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Cardinal Lehmann on His Sources of Strength

Interview With President of German Episcopate

MAINZ, Germany, JUNE 24, 2006 (Zenit) - Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz says that faith has given him confidence.

In this excerpt from an interview with us, the president of the German bishops' conference says he gets energy, in part, from prayer and from the celebration of the Eucharist.

Q: How do you understand your pastoral ministry?

Cardinal Lehmann: In this respect, I think as the Apostle Paul: "Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith," which harmonizes well with my episcopal motto, taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Stand firm in your faith."

Moreover, I find the awareness that I have of myself in the conciliar decree "Christus Dominus" on the pastoral office of bishops.

This is expressed exactly in the first phrase: "Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, came that he might save his people from their sins and that all men might be sanctified. Just as he himself was sent by the Father, so he also sent his apostles. Therefore, he sanctified them, conferring on them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and save men, 'to the building up of the body of Christ,' which is the Church." In this connection, my desire is to encourage confidence in faith.

Q: A more personal question: Could you tell us something about your decision to become a priest and, in general, your itinerary of faith? Who or what has supported you?

Cardinal Lehmann: My first contact with faith was through my family. There I was able to live and experience faith almost naturally.

Then there were teachers at school and during university, to whom I am very grateful, especially professor Karl Rahner, whose assistant I had the opportunity to be. An itinerary of faith would be unthinkable without all those travel companions, always willing to encourage and to infuse confidence.

Q: Do you have something like a spiritual homeland or spiritual background?

Cardinal Lehmann: I lived the preparations and first sessions of the Second Vatican Council as a student in Rome and I also had direct experience of the Common Synod of the Dioceses in the Federal German Republic, taking an active part and collaborating with its organization.

The period during which I was Karl Rahner's assistant formed me more than any other professor of theology. In this context, I find my theological roots, which later, clearly, in the course of the years, I have been able to develop further, but without these three pillars -- Council, Synod and Rahner in my life -- there would not have been the same results.

Q: From where do you draw your interior life? Do you have some special source of strength?

Cardinal Lehmann: Faith gives me confidence. I find sources of strength in prayer, in the celebration of the Eucharist, but also in going out to meet people and the concerns and needs of our time.

It is about interpreting the signs of the times from the standpoint of faith and, as mortals, tending toward heavenly things, without failing to keep one's feet on the earth.

Q: The World Synod of Bishops, held last October, focused on the topic of the Eucharist, as source and center of Christian life. What does the Eucharist mean to you?

Cardinal Lehmann: In the official title of the Synod of Bishops everything is expressed: It is the source and summit of life and of the mission of the Church. It is the secret of our faith.

In the redemption wrought by Christ, God's will of salvation is made visible to all human beings. It is updated in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is from here that the Church obtains her foundation.

Q: What does it mean to believe, and what is its repercussion?

Cardinal Lehmann: I spoke earlier of the confidence derived from faith. Without faith, life would really be unsatisfactory and deprived of all strength.

Even those who wish to abandon or distance themselves from God feel, nevertheless, nostalgia for an answer to the great question of meaning.

In the end, this becomes the criterion: In what way does my life have meaning? And it is here where faith tries to give answers. Because God loves man, he has called him into existence and is by his side throughout the ages. He who believes is never alone.

Q: Jesus has risen. In what do you perceive him and how do you communicate with him?

Cardinal Lehmann: Once again, it is from faith that I draw my confidence. The Risen One does not sit next to me and it has not been given to me to give him a pat on the back. Yet the promise is valid: "I am with you always."

We live the strength of this presence every day if we are open, listen and are sensitive to our fellow men, to the concerns and needs of our time, and to our life itself.

This can occur when one meets people but also in prayer and in times of silence and recollection. God speaks to us there and is close to us. The sacred Scriptures and the Eucharist are, as the account of Emmaus reveals, the best points of access to Jesus Christ.

Q: What is Pope Benedict XVI saying to us and what hope do you have in him?

Cardinal Lehmann: I have known Joseph Ratzinger for more than 40 years and I have met him on several occasions. The Holy Father is at the service of the whole Church. And that is why it is a mistake to want to limit him -- in a national or totally personal sense -- to a "German Pope."

The Pope belongs to the universal Church. In his first year of pontificate -- for many, amazing -- he has proposed personal accents in great continuity with his predecessor. Many also had a distorted image of Ratzinger. He must be given time because this Pope is capable of surprising us.


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Lehmann, Germany, Episcopate, Mainz, Faith

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