Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Press conference on the plane

VIS News have now released a summary of the press conference on the plane:

"VATICAN CITY, 12 JUL 2008 ( VIS ) - As has become traditional on his apostolic trips abroad, during his flight to Australia Holy Father answered questions from the journalists accompanying him on the papal aircraft. The central themes of the interview were the forthcoming 23rd World Youth Day (WYD) and the situation of the Church in Australia where the event is being hosted.

The Pope answered five questions, the first of which concerned the significance of WYD and the message he wishes to transmit to young people. Benedict XVI replied by recalling the theme of the event - "You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit" - and indicating that it is the Spirit that converts young people into Christ's witnesses. Thus his hope is that WYD may be a stimulus to participants to live their faith maturely, shouldering all the responsibilities the faith brings with it, towards Creation, towards society and in all aspects of life.

The second question dealt with the problem of secularisation, and the Pope was asked about his optimism or pessimism concerning the future of the Church in Australia . Benedict XVI replied by highlighting the enduring importance of religious experience. "God is in the human heart and can never disappear", he said. All the same Australia is - in its historical makeup - part of the Western world which over the last 50 years has seen great scientific and economic progress, with religion being left to one side. Hence it is necessary to find a way to excite a desire for the experience of God and to make this known to human beings of today, even in a secularised society.

Sexual abuse by members of the clergy was the focus of the third question. Benedict XVI reaffirmed what he had said during his recent apostolic trip to the United States , that the Church in no way accepts such abuses. He underlined the need for clarity in the Church's Magisterium and for commitment in the formation of the clergy to prevent abuses happening again. The Pope also reiterated the importance of undertaking pastoral activities to heal victims' wounds, and of remaining close to their families.

The fourth question concerned climate change, a topic of great concern in Australian society. The Holy Father indicated that he would be dealing with the subject during his meeting with young people, focusing on people's moral responsibility towards the Creation. He also made it clear that it is not his role to take technical measures - which is rather the responsibility of governments and scientists - but that the question of human responsibility towards Creation is of great interest to him.

The final question to be put to the Holy Father concerned the Anglican Communion and his views on the forthcoming Lambeth Conference, in the wake of the General Synod of the Church of England's vote in favour of the episcopal ordination of women. Benedict XVI affirmed that he will pray for the participants in the Lambeth Conference that they may, in the best possible way, tackle the great question of faithfulness to the Gospel in today's world, which is the challenge facing all Christians."

There is aso a transcript of the Press Conference. Here are the two English questions:


"Domanda: "The Australian Newspaper": Holy Father, I’d like to ask my question in English: Australia is a very secular land, with low religious practice and much religious indifference. I’d like to ask whether you are optimistic about the future of the Church in Australia, or are worried and alarmed that the Australian Church may follow the European path to decline? What message would you offer Australia to overcome its religious indifference?

Papa: I will do my best in English, but I beg your pardon for my insufficiencies in English. I think Australia in its present historical configuration is a part of the "Western world", economically and politically, and so it is clear that Australia shares also the successes and the problems of the Western world. The Western world has had in the last 50 years great successes: economic successes, technical successes; yet religion - Christian faith - is in a certain sense in crisis.

This is clear because there is the impression that we do not need God, we can do all on our own, that we do not need God to be happy, we do not need God to create a better world, that God is not necessary, we can do all by ourselves.

On the other hand we see that religion is always present in the world and will always be present because God is present in the heart of the human being and can never disappear. We see how religion is really a force in this world and in countries. I would not simply speak about a decline of religion in Europe: certainly there is a crisis in Europe, not so much in America but nevertheless there too, and in Australia.

But on the other hand, there’s always a presence of the faith in new forms, and in new ways; in the minority, perhaps, but always present for all the society to see. And now in this historical moment, we begin to see that we do need God.

We can do so many things, but we cannot create our climate. We thought we could do it, but we cannot do it. We need the gift of the Earth, the gift of water, we need the Creator; the Creator re-appears in His creation. And so we also come to understand that we cannot be really happy, cannot be really promoting justice for all the world, without a criterion at work in our own ideas, without a God who is just, and gives us the light, and gives us life.

So, I think there will be in a certain sense in this "Western world" a crisis of our faith, but we will always also have a revival of the faith, because Christian faith is simply true, and the truth will always be present in the human world, and God will always be truth. In this sense, I am in the end optimistic.

P. Lombardi: Thank you, Holy Father. The next question is formed by Mr Auskar Surbakti of SBS, the Australian television.

Domanda: Holy Father, mi dispiace ma non parlo bene l’italiano. So I’ll be asking my question in English. There has been a call from Australian victims of sexual abuse by clergy for Your Holiness to address the issue and to offer an apology to the victims during your visit to Australia. Cardinal Pell himself has said that it would be appropriate for the Pope to address the issue, and yourself made a similar gesture on your recent trip to the United States. Will Your Holiness be speaking on the issue of sexual abuse and will you be offering an apology?

Papa: Yes, the problem is essentially the same as in the United States. I felt obliged to speak about it in the United States because it is essential for the Church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and also to see guilt in these problems, so I will essentially say the same things as I said in America.

As I said we have three dimensions to clarify: the first, I mention, is our moral teaching. It must be clear, it was always clear from the first centuries that priesthood, to be a priest, is incompatible with this behaviour, because the priest is in the service of Our Lord, and Our Lord is holiness in person, and always teaching us – the Church has always insisted on this.

We have to reflect on what was insufficient in our education, in our teaching in recent decades: there was, in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the idea of proportionalism in ethics: it held that no thing is bad in itself, but only in proportion to others; with proportionalism it was possible to think for some subjects – one could also be paedophilia – that in some proportion they could be a good thing. Now, it must be stated clearly, this was never Catholic doctrine. There are things which are always bad, and paedophilia is always bad.

In our education, in the seminaries, in our permanent formation of the priests, we have to help priests to really be close to Christ, to learn from Christ, and so to be helpers, and not adversaries of our fellow human beings, of our Christians. So, we will do everything possible to clarify what is the teaching of the Church and help in the education and in the preparation of priests, in permanent formation, and we will do all possible to heal and to reconcile the victims. I think this is the essential content of what the word "apologize" says. I think it is better, more important to give the content of the formula, and I think the content has to say what was insufficient in our behaviour, what we must do in this moment, how we can prevent and how we all can heal and reconcile."

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