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Benedict XVI's Greatest Strength

Interview With Bishop of San Marino

ROME, MAY 8, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's greatest strength is his kindness, says the bishop of San Marino-Montefeltro.

In this interview with us, the Bishop Luigi Negri, 64, assessed the first year of the Holy Father's pontificate.

Q: What are the essential lines of this pontificate?

Bishop Negri: Above all his kindness. We are learning to love the Christian mystery; to love it as a substantial experience of life. I would say his strength lies in his kindness, and this strength he has used to propose the Christian event again as decisive.

Moreover, and this has surprised me very much, his teachings are totally inscribed in those of Pope John Paul II's magisterium.

It is, on one hand, as if Benedict XVI is helping the Church to love the mystery of Christ and, on the other, to understand more profoundly the contents of this mystery that Pope John Paul II had already given.

Q: Do you think that this is also the secret of the attraction he exercises on young people?

Bishop Negri: The secret of young people's attraction to him has something to do also with what is in young people -- incredible, if one thinks of all that is generally written about young people in the sociological area. There is something in young people that has made this encounter possible and has given it a special vibration.

Deep down, Benedict XVI is a great educator, and a youth, at a certain point in his life, needs a teacher who will teach him how to live and how to apply that knowledge in concrete circumstances.

Q: One of the first statements Benedict XVI made was the invitation to overcome relativism, as the fundamental enemy of life and faith.

Bishop Negri: The Pope speaks to us of a double level which he has pointed out with extreme clarity: relativism as expression of weakness and, therefore, of the crisis of reason.

And now we are before one of the great themes of "Fides et Ratio": the crisis of reason that followed the modern hypertrophy of reason, which prefers the equating of uncertainties to certainties. To rescue tolerance, a strange, individualist coexistence is imposed by people who do not want interferences in their own private lives.

However, the Pope has also clarified that relativism conceals a desire for totalitarianism. For this pseudo-relativism, in which all positions are equal, there are some positions that are more worthy than others, and they are the positions that hold power, above all the power of the media.

So that in the end, one must ask: Who decides what is really relative and what, instead, less relative? Who guards this relativist system? The media, which essentially always serves the strongest voice, in some manner wishes to impose itself.

Q: From this point of view, the Holy Father has also indicated a program against relativism, when he has spoken about "non-negotiable values."

Bishop Negri: Undoubtedly. When a person affirms religious freedom as capacity of presence in social life he is opening the doors to the mission, as Pope John Paul II would say. This is the lived social doctrine, which is the safeguard of all the capacities of action in society.

Q: Benedict XVI has often said that at present an alliance is necessary between faith and reason. In your opinion, what is at present the response of the "men of reason"?

Bishop Negri: The response of some "men of reason" to this proposal of Benedict XVI, can be summarized, in the end, in this expression: It is better to believe than not to believe; it is better to live believing than not believing, as Pope Paul VI said.

The theory that God does exist is more positive than the fact that God does not exist. It is about the future of civilization, as the president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, says.


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Pope, Benedict, Kindness, Montefeltro, Negri

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