More surprises from this Pope


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ROME, JUNE 3, 2010 ( Benedict XVI's message is far from same-ol', same-ol', according to an author who has reflected on the five years of this pontificate with the phrase "the great 'yes' of God."

ZENIT spoke with Father Ramiro Pellitero, a priest and medical doctor, and a professor in the Faculty of Theology and of the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences, as well as chaplain of the Clinic of the University of Navarre.

Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of this pontificate, Father Pellitero has just published "Al hilo de un pontificado: El gran 'sí' de Dios" (The Theme of a Pontificate: The Great 'Yes' of God).

ZENIT: Among the questions our readers would like to ask, perhaps one of the first is related to the book's title; in the course of his pontificate Benedict XVI has repeated that Christianity is not a list of "no's," above all of an ethical character, but a great "yes." This is still not understood. Why?

Father Pellitero: I think this comes from way back and has several causes. I'll mention two that seem important. On one hand, in explaining the Christian faith over the last centuries, a certain moralism -- which Benedict XVI has pointed out on more than one occasion -- put duty before truth. But when one loves God and others, duties are not a burden or a negation, but a liberation and a full realization of one's personality.

At the same time, it seems that in the news and in the media there is a "biased" pressure in silencing that great "yes" that is the Gospel to everything that is good, beautiful and noble: to human love, to true progress, to life in all its stages, to reason and to the most valuable experiences of humanity. All this is silenced, while what is put in the first place, "stacking the deck," are only the negations that are deduced from that great "yes." Certainly, the yes to true progress cannot but be a "no" to what enslaves persons, destroys them or at least harms them: no to the egoism of the unjust social inequalities, to threats to life, to the lack of religious liberty, etc.

Who would be interested in manipulating what the Gospel says by silencing the "yes" and only letting the "no" be heard, so that a sad and retrograde impression is given of Christianity? I return this question especially to those who work at the service of public opinion.

ZENIT: What does public opinion still need to discover about Benedict XVI?

Father Pellitero: I think that greater attention is necessary, on the part of public opinion, to the very nuclei of this pontificate: the validity of reason and at the same time its need to open to transcendence; the "revolution" of love and the learning of a hope that commits us all, above all in favor of the poorest and weakest. Among Christians, the Pope promotes a rediscovery of the Eucharist and of the Word of God, as sources of full meaning in everyday life.

Whoever takes for granted that these points belong to what has "already been heard" or "already lived," so that they no longer need one's attention, is mistaken. Each and every one -- and in the case of Christians also as Church -- is being called upon by Benedict XVI to fulfill his responsibility.

ZENIT: It is interesting that one of the chapters of your book speaks of "Evangelization and Communication," when in the last two years the Pope has had to face serious crises of communication. What does communication mean for Benedict XVI?

Father Pellitero: I understand that for Benedict XVI, as an intellectual of his time and now supreme Pastor of the Church, communication is a very important value. But it is necessary above all to have very clear the message that is to be communicated. In this case it is no more and no less than the Gospel, with all its richness, force and transforming capacity of man and of history. Perhaps the Pope values the elements of communication in an order and proportion that are different than what some professionals of communication do.

I think that for him what is most important is truth and goodness, before other legitimate but secondary values, such as mere current issues, usefulness or dialectic. At first glance these aspects might seem very attractive, in as much as they generate more "news"; but they should be placed at the service of persons, at the service of truth and goodness, justice and peace. Not denied with this -- as the Pope himself has acknowledged -- is that management of the media can be improved.

ZENIT: Using the answer to the previous question, Joseph Ratzinger has been, effectively, a prestigious theologian. Has he ceased to be so now as Pope, to become a Pastor?

Father Pellitero: I don't think he has ceased to be or to manifest himself as a theologian, although now we see more clearly what he considers the goal of theology: knowledge, or better, participation in the love of God that transforms the world. This entails the opening of humanism to transcendence, the enlargement of rationality beyond the empirical -- to the dimensions of truth and goodness -- true wisdom that leads to the civilization of love.

In other words, theology proposes and opens the meaning of reality for people's lives. In that measure, it furnishes a frame of reference for the pedagogy of faith and the Christian apostolate. As the Pope himself said to the International Theological Commission in December 2009, the true theologian is he who, making himself little before God, allows him to touch his heart and existence, in order to put himself at the service of the Gospel. Such is, in fact, the horizon of the theology of today -- and always -- it can enlighten the contemporary culture and is, in the case of the Pope, totally at the service of his pastoral ministry.

ZENIT: To whom is your book addressed and what is its principal message?

Father Pellitero: The text is addressed to a wide public, with a young spirit and open disposition; with a certain taste for reading, but above all with a capacity to be surprised and to rebel in face of a monotonous or bourgeois existence, exchanging it for a fully lived life, if I'm permitted the redundancy. Without a doubt it is young people -- of all ages -- who have a better disposition to understand and carry out this project. The book makes the invitation to pay greater attention to the Pope. His gestures and words confirm to us Christians the everlasting timeliness of the Gospel. They convoke all of us to change so many things that must be changed, as a consequence of the love of God and of one's neighbor. A love that necessarily passes through the cross and that, also necessarily, leads to joy.

[Translation by ZENIT]