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Interview With Benedict XVI (Part 2)

In Europe, "It's Important That We Don't Give Up"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 21, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the second part of the transcription of the interview that Benedict XVI gave, in German, to TV channels ARD and ZDF, television service Deutsche Welle, and Vatican Radio.

The interview took place Aug. 5 at the summer papal residence of Castel Gandolfo and was broadcast last Sunday.

Part 1 as published in Catholic Online.

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Q: Holy Father, Christianity has spread around the world starting from Europe. Now many people think that the future of the Church is to be found in other continents. Is that true? Or, in other words, what is the future of Christianity in Europe, where it looks like it's being reduced to the private affair of a minority?

Benedict XVI: I'd like to introduce a few subtleties. It's true, as we know, that Christianity began in the Near East. And for a long time, its main development continued there. Then it spread in Asia, much more than what we think today after the changes brought about by Islam. Precisely for this reason its axis moved noticeably toward the West and Europe. Europe -- we're proud and pleased to say so -- further developed Christianity in its broader intellectual and cultural dimensions.

But I think it's important to remind ourselves about the Eastern Christians because there's the present danger of them emigrating, these Christians who have always been an important minority living in a fruitful relationship with the surrounding reality. There's a great danger that these places where Christianity had its origins will be left without Christians. I think we need to help them a lot so that they can stay.

But getting back to your question: Europe definitely became the center of Christianity and its missionary movement. Today, other continents and other cultures play with equal importance in the concert of world history. In this way the number of voices in the Church grows, and this is a good thing.

It's good that different temperaments can express themselves -- the special gifts of Africa, Asia and America, Latin America in particular. Of course, they are all touched not only by the word of Christianity, but by the secular message of this world that carries to other continents the disruptive forces we have already experienced.

All the bishops from different parts of the world say: We still need Europe, even if Europe is only a part of a greater whole. We still carry the responsibility that comes from our experiences, from the science and technology that was developed here, from our liturgical experience, to our traditions, the ecumenical experiences we have accumulated: All this is very important for the other continents too.

So it's important that today we don't give up, feeling sorry for ourselves and saying: "Look at us, we are just a minority; let's at least try and preserve our small number!" We have to keep our dynamism alive, open relationships of exchange, so that new strength for us comes from there.

Today there are Indian and African priests in Europe, even in Canada, where many African priests work in a very interesting way. There's this reciprocal give-and-take. But if we receive more, in [the] future we also need to continue giving with courage and with growing dynamism.

Q: This is a subject that's already been touched partially, Holy Father. When it comes to important political or scientific decisions, modern society doesn't base itself on Christian values, and the Church, according to research, is considered as simply a warning voice or a controlling voice. Shouldn't the Church come out of this defensive position and assume a more positive attitude with regard to the building of the future?

Benedict XVI: I'd say that, in any case, we have to stress better what we want that is positive. And we need to do this, above all, in dialogue with cultures and religions because, as I think I've already said, the African continent, the African spirit and the Asian spirit too, are horrified by the coldness of our rationality. It's important for them to see that's not all we are.

On the other hand, it's important that our secular world comes to understand that the Christian faith is not an impediment but a bridge for dialogue with other worlds. It's not right to think that a purely rational culture has an easier approach to other religions just because it's tolerant.

To a large extent what's missing is a "religious centerpiece" which can act as point of departure and arrival for those who want to enter into a relationship. That's why we must, and we can, show that, precisely because of the new intercultural environment in which we live, pure rationality separated from God is insufficient.

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