: competence, a true pastoral spirit and
an international outlook. New appointments are forthcoming and
surprises, especially in the new Churches, can be expected. Africa has
offered and will offer excellent candidates.
Is it right to claim that
the Pope is responsible for all that happens in the Church or would it
be more accurate to apply the principle of personal responsibility?
The habit of blaming the
or the Vatican
for all that happens in the Church is widespread. This is wrong.
Benedict is a model of love for Christ and for the Church and guides her
on the path of truth and holiness. It is right to attribute
responsibility to each individual (unicuique suum) for his
words and conduct.... Unfortunately, the way things are reported and
judged depends on the good intentions and love for the truth of
journalists and the media. It is still important and necessary to teach
the truth and make it loved.
you explain how in the Church of Benedict
freedom of thought and seeking go hand in hand with responsibility for
One must look at the
example of Joseph Ratzinger, thinker, theologian and teacher. In his
long intellectual journey
during which he has been active as a university professor and in the
he was appointed to offices of formidable responsibility: Prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then Supreme Pastor of
the Catholic Church. These roles have marked his teaching and action as
Cardinal and Pope, orienting toward the interaction between the
fundamental freedom of thinking and seeking and the responsibility for
the act of faith and adherence of faith to God who reveals himself....
He asks theologians not to be uprooted from the faith of the Church.
Do you think it is easy or
difficult to speak of the Pope's action and thought in the fifth year of
It should be easy for
journalists to recount Benedict XVI's action and thought. Leafing
through his texts in L'Osservatore Romano, for example, it would
not be hard to reconstruct his projects for the Church and society, ever
inspired by the Gospel and the most authentic Christian tradition. The
Pontiff has a clear vision; he wishes to urge the faithful to a divinely
and humanly harmonious life.... It would suffice to be equally clear and
faithful and to report without distortion his true works and actions as
father of the People of God.
One last question: what led
to the idea of the Year for Priests?
After the Synod on the word
of God, a previously presented proposal for a year of prayer lay on the
Pope's table. However, the 150th anniversary of the death of the Cure
d'Ars and the problems involving so many priests prompted Benedict to
announce the Year for Priests. They are indisputably the backbone of the
local Churches and the principal cooperators of the Bishop.
The Pope has always shown
affability to priests, drawing on his experience, especially in his
extemporaneous dialogues, full of concrete instructions for their lives
and ready answers to their questions.
The Year for Priests is
inspiring great enthusiasm in all the local Churches and an
extraordinary movement of prayer and of the promotion of vocations
The fabric of dialogue is
also being reinforced between Bishops and priests, and special attention
is being paid to priests reduced to a marginal condition in their
Many projects aim to
strengthen knowledge of the priest's identity and mission, essentially
an exemplary and educational mission in the Church and in society. The
holy priests who have populated the Church's history will not fail to
protect and sustain the process of renewal proposed by Benedict XVI.