Evil will not have the last word in history despite difficulty and suffering, injustice and death itself. On the flight over the Mediterranean to Portugal, during his usual meeting with journalists, the Pope provided the key clue to interpret this new International Journey, bound above all to Fatima, the Marian Shrine that has become one of the most evocative place-symbols of contemporary Catholicism.
The key is optimism. It is an interpretative key that he has always possessed, despite the unremitting prejudice that for decades has clung to Joseph Ratzinger's image in the media.
Benedict XVI views history with Christian eyes. With a positive and serene gaze that does not ignore the dramas and tragedies of history, the abysses of evil opened by the 20th century, the limitations and the original sin of man, the sin of Christians themselves that demonstrates the constant need for the Church's renewal ( Ecclesia semper reformanda ).
His optimism is therefore realistic, for he knows that evil is always ready to attack but he also knows that the forces of good are present and that the Lord is stronger than evil; as the Message of Fatima shows. And Cardinal Ratzinger himself, charged by John Paul II, made an interpretation of it deeply rooted in the Christian tradition.
The same optimistic gaze leads the Pope to interpret the crisis that now seems to hang over Europe as a very clear example of the need to reopen the pragmatism of the economy to the logic of ethics, in keeping with the theme of the entire Encyclical Caritas in Veritate which has inspired interest and consensus far beyond Catholic circles.
And the last confirmation of this important sharing came precisely from the Portuguese President's words. Benedict XVI answered them by recalling that his Visit to the Country was taking place in the centenary of the proclamation of the Republic and of the distinction between Church and State. This gives Catholics the opportunity for “a new space of freedom”.
And the Pope's view of secularism – an ancient phenomenon now radicalized – has proven to be marked by optimism. Yet, as Benedict XVI significantly chose to stress, it is at the same time a challenge and a possibility. Although the logic of conflict has often prevailed there have nonetheless been people who sought to build bridges. According to the Pontiff, bridges must be built today that make understanding and consensus possible between contemporary European rationalism, that tends to exclude the transcendent, and reason which, as such, is on the contrary open to the transcendent.
Only in this way can the Western, pragmatic and materialistic culture enter into dialogue with other cultures. Through Benedict XVI's optimistic gaze, in fact, the presence of secularism is in itself normal, whereas opposition to God and his exclusion from the human perspective are abnormal and negative.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 20, 2019
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