During the course of his flight to Brazil yesterday, the Holy Father held his traditional press conference for the journalists accompanying him.
"I love Latin America very much," said the Pope expressing his joy at having the opportunity to visit the "continent of hope." The aim of this journey, he said, "is specifically religious: to give life in Christ and to [help people become] disciples of Christ."
Answering a question about liberation theology, the Holy Father recalled that "with the changing political situation, the position of liberation theology is also radically different. It is clear that simplistic forms of millenarianism promising immediate and real conditions of a just life were mistaken. The question now is how the Church must be present in the struggle and the reforms necessary to guarantee conditions of justice. It is precisely on this point that theologians are divided."
Benedict XVI also spoke of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of San Salvador, murdered in 1980 as he was celebrating Mass. Describing him as "a great witness of the faith," the Pope expressed his conviction that the late archbishop "merits beatification, although his memory must be liberated from the ideological deformations of those who have sought to appropriate it for political reasons."
Going on to consider the proliferation of religious sects in Latin America, the Holy Father said "they are a sign that people thirst for God. The Church must respond to this need with a highly concrete plan and in the awareness that, apart from announcing the Christian message, it is important to help people achieve just living conditions."
Replying to a question concerning the Mexican parliament, which has just approved a law in favor of abortion, the Pope highlighted "the need for Christian politicians to remain coherent to their principles." The Church, he said, "announces the Gospel of life; life is a gift and not a threat."
For his part, Holy See Press office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. made it clear that "the Mexican bishops have not excommunicated those politicians, and neither has Benedict XVI." However, he added, "legislation in favor of abortion is not compatible with participation in the Eucharist." Upon being asked whether this meant that the politicians were effectively excommunicated, Fr. Lombardi said "no, they exclude themselves from communion."
In his replies to journalists, Benedict XVI had declared that "such excommunication is laid down in the Code, it is not arbitrary, it is simply written in the Code of Canon Law. The death of an innocent, of an unborn child, is inconceivable. It is not arbitrary, and the Church express appreciation for life and for the individuality of life from the first moment of conception."
John Allen has translated the complete text of the press conference into English, or you can access the Italian version here.