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Assessing Benedict XVI's Trip

Interview With Father F. Lombardi, Vatican Spokesman

MUNICH, Germany, SEPT. 15, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's trip to his native Bavaria turned out to fulfill his hopes, says a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, reflected on the highlights of the papal trip that ended today.

Q: How did this trip turn out?

Father Lombardi: I think this trip turned out in the best possible way, and it has responded perfectly both to the Pope's hopes as well as to those of the local Church and the people of Bavaria.

The atmosphere of welcome was wonderful and the warmth grew with the passing of the days, as happens on all the Pope's trips. Benedict XVI was very pleased, at times even intensely moved. The fact that he delivered the homily of the last meeting in the Freising cathedral altogether spontaneously shows that also for him it was a joy that grew.

Q: Also on this trip Benedict XVI did not dedicate himself to saying "no." "Faith is not a heap of prohibitions, it is a positive option," he said.

Father Lombardi: Yes, indeed. It has been an extremely encouraging message, especially for the local Church, which lives at a time when society is in the process of secularization and, consequently, the proclamation of the faith is not easy.

Encouragement is what the Pope has given priests, deacons, all pastoral agents [and] believers, making its active and lively presence seen in today's society. This has been a very, very important point.

Several people of the local Church have told me these days that it will have great effectiveness for the future. In fact, the theme itself of the trip, "Those Who Believe Are Never Alone," sought to go precisely in this direction: to show the beauty and richness of communion of faith, communion with God above all, but also with the whole community of believers, and the possibility of dialogue, service, enrichment for the whole community which comes from lively faith.

Q: The Pope has again spoken of reason and of the reasonable character of faith against all fundamentalism and irrationalism, both religious as well as cultural. The faith, he said, proposes an authentic Enlightenment.

Father Lombardi: Yes, it seems that with time it is becoming one of the guiding themes of this pontificate, of Benedict XVI's teaching.

The harmonious relationship between faith and reason is like the foundation of the service that faith can give to human civilization at this time, but also in general. Faith and reason enrich one another mutually.

We have seen that in some passages of his addresses the Pope expressed that faith must be freed from its corruptions, to have a correct idea of God. In this connection, reason has an active part to play within the realm of faith, it helps very much.

At the same time, faith prevents reason from limiting itself in its interests, objectives [and] field of action, impoverishing itself and becoming incapable of guiding humanity in the great questions of always and the great ethical problem of today.

Q: What do you think of the ecumenical significance of this trip?

Father Lombardi: The trip had a particularly important ecumenical moment: Vespers in Regensburg's Cathedral. However, the whole trip has had an ecumenical significance, as it has concentrated much on faith in God.

In what God? In the God of Jesus Christ, the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who is love.

These are absolutely common foundations of the Christian faith. Benedict XVI's proclamation, therefore, has been to a very large extent a proclamation that can be totally shared by the Christian churches and confessions.

Q: Finally, what remains in the Pope's heart from this trip to Bavaria?

Father Lombardi: I think that for the Pope the great joy remains of having drawn strength and drive from his roots of faith; great encouragement for the local Church and, for the German Church and culture, a great contribution of reflection. A reflection that can be extended to the whole of European culture on the importance of correct dialogue between faith and reason for the good of modern society and, if one takes into account the world in general, on the possibility of dialogue with other cultures, as the Pope underlined, which experience the religious dimension as something profoundly important and can enter into dialogue with us in a much more fruitful way if we live a culture that respects the religious dimension, fully respecting the person and human culture.


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