During the flight to Brazil, the Holy
Father greeted journalists accompanying him on the Alitalia plane bound
Paulo and answered some questions. Fr Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director
of the Vatican Press Office, introduced the first question. The
following is a translation of the Italian and Portuguese text of the
Benedict XVI: Good morning! We are flying over the Sahara on
our way to the "Continent of Hope". I am going with great joy and with
much hope to this meeting with Latin America. Various important events
await us: first in São
Paulo, the youth meeting; then the canonization, still in São
Paulo, of the first saint born in Brazil; to my mind this is also an
important expression of what this Journey means. He is a Franciscan
saint who spread the Franciscan charism to Brazil and is known as a
saint of reconciliation and peace. Let us say, therefore, that this is
an important aspect of a figure who knew how to create peace, hence,
also social and human coherence.
We will then have another important meeting at the "Fazenda da
[community for the rehabilitation of persons with drug addictions]. This
is a place where one can see the power of healing inherent in faith that
helps to open the horizons of life. All these drug problems, etc., are
born precisely from lack of hope in the future. It is faith that opens
one to the future and thus can also heal. It therefore seems to me that
this power to heal and give hope, opening a horizon for the future, is
Lastly comes the event which is the main purpose of this Journey: the
meeting with the Bishops who are taking part in the Fifth General
Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences. One
might say that in itself this is a specifically religious meeting: to
give life in Christ and to become disciples of Christ, knowing that we
all desire life but that life is not fulfilled if it has no inner
content, and furthermore, no direction in which to go. The Church's
religious mission responds in this sense and opens peoples' eyes to the
conditions required to solve the great social and political problems of
The Church as such is not involved in politics — we respect
secularism — but offers the conditions in which a healthy political
system can develop, together with the consequent solution for social
problems. Thus, we want to make Christians aware of the gift of faith,
the joy of faith through which we can know God as well as our own
In this way, Christians can be witnesses of Christ and learn both the
necessary personal virtues and the great social virtues: the sense of
legality which is crucial to the formation of society.
We are acquainted with the problems of Latin America, but we would
like to mobilize those very capacities, those moral forces which exist
there, the religious forces, in order to respond to the Church's
specific mission and to our universal responsibility for the human being
as such, and for society as such.
Fr Lombardi: To start with, I would like to give the floor to
"Il Globo", which will be providing the coverage of most of this Visit,
as well as for television.
Question: Your Holiness, is there something the Church can
do about violence, which is assuming unacceptable proportions in Brazil?
Benedict XVI: Anyone who has faith in Christ, who has faith in
this God who is reconciliation and who, with the Cross, set up the
strongest sign against violence, is not violent and helps others to
overcome violence. Therefore, the most important thing we can do is to
educate to faith in Christ, to teach the message that flows from the
Person of Christ. Truly, being a man or woman of faith automatically
means resisting violence, and this mobilizes forces against it.
Question: Your Holiness, a referendum on the topic of abortion is
being proposed in Brazil; in Mexico City two weeks ago, abortion was depenalized. What can the Church do to curb this trend and prevent it
from spreading to other Latin American countries, mindful that in Mexico
the Pope has even been accused of interference for having supported the
Bishops? And do you agree with the Mexican Church that parliamentarians
who approve these laws in opposition to God's values should be
Benedict XVI: Here is the Church's great battle for life. You
know that Pope John Paul II made it a fundamental point of his entire
Pontificate. He wrote an important Encyclical on the Gospel of Life. We
are, of course, moving ahead with this message that life is a gift, that
life is not a threat. I think that at the root of this legislation, on
the one hand, is a certain selfishness, and on the other, also a doubt
about the value of life, the beauty of life, and a doubt about the
And the Church responds above all to these doubts: life is beautiful,
it is not something dubious but is a gift, and even in difficult
conditions, life is always a gift. Therefore, re-create this awareness
of the beauty of the gift of life. And then the other matter, doubt
about the future: there are, of course, many threats in the world but
faith gives us the assurance that God is always stronger and remains
present in history and therefore that we can, with confidence, also give
life to new human beings.
With the awareness of the beauty of life and of God's providential
presence in our future which faith gives us, we can resist these fears
that are at the root of this legislation.
Question, Brazilian Television: Your Holiness, we note that in
your Addresses you refer to the relativism of Europe and the poverty of
Africa; but is Latin America somehow left out because it is not a
preoccupation? Or perhaps because you will be addressing it more
specifically in the future?
Benedict XVI: No, I am very fond of Latin America, I have
visited Latin America often, I have very many friends there and I know
of this Continent's immense problems but on the other hand, also of its
riches. In this period we see how "dominant" the problems of the Middle
East, the Holy Land, Iraq, etc., are. Hence, there is, as it were, an
immediate priority to be taken into account. And Africa's suffering is
immense, as we know. However, I am equally concerned about the problems
of Latin America, for I do not love Latin America less, the large —
indeed, the largest — Catholic Continent, and thus also the greatest
responsibility for a Pope.
I am glad, therefore, that at last the time has come for me to go to
Latin America, to reinforce the commitment made by Paul VI and John Paul
II and to continue in the same direction. The Pope naturally desires
that as well as being the Catholic Continent it may also be an exemplary
continent whose huge human problems may be satisfactorily resolved. And
together with the Bishops, the priests, Religious and lay people are
working to make this great Catholic Continent also become a continent of
life and truly of hope. For me this is a top priority.
Question: Your Holiness, in your Arrival Address, you say that it
is a question of forming Christian consciences, giving moral
instructions then letting them decide freely and conscientiously. Do you
agree with the excommunication of the deputies of Mexico City on the
issue of abortion?
Benedict XVI: Excommunication is not something arbitrary but a
measure prescribed by the Code [of Canon Law]. Thus, it simply states in
Canon Law that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with
going to Communion, where one receives the Body of Christ. Consequently,
nothing new, surprising or arbitrary, has been invented. Only what is
prescribed by Church Law has been recalled publically, a Law that is
based on the doctrine and faith of the Church, on our appreciation of
life and of the human individual from the very first instant.
Question in German
Benedict XVI: I am answering this question in Italian. I have
been asked whether I feel adequately supported by the Germans and
whether I also feel a little homesick for Germany. Yes, I feel
sufficiently supported; it is normal in a mixed country (Protestant and
Catholic) that not all the baptized should agree with the Pope; this is
to be expected. Nonetheless, it seems to me that I have great support,
even from people who belong to the non-Catholic part of Germany, so
there is indeed support and it helps me. I love my Homeland but I also
love Rome, and I am now a citizen of the world. Thus, I am at home
everywhere and I am close to my own Country just as I am to all the
Question: Good morning, Your Holiness! In your Book Jesus of
Nazareth, you spoke of a dramatic crisis of faith. This dramatic
crisis of faith may not exist in Latin America, yet there certainly is a
weakening; liberation theology has been replaced by the theology of the
Protestant sects, which promise paradises of faith at a cheap price; and
the Catholic Church is losing her faithful. How can this haemorrhage of
the Catholic faithful be stemmed?
Benedict XVI: This is our common concern. Precisely at this
Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops'
Conferences, we would like to find convincing answers and we are working
The success of the sects shows, on the one hand, that there is a
widespread thirst for God, a thirst for religion, that people want to be
close to God and seek contact with him. On the other hand, of course,
they accept those who present themselves and promise solutions to their
problems of daily life. As the Catholic Church, we must implement the
precise goal of the Fifth Conference, which is, we must be more
missionary and therefore more dynamic in offering responses to the
thirst for God, knowing that people, and the poor themselves, want God
close to them.
We know that in addition to helping them with this response to their
thirst for God, we must help them find a better standard of living, both
at the micro-economic level in very practical situations as the sects
do, and also at the macro-economic level, thinking of all the
requirements of justice.
Question: As regards my colleague's question, there are still many
exponents of liberation theology in various parts of Brazil. What is the
specific message to these exponents of liberation theology?
Benedict XVI: I would say that with the changes in the
political situation, the situation of liberation theology is also
profoundly different. It is now obvious that these facile
millenarianisms — which as a consequence of the revolution promised the
full conditions for a just life immediately — were mistaken.
Everyone knows this today. The question now concerns how the Church
must be present in the fight for the necessary reforms, in the fight for
fairer living conditions.
Theologians are divided on this, especially the exponents of
political theology. With the Instruction published at that time
by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we sought to carry
out a task of discernment. In other words, we tried to rid ourselves of
false millenarianisms and of an erroneous combination of Church and
politics, of faith and politics; and to show that the Church's specific
mission is precisely to come up with a response to the thirst for God
and therefore also to teach the personal and social virtues that are the
necessary conditions for the development of a sense of lawfulness.
Moreover, we have sought to identify guidelines for just policies,
political measures in which we ourselves are not involved but for which
we must point out the principal lines and values that — shall we say —
are crucial to creating human, social and psychological conditions where
these values may develop.
Thus, there is room for a difficult but legitimate debate on how to
achieve this and on how best to make the Church's social doctrine
effective. In this regard, certain liberation theologians are also
attempting to advance, keeping to this path; others are taking other
In any case, the intervention of the Magisterium was not to destroy
the commitment to justice but rather to guide it on the right paths, and
also with respect for the proper difference between political
responsibility and ecclesiastical responsibility.
Question: We know that you visited Colombia twice when you were a
Cardinal and we know that Colombia is dear to your heart. We would like
to know what the Church can do to enable us to surmount the current
internal conflict in Colombia.
Benedict XVI: Of course, I am not an oracle that automatically
has all the right answers. We know that the Bishops have strongly
committed themselves to finding these answers. I can only confirm the
fundamental line of the Bishops, that is, to put a strong emphasis on
faith, which is the surest guarantee against the growth of violence, and
at the same time a decisive commitment to educating a conscience that
shuns situations incompatible with faith.
Naturally, financial conditions are at stake whereby small farmers
survive on a certain market which subsequently permits huge profits
elsewhere. One cannot untangle these different financial, political and
ideological complexities immediately, but it is necessary to go forward
with great determination in sincere adherence to a faith that entails
respect for lawfulness and at the same time love and responsibility for
It seems to me that education in the faith is also the most reliable
humanization that will gradually be able to solve these very concrete
Question: Your Holiness, we are going to the Continent of
Archbishop Oscar Romero. There has been a lot of talk about the process
of his Beatification. Your Holiness, would you kindly consider telling
us what point it has reached, if he is about to be beatified, and how
you see this figure?
Benedict XVI: According to the latest information on the work
of the competent Congregation, many cases are underway and I know that
they are going forward. H.E. Mons. Paglia has sent me an important
biography which clarifies many points of the question. Archbishop Romero
was certainly an important witness of the faith, a man of great
Christian virtue who worked for peace and against the dictatorship, and
was assassinated while celebrating Mass. Consequently, his death was
truly "credible", a witness of faith. The problem was that a political
party wrongly wished to use him as their badge, as an emblematic figure.
How can we shed light on his person in the right way and protect it from
these attempts to exploit it? This is the problem. It is under
examination and I await confidently what the Congregation for the Causes
of Saints have to say on the matter.
Question: How do you regard the impact of the left-wing political
regimes in Latin America on the Church's programme for the Continent,
and to what extent has Brazilian culture been part of your personal
Benedict XVI: Well, I cannot talk about these aspects of the
political action of the left here since I am not sufficiently informed.
Above all, as is obvious, I do not wish to enter into questions directly
connected with politics. As for my formation, my personal commitment to
Brazil, it must be taken into account that this is the largest country
in Latin America, a nation that extends from Amazonia to Argentina.
Various indigenous cultures exist in Brazil. I have been told that there
are more than 80 languages.
Moreover, it has a great past in which the presence of African
Americans and African Brazilians is recorded. It is interesting how this
people was formed and how the Catholic faith developed in it. The faith
was defended in all ages with much difficulty. We know that in the 19th
century the Church was persecuted by neo-liberal forces.
Thus, in my formation, one important aspect was to accompany the
development of these Catholic peoples in Latin America. I am not an
expert, but I am convinced that it is here, at least in part — and a
fundamental part —, that the future of the Catholic Church is being
decided. This has always been evident to me. Obviously, I also feel the
need to further increase my knowledge of this world.
Question: The Portuguese are following and praying for this
Journey, which coincides with 13 May. You will be at Aparecida. This
date is very important for us because it is the 90th anniversary of the
apparitions at Fatima. Would you like to tell us something about this
coincidence for the Portuguese People?
Benedict XVI: For me it is truly a gift of Providence that my
Mass in Aparecida, Brazil's great Marian Shrine, coincides with the 90th
anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima. Thus, we see that
she herself, Mother of God, Mother of the Church and our Mother, is
present on the various continents, and on different continents she
reveals herself as Mother always in the same way, showing her special
closeness to every people. I find this very beautiful. She is always
Mother of God, she is always Mary, yet she is, so to speak, "inculturated":
she has her face, her own special countenance, in Guadalupe, Aparecida,
Fatima, Lourdes, in all the countries of the earth.
Thus, in this very way she shows herself as Mother: by being close to
all. Consequently, all people draw closer to one another through this
love for Our Lady. This link which Our Lady creates between continents,
between cultures, by being close to each specific culture and at the
same time by unifying them all among themselves, seems to me truly
important: the whole of the culture's specific feature—each has its
own richness—is the unity in communion of God's family itself.
Question in Portuguese: In Brazil there are some people who do not
want to listen to the Church's message.
Benedict XVI: This is not exclusive to Brazil. In every corner
of the earth there are very many people who do not want to listen to
what the Church says. We hope that at least they hear her; then they can
also disagree, but it is important that at least they hear her in order
to respond. Let us also try to convince those who disagree with her and
do not want to listen.
Moreover, we cannot forget that Our Lord did not manage to make
everyone listen to him, either. We do not expect to convince everyone
all at once. However, with the help of my collaborators, I am
endeavouring to speak to Brazil at this moment in the hope that masses
of people will want to listen and that very many may also be convinced
that this is the road to take, even if it is a road that is always open
even to many options and different opinions.