Cardinal Affirms Ecumenical Nature of Pope's Book

Proceeds from Sales Will Partially Fund Charitable Work

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's new book has a particular ecumenical character that can encourage greater dialogue with other Christians, says Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

The prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and relator of the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God stated this Thursday in the Vatican press office when he presented the Pope's book, "Jesus of Nazareth Part II: Holy Week -- From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection" (Ignatius Press).

The prelate said, "Benedict XVI's book is a book that should foster dialogue, an extraordinarily ecumenical book that, with its exegesis, reaches the Protestant world."

For his part, Claudio Magris, writer and German scholar, affirmed that "the book should absolutely foster dialogue, because it is a book made for dialogue" even if in reality it is difficult for it to succeed as it should.

"Unfortunately," Magris said, "the difficulty that the Church finds in making its principles known is that many times in the transmission simplifications are made that end by making one lose the essential."

The cardinal commented on the fact that some media sources reported positively on Benedict XVI's affirmations about the non-responsibility of the Jewish people as a whole in the condemnation of Jesus.

He noted that "the Jews have many times welcomed the distinction made by the Pope in regard to the Jewish people and those that condemned Jesus, just as the Second Vatican Council indicated in the 'Nostra Aetate' document, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and as so many others have."

A classic

The prelate added that this is "a book that will remain as a classic of theological literature because of its methodological innovation."

He described it as a volume that "confirms the importance of historical-critical exegesis, enriched, however, by faith."

Responding to a journalist's question about whether Benedict XVI condemns liberation theology in this book, Cardinal Ouellet said the volume does not deal with this topic and that, more generally, "it does not condemn anyone" because "it is a very open book" even if "it specifies what Jesus' messianism is."

To facilitate understanding of a work of this depth, the cardinal recommended the reading of the Pontiff's homilies, as they help "to understand this book well, making it accessible."

Moreover, Magris said that "this book goes to the bottom of some essential questions that touch the life of each one of us but also of persons of other religions."

He specified that the volume "is not a magisterial act but a text that lends itself to criticism" and that establishes "a new relationship between literature, text and reader."

"The historical method cannot be given up, even if it cannot demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God, but it is essential to bring us closer to this truth," Magris stressed.

He noted, "There is also a criticism of reason conditioned to an absolute, but without depreciating it, with a sort of good as well as corrective relativism, contrary to the relativism that puts everything on the same plane."

Mass distribution

Also attending the press conference was Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican Publishing House, which released the book in Italian.

The priest explained that right now there are around 1.2 million copies in seven languages already reserved.

The volume -- of which an electronic version is already being planned -- is being published in German, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Polish and Italian.

There are around 22 publishers throughout the world with which the Vatican Publishing House has signed contracts; others are now in negotiations.

Father Costa explained that part of the proceeds from the sale of the books will go to the publishers, while another part will go to the Holy Father.

Of this latter portion, half will go to the Joseph Ratzinger Vatican Foundation -- which aims to encourage theological research -- and the other half will be allocated to works of charity chosen by the Pope himself.