Cardinal Ratzinger Highlights Christian Challenge Following Sept. 11

"We See More Clearly the Abyss Man Faces"

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LUGANO, Switzerland, MARCH 3, 2002 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The conventional wisdom since Sept. 11 is that a new world peace requires that "the Christian faith must give up its claim to truth," says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.



The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made that observation on Friday when addressing a conference in memory of Bishop Eugenio Corecco of Lugano. The topic was "Faith, Truth and Tolerance." Here, the cardinal elaborated on his views.

Q: Eminence, it has been said that after Sept. 11, the world will never be the same. Has something also changed for the Church?

Cardinal Ratzinger: I would not say that with Sept. 11 there was a revelation of absolutely new things. The threat of terrorist violence already existed. Now, however, we are paying more attention to that threat. If something has changed, it is our Western awareness of the perception of danger. Paraphrasing St. Augustine, we could say that today we see more clearly the abyss man faces.

Q: The confrontation with Islam is a burning issue. In your opinion, can one speak of the superiority of the Judeo-Christian culture?

Cardinal Ratzinger: It is a minefield, but I don´t want to avoid the question. When we speak of culture, we must distinguish the values of its historic realizations. The truth of the Christian faith appears to us in all its depth, but we mustn´t forget that, sadly, it has been darkened many times by the concrete behavior of those who called themselves Christians. Islam has also had moments of great splendor and decadence in the course of its history.

Q: Hence, one cannot speak of the superiority of one culture over another?

Cardinal Ratzinger: Naturally, we can and must say, for example, that the values of monogamous marriage, of the dignity of woman, etc., undoubtedly demonstrate a cultural superiority.

It is true that the Muslim world is not totally mistaken when it reproaches the West of Christian tradition of moral decadence and the manipulation of human life. ... This imposes on us a serious examination of conscience. What is important is to go to the roots of the values proclaimed by the different religions. It is here where a real interreligious dialogue can begin.

Q: Which is more dangerous, fundamentalism or religious indifference?

Cardinal Ratzinger: There are different forms of fundamentalism. For example, the U.S. bishops prefer not to use the word fundamentalism to indicate violent extremism, because part of the Protestant world in the United States describes itself as fundamentalist, but without falling prey to violence and fanaticism.

And religious indifference also has different forms. There are those who do not regard themselves as Christian but who have an underlying ethical impulse. And there is also the anarchic and arrogant indifference of those who presume to dismantle man and remake his pieces in their way and not according to the logic of the Creator.

Q: You often speak of a minority Catholicism and of a Church that will be reduced inevitably in the future. How can this be reconciled with the Pope´s appeal to Europe not to forget its own Christian roots?

Cardinal Ratzinger: The mass Church can be something beautiful but it is not necessarily the only way of being Church. However, this does not mean that it will be reduced to a group enclosed in itself.

The Church has a universal responsibility, a missionary responsibility to proclaim the new evangelization. Part of this task is the appeal to the Christian roots of Europe. What is more, the Church must do its utmost with all its creative energies so that the living and attractive force of the Gospel does not diminish.