Press Conference With the Pope

"I Am Going to Find the Love of the Mother"

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PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a 10-minute press conference Benedict XVI gave while en route to France on Friday.

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Q: In 1980, during his first trip, John Paul II asked "France, are you faithful to your baptismal promises?" What is your message today for the French? Do you think France is losing its Christian identity because of laicism?

Benedict XVI: It seems evident to me today that laicism does not contradict the faith. I would even say that it is a fruit of the faith, since the Christian faith was a universal religion from the beginning. Therefore it did not identify itself with a state and it was present in all the states. It was always clear to the Christians that religion and faith were not political, but rather they formed part of another sphere of human life. ... Politics, the state, were not a religion but rather a secular reality with a specific mission, and the two of them should be open to each other.

In this sense, I would say today that for the French, and not only the French, but also for us, Christians of today in this secularized world, it is important to joyfully live the freedom of our faith, live the beauty of the faith, and show today's world that it is beautiful to be a believer, that it is beautiful to know God; God with a human face in Jesus Christ, show that it is possible to be a believer today, and even that society needs there to be people who know God and who, therefore, can live according to the great values that it has given us and contribute to the presence of these values that are fundamental for the building and survival of our states and societies.

Q: You love France. What unites you most especially to France, to its authors?

Benedict XVI: I would not dare say that I know France well. I know it a bit, but I love France, the great French culture, above all, of course, the great cathedrals, and also the great French art, the great theology beginning with St. Irenaeus of Lyons to the 13th century -- and I studied about the University of Paris in the 13th century-- St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas. This theology has been decisive for the development of Western theology; and naturally the theology of the century of Vatican Council II. I have had the great honor and joy to be a friend of Fr. Lubac, one of the greatest figures of the last century, but I have also had a good working relationship with Fr. Congar, Jean Danielou and others. I have had very good personal relationships with Etienne Gilson, Henri-Irenee Maroux.

Therefore I have really had deep, personal and enriching contact with the great theological and philosophical culture of France. It has really been decisive in the development of my thought. As well the discovery of the original Gregorian Chant with Solesmes, the great monastic culture and naturally the poetry. Being such a baroque man, I very much like Paul Claudel, with his joy for living, as well as Bernanos and the great French poets of the last century. So it is a culture that has really shaped my personal, theological, philosophical and human development in a deep way.

Q: What do you say to those in France who are worried that the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" is a step backward with regards to the great institutions of the Second Vatican Council?

Benedict XVI: It is baseless fear; because this "motu proprio" is simply an act of tolerance, with a pastoral objective, for people who have been formed in this liturgy, who love it, who know it, who want to live with this liturgy. It is a small group, because it supposes an education in Latin, a formation in a certain type of culture. But it seems to me a normal requirement of faith and pastoral practice for a bishop of our Church to have love and forbearance for these people and allow them to live with this liturgy.

There is no opposition between the liturgy renewed by Vatican II and this liturgy. Every day, the council fathers celebrated the Mass following the old rite and at the same time they conceived a natural development for the liturgy throughout this century, since the liturgy is a living reality, which develops and keeps its identity within its development.

So there is certainly a difference of emphasis, but a single fundamental identity that excludes any contradiction or antagonism between a renewed liturgy and the preceding liturgy. I believe there is a possibility for both types to be enriched. On the one hand, the friends of the old liturgy can and should know the new saints, the new prefaces of the liturgy, etc. But on the other hand, the new liturgy emphasizes the common participation, but it is not just the assembly of a particular community, but rather it is always an act of the universal Church, in communion with all the believers of all time, an act of adoration. In this sense, it seems to me that there is a mutual enrichment, and it is clear that the renewed liturgy is the ordinary liturgy of our time.

Q: You are going on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. What does it mean for you? Have you been there before?

Benedict XVI: I was in Lourdes on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress, in 1981, after the assassination attempt on the Holy Father (John Paul II). And Cardinal Gantin was the delegate of the Holy Father. It is a very beautiful memory for me.

The feast of St. Bernadette is also my birthday. Because of this, I feel very close to this small saint, this young, pure, humble woman that spoke with the Virgin Mary.

It is very important for me to experience this reality, this presence of the Virgin Mary in our lifetime, to see the path of this young person who was a friend of the Virgin Mary, and on the other hand to meet the Blessed Virgin, her mother. Naturally we are not going there to see miracles. I am going to find the love of the Mother, which is the true cure for every pain and to be united to those who suffer, in the love of the Blessed Mother. This seems to me an important sign for our times.

[Translation by ZENIT]