Papal Comments Aboard Flight to Sydney


July 14, 2008

"I Am Going With Sentiments of Great Joy to Australia"
SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 14, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the Vatican transcription of Benedict XVI's comments to journalists aboard the papal plane en route to Sydney.

One hour after taking off from Rome on Saturday, the Pope answered five questions.

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[Translation from Italian]

Q: Holiness, this is your second World Youth Day, the first -- let's say -- that is entirely yours. With what sentiments are you ready to live it and what is the principal message you wish to give young people? Then, do you think the World Youth Day has a profound influence on the life of the Church that hosts it? And finally, do you think that the formula of these mass gatherings of young people is still up-to-date?

Benedict XVI: I am going with sentiments of great joy to Australia. I have beautiful memories of the World Youth Day of Cologne. It was not simply a mass event. Above all, it was a great celebration of the faith, a human encounter of communion in Christ. We saw how the faith opens borders and there was truly a capacity of union between the different cultures, and it created joy.

And I hope the same thing will now happen in Australia. So I am happy to see many young people, and to see them united in their desire for God and for a truly human world. The principal message is indicated by the words that make up the slogan of this World Youth Day: we speak of the Holy Spirit that makes us witness of Christ.

Therefore, I would like to focus my message precisely on this reality of the Holy Spirit, who appears in different dimensions: He is the Spirit operating in creation. The dimension of creation is very present, because the Spirit is creator. It seems to me to be a very important topic at our present moment.

However, the Spirit is also the inspirer of Scripture: On our journey, in the light of Scripture, we can go together with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, hence he guides us in communion with Christ and finally shows himself, according to St. Paul, in charisms, namely, in a great number of unexpected gifts that change the different times and give new strength to the Church. And, therefore, these dimensions invite us to see the traces of the Spirit and to make the Spirit visible also to others.

A World Youth Day is not simply an event of this moment. It is prepared with a long journey with the cross and the icon of the Madonna, which among other things, is prepared from the organizational, but also from the spiritual point of view. Hence, these days are only the culminating moment of a long preceding journey. All is the fruit of a journey, of a being together on the journey to Christ.

World Youth Day then creates a history, that is, friendships are created, new inspirations are created: And so the World Youth Day continues. This seems to me to be very important: Not to see only these three-four days, but to see the whole journey that precedes them and the one that follows.

In this connection, it seems to me that World Youth Day -- at least for the near future -- is a valid formula that prepares us to understand that from different points of view and from different parts of the earth we go forward toward Christ and toward communion. Thus we appreciate a new journeying together. In this connection, I hope it will also be a formula for the future.

[English Original]

Q: The Australian newspaper, Holy Father, I'd like to ask my question in English: Australia is a very secular land, with low religious practice and much religious indifference. I'd like to ask whether you are optimistic about the future of the Church in Australia, or are worried and alarmed that the Australian Church may follow the European path to decline? What message would you offer Australia to overcome its religious indifference?

Benedict XVI: I will do my best in English, but I beg your pardon for my insufficiencies in English.

I think Australia in its present historical configuration is a part of the "Western world," economically and politically, and so it is clear that Australia shares also the successes and the problems of the Western world.

The Western world has had in the last 50 years great successes -- economic successes, technical successes; yet religion -- Christian faith -- is in a certain sense in crisis. This is clear because there is the impression that we do not need God, we can do all on our own, that we do not need God to be happy, we do not need God to create a better world, that God is not necessary, we can do all by ourselves.

On the other hand we see that religion is always present in the world and will always be present because God is present in the heart of the human being and can never disappear. We see how religion is really a force in this world and in countries. I would not simply speak about a decline of religion in Europe: Certainly there is a crisis in Europe, not so much in America but nevertheless there too, and in Australia.

But on the other hand, there's always a presence of the faith in new forms, and in new ways; in the minority, perhaps, but always present for all the society to see. And now in this historical moment, we begin to see that we do need God. We can do so many things, but we cannot create our climate.

We thought we could do it, but we cannot do it. We need the gift of the Earth, the gift of water, we need the Creator; the Creator re-appears in his creation. And so we also come to understand that we cannot be really happy, cannot be really promoting justice for all the world, without a criterion at work in our own ideas, without a God who is just, and gives us the light, and gives us life. So, I think there will be in a certain sense in this "Western world" a crisis of our faith, but we will always also have a revival of the faith, because Christian faith is simply true, and the truth will always be present in the human world, and God will always be truth. In this sense, I am in the end optimistic.

Q: Holy Father, I'm sorry but I don't speak Italian well. So I'll be asking my question in English. There has been a call from Australian victims of sexual abuse by clergy for Your Holiness to address the issue and to offer an apology to the victims during your visit to Australia.

Cardinal Pell himself has said that it would be appropriate for the Pope to address the issue, and you, yourself made a similar gesture on your recent trip to the United States. Will Your Holiness be speaking on the issue of sexual abuse and will you be offering an apology?

Benedict XVI: Yes, the problem is essentially the same as in the United States. I felt obliged to speak about it in the United States because it is essential for the Church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and also to see guilt in these problems, so I will essentially say the same things as I said in America.

As I said we have three dimensions to clarify: The first I mention is our moral teaching. It must be clear, it was always clear from the first centuries that priesthood, to be a priest, is incompatible with this behavior, because the priest is in the service of Our Lord, and Our Lord is holiness in person, and always teaching us -- the Church has always insisted on this.

We have to reflect on what was insufficient in our education, in our teaching in recent decades: There was, in the '50s, '60s and '70s, the idea of proportionalism in ethics: It held that no thing is bad in itself, but only in proportion to others; with proportionalism it was possible to think for some subjects -- one could also be pedophilia -- that in some proportion they could be a good thing.

Now, it must be stated clearly, this was never Catholic doctrine. There are things which are always bad, and pedophilia is always bad. In our education, in the seminaries, in our permanent formation of the priests, we have to help priests to really be close to Christ, to learn from Christ, and so to be helpers, and not adversaries of our fellow human beings, of our Christians.

So, we will do everything possible to clarify what is the teaching of the Church and help in the education and in the preparation of priests, in permanent formation, and we will do all possible to heal and to reconcile the victims. I think this is the essential content of what the word "apologize" says. I think it is better, more important to give the content of the formula, and I think the content has to say what was insufficient in our behavior, what we must do in this moment, how we can prevent and how we all can heal and reconcile.

[Translation from Italian]

Q: One of the arguments of the last Group of Eight meeting in Japan was the struggle against climate change. Australia is a country that is very sensitive to this topic because of the acute drought and dramatic climatic events in this region of the world. Do you think that the decisions taken in this field are up to the measure of the challenge? Will you address this argument during your trip?

Benedict XVI: As I already pointed out in my first answer, this problem will certainly be very present in this World Youth Day, because we speak of the Holy Spirit and, consequently, we speak of creation and of our responsibility in encounters with creation.

I do not presume to enter into the technical questions that politicians and specialists must resolve, but to give the essential impetus to see the responsibilities, to be capable of responding to this great challenge: To rediscover in creation the face of the creator, to rediscover our responsibility before the creator for his creation, which he has entrusted to us, to form the ethical capacity for a lifestyle that must be assumed if we wish to address the problems of this situation and if we really want to arrive at positive solutions. Hence, to awaken consciences and see the great context of this problem, in which later are placed the detailed answers that it is not for us to give, but for politics and specialists.

Q: While you are in Australia, the bishops of the Anglican Communion, which is very widespread also in Australia, are meeting in Lambeth Palace. One of the main arguments will be possible ways to consolidate communion between the provinces and to find a way to ensure that one or more provinces do not take initiatives that others see as contrary to the Gospel and tradition.

Is there the risk of a fragmentation of the Anglican Communion and the possibility that some will ask to be received into the Catholic Church. What is your hope for the Lambeth Conference and for the archbishop of Canterbury?

Benedict XVI: My essential contribution can only be prayer and with my prayer I will be very close to the Anglican bishops meeting in Lambeth Conference.

We cannot and must not intervene immediately in their discussions, we respect their own responsibility and it is our hope that schisms and new breaks can be avoided, and that a responsible solution will be found given our times, but also in fidelity to the Gospel. These two things must go together.

Christianity is always contemporary and lives in this world, in a certain time, but it renders present in this time the message of Jesus Christ and, hence, offers a true contribution for this time only be being faithful -- in a mature and creative way -- but faithful to the message of Christ.

We hope, and I personally pray, that together they will find the way of the Gospel for our day. This is my wish for the archbishop of Canterbury: That the Anglican Communion in communion with the Gospel of Christ and the Word of the Lord will find the answers to the present challenges.


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