Papal Press Conference On Route to Cyprus


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(04 Jun 10 - RV) Below we publish a Vatican Radio translation of the press conference held by Pope Benedict XVI on route to Cyprus:

Your Holiness thank you for making time for us as in every trip and for sharing a few words with us to help direct the focus of our attention during coming days that promise to be intense. Naturally and, unfortunately, the first question is almost obligatory, given yesterday's painful circumstances, the murder of Bishop Padovese, which caused you deep pain. So on behalf of all my colleagues we wanted to ask you for a few words about how you took this news and with what spirit you now start your visit to Cyprus, given this atmosphere?.

Naturally I am deeply saddened by the death of Mgr. Padovese, who also contributed much to the preparation of the Synod. He collaborated and would have been a valuable asset to the Synod . We recommend his soul to the goodness of the Lord. This shadow, however, has nothing to do with the issues and the realities of this trip, this is why we must not attribute the fact to Turkey or the Turkish people. We have very little information about the facts surrounding the episode, what is certain is that is was not a religious or political assassination, it was a personal issue. We are still waiting for a full explanation of events, but we do not want this tragic situation to become mixed up with dialogue with Islam or with all of the problems of our journey. It is a separate issue, one that saddens us deeply, but one that should not in any way obscure dialogue in its widest sense which is a theme and intention of this trip.

Cyprus is a divided land. Your Holiness, you will not be travelling in the northern part occupied by the Turks. Do you have a message for the inhabitants of that region? How do you think that your visit will help resolve the distance between the Greek and Turkish parts, to move towards a solution of peaceful coexistence and respect for the freedom of religion and spiritual and cultural patrimony of the different communities?
This journey to Cyprus is in many ways a continuation of my journey to the Holy Land last year and also journey to Malta this year. The journey to the Holy Land had three parts, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. In the case of all three, my journey was a pastoral and religious one and not a political or tourist trip. The basic theme was the peace of Christ, which must be universal peace in the world. The subject was, on the one hand the proclamation of our faith, witness of faith, the pilgrimage to these places that bear witness to Christ and our entire sacred history. On the other hand the responsibility of all of us (believers) in a God creator of heaven and earth, a God in whose image we were created. Malta and Cyprus also bring to the fore the theme of St. Paul, the great believer and evangelizer, and also St. Barnabas, who is a Cypriot and who opened the door to the mission of St. Paul. Therefore in bearing witness to our faith to the one and only God, dialogue and peace are the themes. Peace in a very profound sense, is not an political addition to our religious activity, but peace is a word in the heart of faith, it is at the very centre of Pauline teaching, we need only think of the Letter to the Ephesians, which says that Christ has brought peace, destroyed the walls of enmity. This remains a permanent mandate, so I do not come with a political message, but with a religious message, which should prepare more souls to find an opening for peace. These are not things that happen overnight, but it is very important not only to make the necessary political steps, but above all prepare souls to prepare for necessary political steps, making them open to the inner peace that in the end comes from faith in God and the belief that we are all children of God and brothers and sisters to each other.

Your Holiness you are travelling to the Middle East a few days after the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla added further tension to an already difficult peace process. How do you think the Holy See, the Vatican, can contribute to supporting this difficult time for the Middle East?
I would say that we contribute primarily in a religious way, we can be of help with strategic and political advice, but the essential work of the Vatican has always been religious, that touches the heart. With all these episodes that we are experiencing the danger is that we will run out of patience and no longer want to search for peace. And here, in this Year for Priests, a good story of the Curè d'Ars comes to mind. To the people who would say, its no use me going to confession when the day after tomorrow I will commit the same sins, the parish priest of Ars would say: it does not matter, the Lord willingly forgets that the day after tomorrow you will commit the same sins, he forgives you completely now and will be patiently forbearing in helping you come to him. So we must almost imitate God, his patience. After all the episodes of violence we must not lose patience, we must not lose courage, we must not to lose the forbearance to start over. Creating these provisions of the heart to start over again in the certainty that we can go on, we can arrive at peace, that violence is not the solution, but the patience of the good. Creating this provision, I think , is the main task of the Vatican and its organs and the Pope.

Your Holiness, there has been a lot of progress in dialogue with the Orthodox in terms of cultural, spiritual and life issue. At the recent concert hosted for you by the Patriarch of Moscow, the profound harmony between Orthodox and Catholics was felt particularly in relation to the challenges to Christianity in Europe from secularization. But what is your assessment from a more strictly theological point of view?
Let me start by underscoring these great strides that we have made in our common witness to Christian values in the secular world. This is not just a coalition of political morality, but it is really something profoundly rooted in faith, because the fundamental values for which we are in this secular world is not moralism, but the fundamental physiognomy of Christian faith. When we are able to witness these values, to engage in dialogue, discussion of this world, witnessing to live these values, we have already made a fundamental witness of a very deep unity of faith. Of course there are many theological problems, but here there are very strong elements of unity. I would like to mention three elements we unite us, which see us getting closer, drawing closer. First, Scripture; the Bible is not a book that fell from heaven, it is a book that grew within the people of God, that lives in this common subject of God's people and only here is always present and real, that can not be isolated, but is the nexus of tradition and Church. This awareness is essential and belongs to the foundation of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and gives us a common path. As a second element, let us say, tradition that interprets us, it opens the door of Scriptures to us, it also has an institutional, sacred, sacramental form, desired by the Lord, that is the episcopate, it has a personal form, that is the college of bishops which together is a witness and presence of this tradition. And the third element, the so-called Regula fidei, that is the profession of faith drawn up by the ancient councils is the sum of what is in Scripture and opens the door to interpretation Then other elements of the liturgy, our common love for Our Lady which unites us deeply, and it also becomes increasingly clear that they are the foundations of Christian life. We must be aware, and delve deeper into the details, but it seems that although different cultures, different situations have created misunderstandings and difficulties, we are growing in awareness of the essential and unity of the essential. I would add that of course it is not the theological discussion alone that creates unity. It is an important dimension, but the whole Christian life, mutual knowledge, learning despite the experiences of the past, this brotherhood are processes that also require great patience. But I think we are learning patience, so love, and with all dimensions of theological dialogue, where we are moving forward leaving it to the Lord to decide when to gift us perfect unity.

One purpose of this trip is the delivery of the working document of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. What are your main hopes and expectations for this Synod, for the Christian communities and also for the believers of other faiths in the region?
The first important point is that we have a large number of bishops, church leaders here. Because we have so many churches, different rites, scattered throughout diverse countries in different situations, which often appear isolated and who often have little information about one another. Seeing each other, meeting together, and so becoming aware of the one another's problems, differences and common situations, together forming an opinion on the situation, the path to take. The concrete communion of dialogue and life is a first point. Ultimately, it is also the visibility of these churches, so the world can see that there is a great and ancient Christianity in the Middle East, which is often not in front of our eyes and that this visibility helps us to be close to them to deepen our mutual understanding, learning from each other, to help and assist as well and for Christians in the Middle East not to lose hope to stay even if the situations can be difficult. So the third point, that in the dialogue between them they are also open to dialogue with other Christian churches, Orthodox, Armenians, etc. and there may be a growing awareness of the common Christian responsibility and also the common capacity for dialogue with their Muslim brothers, who are brothers despite their diversity . It also seems to me the encouragement to continue despite all the problems with a common vision in dialogue with them, all attempts at a more fruitful and fraternal coexistence are very important. This then is an internal meeting of Catholic Christianity in the Middle East in various rites, but also an encounter that is open, of renewed capabilities in dialogue, courage and hope for the future.