Skip to content

Distance From God Rooted in Heart (Part 1)

Interview With Cardinal Paul Poupard

BUDAPEST, Hungary, JAN. 19, 2007 (Zenit) - The causes of secularization can be found in the depth of the human heart, says the president of the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Paul Poupard affirmed this in an interview with us, while attending an international congress in Budapest from Dec. 14-16, on the theme "Europe in a World of Transformation."

(Part 2 of this interview will appear on Saturday)

Q: The fall of the great civil religions of the 20th century and the great progress of technology have demolished many of the values on which the West's spiritual solidity was built. Do you think that the secularization now present throughout Europe will end by weakening the fabric of the society?

Cardinal Poupard: When you speak of the fall of the great religions of the 20th century, I suppose you are referring to the concept of the totalitarian regime. First of all, I would like to make a small observation. The great risk exists of using a specific terminology inadequately and of confusing essential concepts, for example, by equating ideologies and religions.

By religion is understood a relationship between God and man. It is a real and existential, personal and inter-subjective, conscious and free, dynamic, necessary and perfecting relationship of the human being.

Ideologies, instead, especially those of the 20th century, are the negation of this relationship with God and, as we have seen, do not perfect man, but tend to oppress him in a total manner, so much so that they are called, in fact, totalitarian.

I do not think that the values of the West's spiritual solidity have been demolished by the fall of the totalitarian systems or by the progress of technology. Rather, I would say that the changes produced objectively favor a flourishing of values. In many countries, bans on worship and freedom of expressions have been abolished; at the same time new possibilities have opened of personal and communal growth.

However, we must not forget that, after World War II, many European countries went through, for more than 50 years, a Marxist-Leninist indoctrination that marked their history profoundly, creating a crisis of values whose consequences are very visible. I speak of those processes that modified even the attitudes of human behavior, so much as to give origin to the category of "homo sovieticus."

The latter was not a Communist but a man of the masses, annihilated in his individual dimension, passive and mistrustful, fearful and often an informer, conditioned by the group to which he had to belong, as he could no longer be alone, though he was, in other things stripped of every interior impulse and profoundly humiliated. It is difficult to think that, after a long period of depression, one can easily regain and interiorize a new vision of one's life.

I'll give an example closer to the Hungarian people. Among several publications, in memory of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, tragically crushed by the Soviet regime, a book was published in Italy entitled: "1956 ... So That It Will Remain a Sign." It contains the photographs of Zsolt Bayer, a courageous man, who between October and November of 1956, went about the streets of Budapest taking photographs so that a sign would remain.

During long decades, more than 100 rolls of film were hidden, out of fear, in an attic, almost condemned to die just as the photographer did. The first pages of this book mention briefly that after the fall of the Soviet empire, the photographer's widow decided finally to hand the negatives over for publication, with only one condition, however: "that her name and that of her husband should not be mentioned, in case 'they were to return' ..."

This example not only reveals a person's momentary state of mind but the reality of life of many peoples marked by fear, the suffering experienced and a psychological impediment developed over more than 50 years of oppression and persecution. And this is one of the conditions that favors the spread of secularization and the fall of Europe's spiritual solidity.

Of course we mustn't forget that the material wealth owed to technological progress can disorient and even "blind" man's sensitivity, but scientific and technological development and "the death" of regimes do not constitute in themselves a threat to the solidity of society. Paraphrasing Cardinal Newman's thought, I would say that the causes of man's estrangement from God and, consequently, of secularization must be sought in the depth of the human heart, and not in humanity's achievements.

Q: Continuing with the topic of secularization, many commentators tend to see in the relationship between Western civilization and Islam a clash between a secularized civilization and a world still permeated by the sacred. Would you give credit to this reconstruction?

Cardinal Poupard: This tendency of which you speak, that is, the conception of Western civilization and Islam in an antagonistic relationship, reveals at once a simplistic and distorted vision. I have always been convinced that such comments are often a simple fruit of prejudices and of a profound cultural incomprehension, which still endures and spreads very rapidly.

On one hand, there is a tendency to accentuate the aspects of Western civilization that are associated with secularization, and on the other, Islam is seen by limiting its perception to extremist groups and some forms of fundamentalism. Both tendencies are erroneous and damage both Christians -- because when I think of Western civilization I think of its Christian roots and soul -- as well as Muslims.

It is important to be able to look at the present-day reality, without neglecting the truth of events. It is true that there are signs of secularization that cannot be ignored or hidden and that we consider important for a profound theoretical and pastoral reflection, object of research for several years of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

However, we cannot forget that there are many signs of the re-flowering of the faith and of personal and communal spiritual commitment, especially among young people, desirous of discovering the reality of values, Christ as model of life and source of inspiration.

The large-scale meetings of the World Youth Days, the Taizé meetings, young people's adherence to Movements such as the Focolarini, Sant'Egidio Community, and many others, are the testimonies that refute the fatalist visions of those who are present "prophets of ill omen," incapable of looking at the present and future with a positive eye charged with hope.

On the other hand, it cannot be affirmed categorically that all the characteristics of the Islamic world are expressions of the sacred. There are Muslim states that tend to distance themselves from this dimension, declaring themselves secular states. And then there are states with the Koranic law in which the sacred dimension is not always a personal need of all the citizens, but rather a legislative implementation of the state, which imposes certain customs and usages, whose omission is to be persecuted and punished including by death.

Having said this, I return to the question on the clash between civilizations. As I said earlier, this vision of the mutual relationship is often an unjust projection that does not correspond to the facts but that creates tensions on both sides.

To illustrate this conviction I lean on my own recently lived experience. As you know, I had the pleasure and privilege to accompany the Holy Father on his journey to Turkey. Those who followed the news published by the media, before the papal pilgrimage, might have had the idea of a journey accompanied by sentiments of fear, preoccupation and suspicions on both sides.

The reality of the events denied the alarmist voices. This journey was full of true cordiality, with a friendly reception coupled with a climate of dialogue and mutual openness to which were added very positive comments transmitted by the Turkish media.

So this event, which some presented with the view of a clash between civilizations even before it occurred, has been, in fact, a prophetic sign of mutual acceptance, so much so that the Holy Father did not hesitate to hope that Turkey might become a bridge of meeting and dialogue between East and West.

I am happy not only because the pessimistic opinion did not succeed in dominating the climate of this journey, but especially because Divine Providence overcomes and corrects the fatalistic predictions of those who today wish to exercise political or media divination.

Q: The world of science has also been presented too often as antithetical to spiritual values. In your opinion, what is the state of the dialogue between Christianity and scientific progress? In what areas can science find support in Christianity's values?

Cardinal Poupard: Also in this field there are many myths and prejudices. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council and after some famous documents of the Church, such as Pope John Paul II's encyclical "Fides et Ratio," we have no doubts that the scientific world is not antithetical to the reality of spiritual values. On the contrary, these two realities are mutually complementary.

Properly interpreted, scientific progress helps to improve the comprehension and interiorization of spiritual values, just as spiritual values have the intrinsic force of sensitizing those who promote scientific research. It is not possible to enumerate all the examples that show that spiritual values, or religious intuitions, have influenced scientific progress.

I'll give you just a small example that shows how a religious intuition has contributed to scientific progress. The problem of the origins of the world, the research of astrophysics and the respective interpretative models, with the predominant big-bang theory, are a result of the intuition which has its roots in biblical faith in the creative act.

The Greeks did not question themselves on the creation of the world, convinced as they were of the eternity of matter. Research, initially belonging to the speculative disciplines, but later also to the natural sciences, has inevitably a stamp of religious intuitions, which does not mean however that there was no tension of some sort between faith and science in the course of the centuries.

Fortunately, today we witness a greater dialogue between Christianity and the world of science, which is ever more profound and compromising, and that demonstrates how much more we can learn from one another by promoting initiatives of dialogue. For almost six years, the Pontifical Council for Culture, along with some Pontifical Universities, has initiated the Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest, a scientific project that, granting scholarships, organizing international conferences and publishing specialized texts, promotes dialogue between the natural sciences and philosophical-theological reflection.

However, lets not forget that there are other important initiatives and structures. Suffice it to remember, in this connection, the contribution offered by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which brings together prestigious scientists from all over the world, of different cultures and religions -- many of them recipients of the Nobel prize -- who hold an academic debate on scientific questions, but referred to the values and often correlated with questions relating to the faith.

In this connection, Christianity and its values, along with profound religious intuitions, can become an important source of inspiration for many scientific disciplines, as long as the scientists themselves do not adopt a position of contempt and rejection of the treasure of the Christian faith.

(Saturday: on renewing society)

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

God, Paupard, Secularization, Culture

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.