Pope to the Bishops

It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged.

Clearing Away the Barriers

That block the way to an encounter with Christ today…the Pope’s challenge to the American Bishops:
1. Secularism…

…the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.

2. Affluence…

a further obstacle to an encounter with the living God lies in the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come (cf. Mk 10:30). People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with “Christ Jesus, our hope” (1 Tim 1:1).

3.Individualism…

giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community. Yet from the beginning, God saw that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We were created as social beings who find fulfillment only in love – for God and for our neighbor. If we are truly to gaze upon him who is the source of our joy, we need to do so as members of the people of God (cf. Spe Salvi, 14). If this seems counter-cultural, that is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.

Pope’s Welcoming Address

Mr. President, Thank you for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of the people of the United States of America. I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit this great country. My visit coincides with an important moment in the life of the Catholic community in America: the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the elevation of the country’s first Diocese – Baltimore – to a metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. Yet I am happy to be here as a guest of all Americans. I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America’s Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.

From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.

In the next few days, I look forward to meeting not only with America’s Catholic community, but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions present in this country. Historically, not only Catholics, but all believers have found here the freedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, while at the same time being accepted as part of a commonwealth in which each individual and group can make its voice heard. As the nation faces the increasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation”, and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.

The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.

For well over a century, the United States of America has played an important role in the international community. On Friday, God willing, I will have the honor of addressing the United Nations Organization, where I hope to encourage the efforts under way to make that institution an ever more effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world’s peoples. On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity – as brothers and sisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God’s bounty has set for all his children. America has traditionally shown herself generous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development and offering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress. In this way, coming generations will be able to live in a world where truth, freedom and justice can flourish – a world where the God-given dignity and rights of every man, woman and child are cherished, protected and effectively advanced.

Mr. President, dear friends: as I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that Almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God bless America!

Transcript of Papal News Conference

On the plane yesterday, from John Allen:

The following is a rush transcript of comments made by Pope Benedict XVI to reporters aboard the papal plane, on his way to his first pastoral visit to the United States.

Late last week, the Vatican asked reporters travelling with the pope to submit questions for the pope by 3:00 pm Monday afternoon, the day before the trip began. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, selected four of these questions and asked four different reporters to put them to the pope aboard the papal plane. There was no opportunity for follow-up.

In response to a specific request, Pope Benedict answered one question in English, on the subject of the sexual abuse crisis. His other responses were given in Italian. The following is an NCR translation and transcription of the exchange.

Lombardi: In the name of all those present, thank you for your kind willingness to be with us this morning, to greet us and also to give us some ideas about this trip. It’s your second inter-continental trip, and your first as Holy Father to the United States and the United Nations. It’s a very important trip, much anticipated. Can you say something to us about your sentiments and your hopes with which your approach this trip, and what your fundamental objectives are?

Benedict XVI:
My trip has basically two objectives. The first is a visit to the church in America, in the United States, and naturally also the entire country. There’s a particular motive, which is that 200 years ago the Archdiocese of Baltimore was elevated as a metropolitan archdiocese, and at the same moment two or three other dioceses were created … Philadelphia, Boston, Louisville. It’s a great jubilee for the church in the United States. It’s a moment of reflection on the past, but also on the future, on how to respond to the great challenges of our time that will present themselves in the future.
Naturally, the inter-religious and ecumenical encounters are an important part of this trip, as is the encounter in the synagogue with our Jewish friends on the vigil of their Passover festival. That’s the religious and pastoral aspect … the church in the United States in this moment of our history, and the encounter with all the others in this common humanity which leads to a common sense of responsibility.
At this point, I want to thank President Bush who is coming to the airport and has devoted considerable time to our meeting, and who is also receiving me on the occasion of my birthday.
The second objective is the visit to the United Nations, and also here there’s a particular motive. This is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s an expression of the founding philosophy of the United Nations and the human and spiritual basis upon which it’s constructed. Thus it’s a moment of reflection and to refresh awareness of this important moment in history, that in this declaration of human rights diverse cultures came together. There’s an anthropology that recognizes the human being as a subject of rights prior to all institutions, with a value that must be respected by everyone. This trip, given a moment of a crisis of values, gives us the opportunity to build upon what was begun in this moment and to exploit it for the future.

Lombardi:: Now we’ll turn to the questions that you yourselves presented in recent days and that some of us will present to the Holy Father. We’ll start a question from John Allen, who I don’t think needs an introduction. He’s a well-known commentator on Vatican affairs in the United States.

Allen: Holy Father, I’ll ask my question in English. I know you will speak principally in Italian, but we would be grateful for at least a few words in English. The Catholic church in the United States is large and dynamic, but also suffering, above all because of the recent sexual abuse crisis. The American people are waiting to hear what you have to say on this subject. What will your message be?

Benedict XVI:
It is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general, and for me personally that this could happen. As I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing and to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future.
I think we have to act on three levels.
The first is the level of justice, the juridical level. We now have also norms to react in a just way. I would not speak in this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, [which] is another thing. We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry, this is absolutely incompatible. And who is really guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest. So the first level is, as we can do justice and help clearly the victims, because they are deeply touched. So [there are] two sides of justice, on the one hand that pedophiles cannot be priests; on the other hand, to help in all the possible ways to the victims.
The second level is the pastoral level, the level of healing and help of assistance and of reconciliation. This is a big pastoral engagement, and I know that the bishops and the priests and all the Catholic people in the United States will do all possible to help assist and to heal, and to help that in the future these things cannot happen.
The third point [is that] we have made a visitation in the seminaries to also do what is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep, spiritual, human and intellectual formation –with discernment so that only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood, only persons with a deep personal love for Christ and a deep sacramental love, to exclude that this can happen [again]. I know that the bishops and the rectors of seminarians will do all that is possible so that we have a strong discernment, because it’s more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and we have done, and we will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.

Lombardi:: Thank you, Your Holiness. Another theme upon which we had many questions from our colleagues was that of immigration, reflecting the growing presence of Hispanics in the society of the United States. We’ll have a question from our colleague Andres Beltramo, from the Notimex agency in Mexico.

Beltramo: I’ll ask the question in Italian, but we would love to have just a greeting in Spanish. With the enormous growth in the Hispanic presence, the Catholic church in the United States is becoming steadily more bilingual and bicultural. Yet there’s also a growing “anti-immigrant” movement in America. Do you intend to invite the United States to welcome immigrants well, many of whom are Catholic?

Benedict XVI:
Unfortunately I’m not ready to speak in Spanish, but I offer a greeting and blessing for all the Spanish-speakers! Certainly I’ll talk about this subject. I recent had the ad limina visit from the bishops of Central America, also South America. I saw the scope of this problem, above all the grave problem of the separation of families. This is truly dangerous for the social, human and moral fabric of these countries.
It seems to me that we have to distinguish between measures to be taken immediately, and longer-term solutions. The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate. We all have to work for this objective, that social development is sufficient so that citizens are able to contribute to their own future.
On this point, I want to speak with the President, because above all the United States must help countries develop themselves. Doing so is in the interests of everyone, not just this country but the whole world, including the United States.
In the short term, it’s very important above all to help the families. This is the primary objective, to ensure that families are protected, not destroyed. Whatever can be done, must be done. Naturally, we have to do whatever’s possible against economic insecurity, against all the forms of violence, so that they can have a worthy life.
I’d like also to say that although there are many problems, so much suffering, there’s also much hospitality [in America.] I know that the bishops’ conference in America collaborates a great deal with the Latin American bishops’ conference. Together they work to help priests, laity and so on. With so many painful things, it’s also important not to forget much good and many positive actions.

Lombardi:: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now we’ll have a question that refers to American society, the place of religious values in American society, from our colleague Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican writer of the newspaper Il Giornale.

Tornielli: Holy Father, in receiving the new ambassador of the United States of America, you cast in a positive light the public value of religion in the United States. I’d like to ask if you consider this a possible model also for secularized Europe? Also, is there also a risk that religion and the name of God can be abused for supporting a certain political stance, including war?

Benedict XVI:
Certainly we can’t simply copy the United States. We have our own history, and we must learn from each other.
What I find fascinating about the United States is that they began with a positive concept of secularism. This new people was composed of communities and people who had separated from state churches, and they wanted to have a secular state which would open possibilities for all the confessions and all the forms of religious expression. It was an expressly secular state, and it was directly opposed to a state-church. It was secular precisely out of love of religion, for the authenticity of religion, which could be lived only in freedom. Thus we find a state that’s expressly secular, but favorable to religion in order to give it authenticity.
We know that the public institutions in America, albeit secular, draw on a de facto moral consensus that exists among the citizens. This seems to me fundamental and positive to consider, also in Europe. But in the meantime, more than 200 years of history have passed with so many developments. Also in the United States, they’ve had a new form of secularization, a new secularism, which is entirely different. They also have new problems, such as immigration, the “Wasp” ideology, and all these problems. The situation has become complicated and differentiated in the course of history, but the fundamental idea seems to me even today worthy of being observed.

Lombardi:: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now we’ll have the last question, dealing with the theme of the visit to the United Nations. It will be asked by John Thavis, the bureau chief in Rome of the Catholic News Service.

Thavis: Holy Father, the pope is often considered the conscience of humanity, and this is one of the reasons your address at the United Nations is highly anticipated. Do you think a multi-lateral institution such as the UN can protect the non-negotiable principles defended by the Catholic church, meaning those rooted in natural law?

Benedict XVI:
This is precisely the fundamental objective of the United Nations, to protect the common values of humanity upon which the peaceful coexistence of nations is based, the pursuit of justice and development against injustice. There’s an idea I’ve already touched upon which seems to me to be fundamental for the United Nations, and that’s the idea of human rights, the rights expressed by them as non-negotiable in all situations, are the fundamental principles of the institution. It’s important that there be this convergence among the cultures, which found a consensus that these values are fundamental and are written in the being of the human person. To renew this awareness, that the United Nations and its peacekeeping mission can work only if it’s based on fundamental rights held in common by all. To confirm this fundamental conception and to reinforce it as much as possible is an objective of my mission.
At the beginning, Fr. Lombardi asked about my sentiments. I’d like to say that I’m going with joy. I’ve been in the United States several times, I know this great country, and I also know the great life of the church despite all the problems. I’m happy to be able to meet in this historical moment, both through the church and my visit to the United Nations, this great country.

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