At the close of his meeting with prelates from the Conference of Swiss Bishops and heads of certain dicasteries of the Roman Curia, which took place on the afternoon of November 9, Benedict XVI pronounced an address, the text of which was made public today.
"We must nor allow our faith to be drained by too much discussion on a multiplicity of less-important details," said the Pope. "It is fundamental to highlight the greatness of our faith. ... Above all, it is important to cultivate a personal relationship with God, with the God Who showed Himself to us in Christ."
"God," he continued, "is 'Spiritus creator,' He is 'Logos,' He is reason. Because of this our faith is something that involves reason. It can be transmitted through reason and need not hide itself in the face of reason, not even the reason of our own times. ... Reason, indeed, has a heart, and so was able to renounce its own immensity and become flesh. In this and only in this, I believe, lies the ultimate and true greatness of our concept of God. We know that God is not a philosophical hypothesis, He is not something that perhaps exists, rather we know Him and He knows us. And we can know Him ever better if we maintain a dialogue with Him.
"Hence," the Holy Father added, "it is a fundamental task of pastoral care to teach others to pray and to learn to do so ourselves." In this context, he referred to the importance of "increasing the number of prayer schools, ... where personal prayer can be learned it all its dimensions."
"This intimacy with God and, hence, the experience of the presence of God is what brings us ... to experience the greatness of Christianity. It helps us to overcome all pettiness, and must be experienced and realized day by day - suffering and loving, in joy and in sadness."
Another theme to which the Holy Father turned his attention during his address to the prelates was that of ethics. "I often hear it said that people today feel nostalgia for God, spirituality and religion, and that they begin to see the Church as a possible interlocutor from which something may be received in this regard. ... However, what people find very difficult are the ethics the Church proclaims. I have long reflected upon this matter, and I see ever more clearly how, in our time, it is as if ethics have divided into two parts. Modern society is not simply ethic-less but has, so to say, 'discovered' and claimed another aspect of ethics which, in the Church's announcement over recent decades ... has not been sufficiently emphasized. This includes the great themes of peace, non-violence, justice for all, care for the poor and respect for creation.
"All this," he added, "has grown into an ethical system which has great power as a political force and, for many people, represents a substitute or surrogate for religion. In place of religion, which is seen as a metaphysical entity concerning the hereafter - perhaps even as something individualistic - these great moral themes appear to be the essential questions that confer dignity upon man."
"The other aspect of ethics, which politics not infrequently takes up in a highly controversial manner, concerns life. Part of this is the commitment to life from conception to natural death; in other words, defending life against abortion and euthanasia, against its manipulation, and against man's self-legitimization to dispose of life as he chooses. Often, people seek to justify such intervention with the apparently exalted intention of its being useful to future generations."
"The ethics of marriage and the family are part of the same context. Marriage is, so to say, becoming ever more marginalized. We know the example of certain countries where there have been legislative modifications according to which marriage is no longer defined as a bond between man and woman, but as a bond between persons. This clearly destroys the basic idea (of marriage), and society, from its very roots, becomes something completely different."
Benedict XVI went on: "The belief that sexuality, eros and marriage, as the union between a man and a woman, go together ... is becoming ever weaker. All kinds of union appear absolutely normal," and "this is presented as a kind of morality of non-discrimination and a form of freedom that is mankind's due. Thus the indissolubility of marriage has become an almost utopian idea." Moreover, although "the problem of the disturbing drop in birth rates has multiple explanations," a decisive factor is that "people have little faith in the future," and that "the family as a durable community" is considered an unattainable goal.
"In these areas, then, our announcement comes up against a counter-belief of society, with a sort of anti-morality based on its concept of freedom as the faculty to decide autonomously without predefined guidance, as non-discrimination, and hence as the approval of all possibilities."
"But other beliefs have not disappeared. They exist, and I believe we must make every effort to bring these two parts of ethics back together, and make it clear that they are inseparably linked. ... I believe we are facing a great task: on the one hand, ensuring that Christianity does not appear as mere moralism but as a gift in which we are given a love that supports us. ... On the other hand, in this context of donated love, we must advance towards giving concrete form (to our ideas), on the foundation of the Ten Commandments which, with Christ and the Church, we must read in our own time in a new and progressive light."