04/19/2005, 00.00
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Benedict XVI, cooperator of Truth

by Bernardo Cervellera

There was the joy of childhood and simplicity in the way that Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, appeared at the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to greet the crowd that overflowed in the square below and to impart his first "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.  His hands shyly lifted with youthful enthusiasm and the way he defined himself as "a simple and humble worker in the Lord's vineyard," recalling the "great pope John Paul II," set off resounding applause and cheers from the public.

Those who have met him know that these words -- childlikeness, simplicity, humility – are not a posture, but the true heart of the new Pontiff, very different from the imagery of panzerkardinal and inquisitor that have been pinned on him. 

Humility is what he lived in decades as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.  When in 2003, upon reaching 75 years of age, he expressed the desire to resign and return to academic and pastoral work, he said yet again yes to John Paul II who had in him a friend and a crutch.

His simplicity derives from his love for truth.  The motto of his coat of arms is "Cooperators of Truth."  It was to cooperate in truth that he had expressed, at the time, all his opposition to the war in Iraq, to the abstract and hazy discussions at the UN on the world's future, discussions that lacked careful attention to current realities. 

A cooperator in truth knows that truth exists.  Yesterday in his masterly homily for the pro eligendo pontifice Mass, he referred to the "dictatorship of relativism."  The conceited and desperate world of relativism and manipulation label him as "fundamentalist", but his keenness is well known to intellectuals everywhere: on the question of the Christian roots of Europe, he reminded politicians and opportunists that even an atheist and Marxist philosopher like Habermas recognized Christianity as an essential element of Western Europe's identity.

A cooperator in truth knows that truth is the person of Jesus Christ.  Announcing Jesus Christ is not a "vendetta-style" fundamentalism, but the expression of the great mercy for man and his dignity.  This effort to not sell faith in Jesus at a discount brought Cardinal Ratzinger to correct liberation theology in its violence, preserving the commitment to the poor as Christian mission and not as an ideological derivative; he corrected the Lefevrians, accepting Mass in Latin, but asking their obedience to today's Church; he corrected the somewhat abstract and hasty attempts at inculturation in India and Sri Lanka, encouraging bishops, theologians and the faithful to enter into dialogue with the more profound elements of cultures and to witness sanctity more than organization. 

It can be said that in all these years he "understudied as pope": defending the centre of Catholic faith and weaving unity with every other part: here lies the ministry of Peter.  And the more faith is rooted in the certainty of Christ, the more it is open and desirous to encountering others.  For this reason, we think Ratzinger will be a creative continuation of the Council, of announcement, and of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. For this reason, he will also be the purifier of the "filth" in the Church that lurks wherever our bounty, the Truth that has been given to us as a gift, is trivialized.  And he will be a renewer of the search for truth between men and cultures, overwrought as they are today by the decay of ideologies.

Benedict XVI, we too wish to follow you as workers in the Lord's vineyard.
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