Church Has to Speak More About God, Cardinal Ratzinger Says

"The World Is Not Thirsting to Know Our Internal Problems"

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Part of the Church´s current crisis is due to the "marginalization of God," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the Synod of Bishops.



The speech today by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was the most applauded by the assembly´s 300 participants. The four-week synod ends Oct. 27.

"Too often the Church is too preoccupied with itself and does not speak with the necessary force and joy about God, about Jesus Christ," the 74-year-old cardinal said. "Meanwhile, the world is not thirsting to know our internal problems, but rather the message that gave origin to the Church: the fire that Jesus Christ brought to the earth."

"The crisis of our culture," the cardinal contended, "is based on the absence of God, and we must confess that the crisis of the Church also, to a great extent, is the consequence of a widespread marginalization of the subject of God."

"We can only be credible messengers of the living God if this fire is burning within us," added the cardinal, who is regarded as one of the great Catholic theologians of the post-Vatican II era.

The Gospel proclaimed by the Church will show the presence of Christ today and touch the hearts of contemporaries "only if Christ lives in us," he said.

To be a bishop "in our agnostic and atheist culture," means to "have the courage of the truth and the readiness to suffer for the truth," the German cardinal continued.

He added that the bishop "must encourage everything that is good and positive, must help people and environments in search of God, must accompany and help the priests and laity working in the proclamation of the word of God, must support and guide with great love those who are weak in the faith, but must also fearlessly unmask the falsifications of the Gospel and of our hope."

He continued: "I think the central problem of our time is the emptying of the figure of Jesus Christ.

"It begins with the negation of the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and continues with the negation of the corporal resurrection of Jesus relegating his body to corruption -- against Acts of the Apostles 2:27 and following -- and the resurrection is transformed into a merely spiritual event, thus leaving no hope for the body, for matter."

"The same happens with the institution of the Eucharist, which is seen as something impossible for the historical Jesus, remaining just a farewell supper and an undefined expression of eschatological hope," Cardinal Ratzinger stressed.

"Such an impoverished Jesus cannot be the only Savior and Mediator, he is not the God-with-us," he added. "And, in the end, Jesus is replaced by the idea of the ´values of the Kingdom,´ which, in fact, has no precise content and becomes a hope without God, an empty hope."

Given these widespread misinterpretations of the Christian message, the cardinal said, "We must return with clarity to the Jesus of the Gospels, as he is the only authentic historical Jesus."

Quoting from Cardinal Joachim Meisner´s address to the synod, Cardinal Ratzinger said that "the bishop must also have the courage to decide and judge with authority in this struggle for the Gospel."

"If the bishops assume their mission of judges in matters of faith and doctrine, the so hoped-for decentralization will happen automatically," Cardinal Ratzinger predicted.

"It is obvious that the episcopal conference must help him with a good doctrinal commission and with unanimity in the struggle for the faith," he added. "However, for the bishop to make decisions, familiarity with all the twists and turns of modern theology is not necessary.

"The bishop does not decide on specialized questions; he decides on recognition of baptismal faith, foundation of all theology.

"And, if on some occasions it might be right to tolerate a lesser evil for peace in the Church, let us not forget that a peace paid for with the loss of truth would be a false peace, an empty peace."