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Interview With Vatican Secretary of State

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2007 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's trip to Brazil received wide attention from the press, which oftentimes highlighted controversy. But the Vatican secretary of state says the media failed to cover more positive elements.

In this interview with the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire on Sunday, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone fielded questions precisely on the points from the trip that the media deemed controversial.

The secretary of state also commented on U.S. President George Bush's upcoming visit to the Vatican and the forthcoming papal documents on China and the Latin Mass.

Q: [You have] already made it known that [you were] displeased with the way some members of the media treated the [Brazil trip]. And above all that there was talk of a low turnout on the trip.

Cardinal Bertone: They also told me that when John Paul II went to Brazil in 1991. There was no lack of people who counted the number of faithful to be less than the number that welcomed him in 1980 when, for the first time, a Pope visited that marvelous country. So, there is nothing new under the sun.

Q: The trip started with a press conference that provoked some polemics, above all after the publication of a transcript that did not reflect, word for word, what the Pope said.

Cardinal Bertone: There is nothing scandalous in the fact that the Pontiff's press conference was transcribed in a slightly different version from the original. Even the texts of the Wednesday audiences are sometimes published after an accurate revision.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, too, in its definitive edition, the "editio typica" of 1997, differs in many points from the first edition published in 1992. Those who read the recent document on limbo of the International Theological Commission can see that the "editio typica" of an encyclical -- in this instance, Pope John Paul II's "Evangelium Vitae" -- presents a different and more precise formulation on a certain point than the version that was originally published.

Q: What can you say about the excommunication of legislators who have approved abortion?

Cardinal Bertone: It seems clear to me that the Pope recalled that it is the responsibility of individual bishops to decide whether and when to excommunicate, that it is a penalty foreseen in the Code of Canon Law, and in this case it is a matter of "ferendae sententiae" [a non-automatic excommunication].

Q: And in regard to the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero? Why does the published text not mention the fact that the Pope said he has no doubts that Archbishop Romero merits beatification?

Cardinal Bertone: It is evident that the Pope wants to be very respectful of the work of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the prefect of which was also present on the Pope's flight.

Q: After this experience, do you think it is likely that there will be other press conferences with the Pope?

Cardinal Bertone: That is for the Pope to decide. But everyone knows that Cardinal Ratzinger never had any fear of the press and he always kindly offered answers to journalists who stopped him on the street.

Q: The Pope also met with President Lula. In general, how is the relationship between the Church and Brazil?

Cardinal Bertone: The relationship between the Church and the great state of Brazil are substantially positive. Right now, there is a sort of general and basic agreement that is being worked out to give direction to the Church and state, the Church and the political community, which the Council defined as "a healthy cooperation" for the good of each person -- and also to resolve problems that might still exist.

Q: You told Vatican Radio that you hoped that the agreements would be signed within the year. But some statements attributed to the Brazilian ambassador to the Holy See have been interpreted as less optimistic ...

Cardinal Bertone: I spoke with the papal nuncio to Brazil, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, and I am optimistic. Let us hope that it is a well-founded optimism.

Q: The Pope also received the elderly retired archbishop of Săo Paulo, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, in audience. The theologian Jon Sobrino, in criticizing his notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote that his writings have been judged positively by Cardinal Arns. Was this spoken about during the audience as well?

Cardinal Bertone: It was a necessary audience, even if brief. I am not aware that Sobrino's case was discussed.

Q: The Pope's address to the Brazilian bishops and some points of the homily for the canonization of Frei Antônio de Sant'Ana Galvăo received much attention from the press, which judged them quite harshly.

Cardinal Bertone: The Pope does not wish to impose useless burdens on anyone, neither on the bishops nor on the faithful. He cannot, however, forget Jesus' demanding words found in the Gospel.

It seems to be almost inescapable that the press should have focused on these aspects of the pontifical addresses and neglected other more positive ones.

Q: In his addresses, the Pope spoke clearly in favor of the defense of life and the family. And at the same time he recalled that the "preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who made himself poor for us, to enrich us with his poverty"...

Cardinal Bertone: And this provoked one of the 19 ovations that marked the inaugural address of the conference of [the Latin American bishops'].

At one time in catechism classes, it was taught that there are four sins that cry to God for vengeance: murder; the impure sin against nature; oppression of the poor; taking from the wages of workers. As we know, they are sins that, unfortunately, are quite present today.

In fact, today in Latin America -- but not only there -- there are attempts to legalize abortion or forms of union that cannot be called a family; the poor are still crushed by iniquitous economic systems; and workers are still exploited, and sometimes savagely. The Church cannot fail to make its voice heard against these particularly odious sins. All four.

Q: In his opening address at Aparecida, the Pope spoke forcefully against Marxism and against capitalism. For the Church, is there an equally negative judgment on these two systems?

Cardinal Bertone: The Church does not look at the name of the systems but on the effects they have on concrete persons. And the Church has had the experience, and continues to have the experience, that both the Marxist and the capitalist system are not adequate for the well-being of the whole population.

Latin America has experienced, and continues to experience, both. The effects are there for all to see. Where there is only a semblance of social equality there is no freedom. Where some claim to be working only for greater social equality, freedom is restricted. And where, instead, there seems to be so much freedom, social inequality reaches an intolerable level. The Pope could not fail to highlight these points.

Q: The question of indigenous peoples was raised in the wake of the trip. The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, publicly declared that Benedict XVI must apologize for having failed to denounce the "holocaust" that the European conquerors visited upon the natives of Latin America. On May 24, the Pope also recalled the shadow that falls across that period of history...

Cardinal Bertone: As the cardinal of Caracas wisely said, it is probable that the president of Venezuela did not read the Pope's address well. On the other hand, we know that when politicians are overcome with oratorical enthusiasm, certain judgments can slip which do not effectively reflect their thinking. It is a fact that, as far as I know, on the diplomatic front no formal actions followed after the verbal declarations.

Besides what the Pope said the other Wednesday, I would like to point out how in the days when these polemics were initiated, the Holy See made its voice heard at the U.N. headquarters to declare its disappointment over the indefinite postponement of the adoption of an expected declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Holy See, in fact, is and wants to be near to native Latin Americans and to their concrete problems, but it does not wish to be associated with those ideological movements that chatter about solidarity with the indigenous, producing propaganda and sometimes rather extravagant theories, but which, when put to the test, are not of real help to the sacrosanct cause of the indigenous peoples.

Q: Your Eminence, the Pope will meet with U.S. President George Bush on June 9. Will they also speak of Latin America?

Cardinal Bertone: Certainly, but not only of this. They will also speak about the Middle East and the great ethical and social questions that regard the peoples of the world. The United States is a great country and the current president has particularly distinguished himself in regard to some positive initiatives in defense of life from conception.

There remain, however, some problems, already made manifest by that great prophet who was the Servant of God John Paul II, for example, the Iraq war and the dramatic situation of Iraqi Christians, which is always getting worse.

Q: Your Eminence, please allow some extra questions. Is the Pope's letter to the Chinese Catholics ready?

Cardinal Bertone: The text of the letter has been definitively approved by the Holy Father and now the translations into different languages are being made and the technical aspects of its publication are being worked on.

Q: And the also expected "motu proprio" that would liberalize the use of the so-called Pius V missal, at what point is it?

Cardinal Bertone: I believe that we will not have to wait much longer for its publication. The Pope is personally interested in seeing this happen. He will explain it in an accompanying letter, hoping for a serene reception.

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