04/19/2010, 00.00
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Five years of Benedict XVI

by Bernardo Cervellera
His pontificate is defined by openness to the world, humility, love for truth, healing and reconciliation, whether in the case of pedophile priests, the Regensburg speech, the Holy Land or Lefebvrians. To a world that resents its impotence but needs God, he offers truth and reason. In lieu of a self-centred Church, he wants one that bears witness.

Rome (AsiaNews) – During a meeting in Malta with victims of a pedophile priest, the Pope wept and expressed “shame and sorrow”, something few would have expected. Indeed, hardly anyone in a howling world media could have prepared us for that. Instead of the image of an accomplice in silencing and snuffing out the cries of victims, he provided a show of humility and love for the truth, as he always did and still does.

Telling the Pope, among other things, that he “could fill the void”, or that “Finally, I can tell me daughters that I found faith again”, the abuse victims he met represent a source of surprise since their presence suggest that just being outraged or complaining would be sterile if they did not lead to healing and reconciliation.

Openness to the world, humility, love for truth, healing and reconciliation are typical features of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Every time, the world showed its sterile outrage in the last five years, the Pope and much of the Church with humility worked for the truth, healing and reconciliation.

This was the case when the Pope spoke in Regensburg, asking Muslims what religion should contribute if it reverts to a violence that reneges God and reason. Some fringes in the Muslim world, but especially among the secularised and know-it-all intelligentsia of the West, railed at the Pope for failing to use the right terms. However, more positive assessments have come out of that speech about his courage. Eventually, statements of agreement have come from the Muslims world, so much so that what was initially viewed as a faux pas has come to be seen as a positive step towards a more intense dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. The fact that today more and more Muslim intellectuals condemn violence (in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Indonesia, India, Egypt and even Pakistan) stems from the current’s pontiff’s courage in telling the truth.

Truth, healing and reconciliation were also at the centre of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year. At the time, Benedict XVI expressed deep friendship for Israelis and Palestinians, calling on both sides to stop the violence and find instead a path towards coexistence. In doing so, he showed more courage and hope than world political leaders who tend to side with one or the other nation. All the while, everyone accused him of being a “Nazi”, a “negationist”, a dreamer.

Healing and reconciliation informed his decision to lift the excommunication imposed on bishops named by Mgr Lefebvre. This was done so that hundreds of priests could be brought back into the living fold of the Church, something that he deemed more important than the grumbles heard against Bishop Williamson within progressive Catholic circles or among anti-negationists. Even if the Williamson affair and the paedophilia scandal show some shortfalls in the Vatican machinery, the Pope has remained steadfast in his right to rescue the situation, and define what is true and what is false, what is just and what is unjust, rejecting blind biases and demonisations.

Truth, healing and reconciliations have always been the guidelines of the Church. How many Jews, Nazis or partisans have been saved by members of the Catholic clergy and laity before, during and after the Second World War!

Much of the hostility of the world towards Benedict XVI is based on this difference between the truth, which is concerned with all the elements of reality, and the visceral and ideological habits, which seek the adversary’s destruction, that are typical of today’s world (ruled by relativism and conformism) in which there is no objective truth other than what one feels.

Yet perhaps this is not enough to explain all the acrimony, lies, and mud slung in recent weeks at the Pope. In all this, there is a covert and violent resentment born out of the fact that today man—who once dreamt that he could touch the sky and, through science and technology, be as powerful as God—has become aware of his limits and inadequacies, especially since science is causing so many environmental and human destructions, politics is proving increasingly powerless, and a “rational” economy is becoming increasingly immoral, not to mention ineffective.

For Benedict XVI, human reason has revealed what no one wants to admit, namely that only God can heal all the tragic wounds caused by our claims, that only Jesus Christ can be the remedy that gives immortality and beauty to life.

The battle Benedict XVI is conducting within the Church is on behalf of reason, against a form of Christianity that is sentimental, set in its way, and ideological (in both traditionalist and progressive varieties). He wants to see Catholics develop a living relationship with the Lord and the Church, as the Body of Christ, not as a repository of power or a refuge from the world. Such a living relationship grows out of the personal reasons for one’s faith and drives one forward to bear witness in the world. Every liturgy, even the most solemn, is not meant to flatter the Church’s own self-centredness, but is designed to lead to truth, healing, and reconciliation in a world that is waiting for them, even if sometimes it does not know it. Photo: CPP

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