Cardinal Ratzinger Calls Relativism "Greatest Problem of Our Time"

Prefect of Doctrinal Congregation Publishes a New Book

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ROME, SEPT. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Mindful that interreligious dialogue has become a crucial issue in theology, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has made his own contribution with a new book.



"The real problem is that of truth," the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith writes in the just-released "Fede, verità, tolleranza -- Il cristianesimo e le religioni del mondo" (Faith, Truth, Tolerance -- Christianity and the World Religions).

The cardinal says that relativism -- which considers all opinions as true, even if they are contradictory -- "is the greatest problem of our time."

In essence, his research seeks to establish "whether relativism is really the assumption necessary for tolerance; whether religions are really all the same," or whether, in fact, "truth can be known."

The volume of just under 300 pages, released by Cantagalli Publishers, is mostly a re-edited collection of addresses the cardinal has given over the past decade. The first, however, is a 1964 article in which he gives a phenomenological study of religions in order to show what makes Christianity different.

"Tolerance and respect for the other seem to have imposed the idea of the equivalence of all religions," the author says in the chapter entitled "Variations on the Topic of Faith, Religion and Culture."

But in the light of Christian Revelation he affirms that "in Christ, we have been given a new gift, the essential gift -- the truth -- and, therefore, we have the duty to give it freely to others."

To "say that there really is a truth, a binding and valid truth in history in the person of Jesus Christ and in the faith of the Church, is considered as fundamentalism and is presented as a genuine attack against the modern spirit and as a manifold threat against its supreme good: tolerance and freedom," the cardinal writes.

Yet, "to renounce the truth does not save man," he continues. On the contrary, "Christian faith impels inexorably toward the question of truth," keeping in mind that "truth does violence to no one."

"Only if the Christian faith is truth, does it concern all men," otherwise it would be a simple expression of a culture, the cardinal observes.

In the new world without dogmas, or in which the only dogma is relativism, the great challenge consists in "the meeting of faith and reason," the author states.

If it is possible to find the truth, what could be the relations between the diverse religions? The cardinal replies with a question: "Must not man be searching, making the effort to have a purified conscience and in this way get closer -- at least this! -- to the purest forms of religion?"

Hence, Christians must not "just communicate a structured ensemble of institutions and ideas, but the most profound dimension of the faith: real contact with Christ," he says.

"What leads men to God," he adds, "is the dynamics of the conscience and of the silent presence of God in it, and not the canonization of that which exists from one moment to the next, which exempts men from a more profound search."