|Gave Interview With Journalists in Spain
VATICAN CITY, 22 APRIL 2005 (ZENIT)
The proclamation of Christ and his
Gospel in a relativist world was for the future Pope Benedict XVI one of
the main challenges of the Church.
This is how Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained it on Nov. 30, 2002, in this
interview with journalists, among whom were several of ZENIT's writers.
The interview took place at St. Anthony's Catholic University of Murcia,
Spain, where the cardinal was attending an International Congress on
We offer this long interview which reflects some of the characteristic
features of the new Pope, considered one of the most important
Q: Some interpret the fact of proclaiming Christ as a rupture in the
dialogue with other religions. How can one proclaim Christ and dialogue
at the same time?
Cardinal Ratzinger: I would say that today relativism predominates. It
seems that whoever is not a relativist is someone who is intolerant. To
think that one can understand the essential truth is already seen as
However, in reality this exclusion of truth is a type of very grave
intolerance and reduces essential things of human life to subjectivism.
In this way, in essential things we no longer have a common view. Each
one can and should decide as he can. So we lose the ethical foundations
of our common life.
Christ is totally different from all the founders of other religions,
and he cannot be reduced to a Buddha, a Socrates or a Confucius. He is
really the bridge between heaven and earth, the light of truth who has
appeared to us.
The gift of knowing Jesus does not mean that there are no important
fragments of truth in other religions. In the light of Christ, we can
establish a fruitful dialogue with a point of reference in which we can
see how all these fragments of truth contribute to greater depth in our
faith and to an authentic spiritual community of humanity.
Q: What would you say to a young theologian? What aspects of Christology
would you advise him to study?
Cardinal Ratzinger: Above all, it is important to know sacred Scripture,
the living testimony of the Gospels, both of the Synoptics as well as
the Gospel of St. John, in order to hear the authentic voice.
In the second place, the great councils, especially the Council of
Chalcedon, as well as subsequent councils that clarified the meaning of
that great formula on Christ, true God and true man. The novelty that he
is really the Son of God, and really man, is not an appearance; on the
contrary, it unites God to man.
In the third place, I suggest further study in the paschal mystery: to
know this mystery of the suffering and resurrection of the Lord, and in
this way to know what redemption is; the novelty that God, in the person
of Jesus, suffers, bears our sufferings, shares our life, and in this
way creates the passage to authentic life in the resurrection.
This relates to the whole problem of human deliverance, which today is
understood in the paschal mystery; on one hand it is related to the
concrete life of our time and, on the other, it is represented in the
liturgy. I think this nexus between liturgy and life is central, both
founded in the paschal mystery.
Q: What has Cardinal Ratzinger learned that theologian Ratzinger did not
Cardinal Ratzinger: The substance of my faith in Christ has always been
the same: to know this man who is God who knows me, who
as St. Paul says
has given himself for me. He is present to help and guide me. This
substance has always continued to be the same.
In the course of my life I have read the Church Fathers, the great
theologians, as well as present-day theology. When I was young,
Bultmann's theology was determinant in Germany: existential theology.
Then Moltmann's theology became more determinant: a theology of Marxist
influence, so to speak.
I would say that at the present time the dialogue with the other
religions is the most important point: to understand how, on one hand,
Christ is unique, and on the other, how he answers all others, who are
precursors of Christ, and who are in dialogue with Christ.
Q: What must a Catholic university do, bearer of the truth of Christ, to
make the evangelizing mission of Christianity present?
Cardinal Ratzinger: It is important that at a Catholic University one
not learn just what prepares one for a certain profession. A university
is something more than a professional school, in which I learn physics,
sociology, chemistry. A good professional formation is very important,
but if it was only this, it would be no more than a roof over different
A university must have as foundation the construction of a valid
interpretation of human existence. In the light of this principle we can
see the place occupied by each one of the sciences, as well as our
Christian faith, which must be present at a high intellectual level.
For this reason, a Catholic school must give fundamental formation in
the questions of faith and especially of an interdisciplinary dialogue
between professors and students so that together they can understand the
mission of a Catholic intellectual in our world.
Q: Given the present quest for spirituality, many people take recourse
to transcendental meditation. What difference is there between
transcendental meditation and Christian meditation?
Cardinal Ratzinger: In a few words, I would say what is essential of
transcendental meditation is that man divests himself of his own "I"; he
unites with the universal essence of the world; therefore, he remains a
In Christian meditation, on the contrary, I do not lose my personality;
I enter a personal relation with the person of Christ. I enter into
relation with the "you" of Christ, and in this way this "I" is not lost;
it maintains its identity and responsibility.
At the same time it opens, enters a more profound unity, which is the
unity of love that does not destroy. Therefore, in a few words, I would
say, simplifying a bit, that transcendental meditation is impersonal
and, in this sense, "depersonalizing." Christian meditation, meanwhile,
is "personalizing" and opens to a profound union that is born of love
and not of the dissolution of the "I."
Q: You are the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, formerly called the Inquisition. Many people are ignorant of the
Vatican dicasteries. They think it is a place of condemnation. Of what
does your work consist?
Cardinal Ratzinger: It is difficult to answer this in two words. We have
two principal sections: one disciplinary and the other doctrinal.
The disciplinary must be concerned with problems of offenses of priests,
which unfortunately exist in the Church. Now we have the great problem
of pedophilia, as you know. In this case, above all, we must help the
bishops to find the adequate procedures. And we are a sort of court of
appeals: If someone feels unjustly treated by the bishop, he can appeal
The other, better known section, is the doctrinal. In this connection,
Paul VI defined our task as "promoter" and "defender" of the faith. To
promote, that is, to help dialogue in the family of the theologians of
the world, to follow this dialogue, and encourage the positive currents,
as well as to help the less positive tendencies to be conformed to the
more positive ones.
The other dimension is to defend: In the context of today's world, with
its relativism, with a profound opposition to the faith of the Church in
many parts of the world, with agnostic, atheist, etc., ideologies, the
loss of the identity of the faith takes place easily. We must help to
distinguish authentic novelties, authentic progress, from other steps
that imply a loss of the identity of the faith.
We have two very important instruments at our disposal for this work,
the International Theological Commission, with 30 theologians proposed
for five years by the bishops; and the Biblical Commission, with 30
exegetes, who are also proposed by the bishops. They are forums of
discussion for theologians to find, so to speak, an international
understanding, including among the various schools of theology, and a
dialogue with the magisterium.
For us, cooperation with the bishops is fundamental. If possible, the
bishops must resolve the problems. However, it is often theologians of
international renown [who resolve them] and, therefore, the problem goes
beyond the possibilities of a bishop. So it is taken to the
Here, we promote the dialogue with these theologians to arrive, if
possible, to a peaceful solution. Only in very few cases is there a
Q: This past year has been difficult for Catholics, given the space
dedicated by the media to scandals attributed to priests. There is talk
of a campaign against the Church. What do you think?
Cardinal Ratzinger: In the Church, priests also are sinners. But I am
personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins
of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned
campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not
higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower.
In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less
than 1% of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant
presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of
the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts.
Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional,
manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the Church. It is a
logical and well-founded conclusion.
Q: There is a debate over the inclusion of the word of God and
references to Europe's Christian past in the preambles of the future
Constitution. Do you think there can be a united Europe that has turned
its back on its Christian past?
Cardinal Ratzinger: I am convinced that Europe must not just be
something economic [or] political; rather, it is in need of spiritual
It is a historical fact that Europe is Christian, and that it has grown
on the foundation of the Christian faith, which continues to be the
foundation of the values for this continent, which in turn has
influenced other continents.
It is imperative to have a foundation of values and, if we ask ourselves
what that foundation is, we realize that, beyond the confessions, there
are no others outside the great values of the Christian faith. And this
is why it is imperative that in the future Constitution of Europe
mention is made of the Christian foundations of Europe.
I do not wish to fall into the error of constructing a political
Catholicism. The faith does not provide political recipes, but indicates
the foundations. On one hand, politics has its autonomy, but on the
other there is no total separation between politics and faith. There are
foundations of the faith that later allow for political reasoning. The
question, therefore, is what are these foundations that will enable
politics to function? What are the aspects that must be left free?
In the first place, it is critical to have an anthropological moral
vision, and here faith enlightens us. Is the person of God necessary to
have this anthropological vision, which guarantees the freedom of
A morality that dispenses with God, fragments, and, therefore, at least
the great intuition that there is a God who knows us and who defines the
figure of man as an image of God, belongs to these foundations. Moreover
[to mention God] is not an act of violence against anyone, it does not
destroy anyone's freedom, but opens to all the free space to be able to
construct a truly human, moral life.
Q: There are seminary professors of the Basque region who go so far as
to justify ETA's terrorism, or who don't condemn it categorically. There
seem to be connections between these priests and liberation theology.
There is even talk of an indigenous Basque church. What decision can be
made against this?
Cardinal Ratzinger: In this case, one simply applies what the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said between the years 1984
[see "Instruction on Certain Aspects of the 'Theology of Liberation'"]
and 1986 [see "Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation"] on
Christianity is certainly related to liberty, but true liberty is not
political liberty. Politics has its autonomy; this was emphasized above
all by the Second Vatican Council and must not be constructed by faith
as such; it must have its rationality.
One cannot deduce from sacred Scripture political recipes and much less
so justifications of terrorism. I think that in regard to this specific
case everything has been said in the two Instructions of our
Congregation on liberation theology.
The novelty of Christian messianism consists in the fact that Christ is
not immediately the political messiah, who effects the liberation of
Israel, as expected. This was the Barabbas model for the liberation of
Israel, which they wanted to achieve immediately, including with
Christ created another model of liberation, which was achieved in the
apostolic community and in the Church exactly as it has been
constituted, conformed and witnessed in the New Testament. However, as
mentioned, everything has already been said in those two Instructions.
Q: If we made an evaluation of Pope John Paul II's extraordinary
activity, what would be this papacy's most important contribution? How
will Christianity remember this Pope?
Cardinal Ratzinger: I am not a prophet; that is why I do not dare say
what they will say in 50 years, but I think the fact that the Holy
Father has been present in all areas of the Church will be extremely
In this way, he has created an extremely dynamic experience of
catholicity and of the unity of the Church. The synthesis between
catholicity and unity is a symphony
it is not uniformity. The Church Fathers said it. Babylon was
uniformity, and technology creates uniformity.
The faith, as seen at Pentecost where the apostles spoke all languages,
is symphony: It is plurality in unity. This is manifested with great
clarity in the Holy Father's pontificate, with his pastoral visits, his
I think some documents will be important forever: I want to mention the
encyclicals "Redemptoris Missio," "Veritatis Splendor," "Evangelium
Vitae" and also "Fides et Ratio." These are four documents that will
really be monuments for the future.
Lastly, I think he will be remembered for his openness to the other
Christian communities, to the other religions of the world, to the
secular world, to the sciences, to the political world. In these areas
he has always made reference to the faith and its values, but at the
same time he has also shown that the faith is able to enter into
dialogue with everyone.
Q: What is John Paul II's contribution to interreligious dialogue?
Cardinal Ratzinger: The Holy Father sees his own mission as a mission of
conciliation in the world, a mission of peace. Whereas in the past,
unfortunately, there were religious wars, the Holy Father wishes to show
that the right relation between religions is not war, nor violence, it
is dialogue, and the attempt to understand the elements of truth that
are found in the other religions.
The Holy Father does not want to relativize the uniqueness of Christ,
who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but he wants to show that this
truth about Christ cannot be proclaimed with violence or with human
power, but only with the force of truth. And for this, a human contact
of dialogue and love is necessary, as the apostles showed in the great
mission of the early Church: without making use of worldly power, using
the force of conviction.
The testimony of suffering, of charity, and of dialogue, convinced the
ancient world. The Holy Father simply tries to nurture this force of
dialogue and love of the first centuries in the relation with the
Q: It has been said that it is necessary to convoke a Vatican III so
that the Church will adapt to the new times. What do you think?
Cardinal Ratzinger: First of all, I would say it is a practical problem.
We have not implemented sufficiently the legacy of Vatican II. We are
still working to assimilate and interpret this legacy, as vital
processes take time. A technical measure can be applied rapidly, but
life has paths that are much longer. Time is needed to grow a forest;
time is needed for a man to grow.
Thus, these spiritual realities, such as the assimilation of a Council,
are ways of life, which have need of a certain duration and cannot be
completed from one day to the next. That is why the time has not yet
arrived for a new Council.
This is not the primary problem, but it would also be a practical
problem: We had 2,000 bishops for Vatican II, and it was already
extremely difficult to have a meeting of dialogue. Now, we would have
4,000 bishops, and I think we would have to invent technique for
I would like to recall something that happened in the fourth century, a
century of great Councils. When, 10 years after a Council, St. Gregory
Nazianzen was invited to participate in a new Council, he said: "No! I'm
not going. Now we must continue to work on the other one. We have so
many problems. Why do you want to convoke another one immediately?" I
think that this somewhat emotional voice demonstrates that time is
required to assimilate a Council.
In the time between two great Councils, other forms of contact are
necessary among the episcopates: the synods of Rome, for example.
Without a doubt, it is necessary to improve the procedure, because there
are too many monologues. We must really find a synodal process, a common
way. Then there are the continental, regional, etc., synods, the
effective work of the episcopal conferences, the meetings of episcopal
conferences with the Holy See.
In the course of five years, we [in the Roman Curia] see all the bishops
of the world. We have improved these visits "ad limina" a lot, which
before were very formal and now are genuine meetings of dialogue.
Therefore, we must improve these instruments in order to have a
permanent dialogue among all the areas of the Church and among all the
areas of the Holy See, to achieve a better application of Vatican
Council II. And then, we will see ...
Q: How can one maintain fidelity to the Church and favor communion,
while remaining open to the Spirit to lead us to the fullness of truth?
In other words, how is it possible not to fall into the extremes of
rigidity or rupture?
Cardinal Ratzinger: I think that it is, above all, a question of the
maturity of personal faith.
To all appearances, fidelity and openness seem to exclude one another.
However, I think that authentic fidelity to the Lord Jesus, to his
Church, which is his Body, is a dynamic fidelity. The truth is for
everyone, and all are created to go to the Lord. His open arms on the
cross symbolize at the same time for the Church Fathers maximum fidelity
the Lord is nailed to the cross
and the embrace of the world, to attract the world to himself, and make
room for all.
Therefore, an authentic fidelity to the Lord participates in the
dynamism of the person of Christ, who can open himself to the different
challenges of reality, of the other, of the world, etc. However, at the
same time, he finds his profound identity there, which does not exclude
anything that is true; it only excludes falsehood.
To the degree that we enter into communion with Christ, in his love that
accepts all of us and purifies all of us, in the measure in which we
participate in communion with Christ, we can be faithful and open.
Q: What is the present state of the ecumenical communication of the
concept of Church? In the wake of the instruction "Dominus Iesus" of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, there were criticisms among
the representatives of the Evangelical churches, because they did not
accept or did not understand well the statement that, rather than
churches, they should be considered as Christian communities.
Cardinal Ratzinger: This topic would call for a long discussion. In the
first place, we were told that if in "Dominus Iesus" we had only spoken
about the unique character of Christ, the whole of Christianity would
have been delighted with this document, all would have joined in
applauding the Congregation. "Why did you add the ecclesiological
problem that has resulted in criticisms?" we have been asked.
However, it was also necessary to talk about the Church, as Jesus
created this Body, and he is present throughout the centuries through
his Body, which is the Church. The Church is not a hovering spirit.
I am convinced that we [in "Dominus Iesus"] have interpreted Vatican
II's "Lumen Gentium" in a totally faithful manner, while in the last 30
years we have increasingly attenuated the text. In fact, our critics
have said to us that we have remained faithful to the letter of the
Council, but we have not understood the Council. At least they
acknowledge that we are faithful to the letter.
The Church of Christ is not an ecumenical utopia; it is not something we
make; it would not be the Church of Christ. This is why we are convinced
that the Church is a Body, it is not just an idea, but this does not
exclude different ways of a certain presence of the Church, even outside
the Catholic Church, which are specified by the Council. I think it is
evident that they exist, in so many hues, and it is understandable that
this generates debates within the Church.
Q: Do you think that the Church, especially in the Western world, is
prepared to address de-Christianization and the great void that is left?
Or is there still among the men of the Church a vision of Christianity,
and not of a missionary Church?
Cardinal Ratzinger: I think that in this connection, we have much to
learn. We are too concerned with ourselves, with structural questions,
with celibacy, the ordination of women, pastoral councils, the rights of
these councils [and] of synods ...
We always work on our internal problems and we do not realize that the
world is in need of answers; it does not know how to live. The world's
inability to live properly is seen in drugs, terrorism, etc. Therefore,
the world is thirsty for answers
and we remain with our problems.
I am convinced that if we go out to meet others, and we present the
Gospel to them in an appropriate way, even our internal problems will be
relativized and resolved. This is a fundamental point: We must make the
Gospel accessible to today's secularized world.
Q: What do you think is the starting point to coordinate the growth of
humanity's technical and scientific power with faith and morality?
Cardinal Ratzinger: It is something that must be rediscovered, because
the scientific models change; hence, the situation of dialogue between
science and faith is faced with new challenges.
An important instrument, for example, is the Pontifical Academy of
Sciences, of which I am now also a member and, in fact, a short while
ago I participated for the first time in one of it meetings.
To date, it was only an assembly of scientists
physicists, biologists, etc. Now, philosophers and theologians have also
joined. We have seen that dialogue between the sciences and philosophy
and theology is difficult, because they are totally different ways of
addressing reality, with different methods, etc.
One of these academics
he was a specialist in human brain research
said, "There are two irreconcilable worlds; on one hand we have the
exact sciences for which, in their field, there is no freedom, there are
no presence of the spirit and, on the other hand, I realize that I am a
man and that I am free."
Therefore, according to him, they are two different worlds
and we do not have the possibility to reconcile these two perceptions of
the world. He himself acknowledged that he believed in the two worlds:
in science that denies freedom, and in his experience of being a free
However, we cannot live in this way; it would be permanent
schizophrenia. In this present situation of acute methodological
specialization on the part of both approaches, we must seek the way in
which one discovers the rationality of the other, and develop a genuine
For the time being, there is no formula. This is why it is extremely
important that proponents of the two approaches of human thought meet:
the sciences, and philosophy and theology. In this way, they can
discover that both are expressions of authentic reason. But they must
understand that reality is one and that man is one.
This is why it is very important that in universities and faculties they
not be distinct disciplines separated from one another, but in permanent
contact, in which we learn to think with others and to find the unity of