Comment: The Light of the World

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Spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

“The Light of the World” records the first ever one to one interview with a Pope by a journalist. It is an intimate and very personal interview during which Pope Benedict talks frankly and at times passionately and with great compassion on topics such as the child abuse scandal, his reflections on his experience of being the Pope, the dictatorship of relativism, inter-religious dialogue and the renewal of the Church and society. Overall it gives a fascinating insight into the humanity of the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Now in his eighties, Pope Benedict reflects in a profound but conversational way on the five years of his Papacy, on the Church and on society.
“On the child abuse scandal, Pope Benedict uses blunt language in describing the crisis: “It was really like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything”. The Pope also states that the Church will do everything it can to help those who have suffered abuse and also to do everything possible so it does not happen again.
“At the heart of the book, is the Pope’s challenge to modern society to relocate the human at the centre of its endeavours. Throughout the interview, Pope Benedict returns to what it is to be human and what that understanding entails. Embracing the progress achieved across the past three centuries, he also challenges the postmodern world to move beyond a reductionist view of the world, where scientific facts are regarded as truth to the exclusion of ancient truths offered by faith.
“The necessary dialogue between faith and reason for the benefit of all in society looked forward to the Pope’s keynote address in Westminster Hall on 17 September during his historic visit to the UK.
“Throughout the interview the Pope returns to themes he explored at greater length during his visit to the UK, ending with a call to open the door to the light of Christ. It is the love that we all seek that Pope Benedict argues persuasively is the key to Christianity and while this is not always an easy path, our task is not to be successful but to bear witness to the truth, the love and joy that comes from conversion to Christ.
“It is in this context that Pope Benedict’s comments about a rediscovered human morality and the need for a humanisation of sexuality should be read. In answering questions about the AIDs epidemic in Africa and the use of condoms, the Pope said that the fundamental response of the Church is and should be to guide, to support and to accompany those who have contracted HIV. Over 25% of all AIDs care worldwide is provided by Catholic organisations.
“The Pope then makes the point that the problem of HIV infection cannot be solved by the distribution of condoms. A lasting solution can only be achieved through a change in behaviour; through abstinence and fidelity.
“While the use of condoms do not provide a moral solution to the AIDS epidemic, he reflects that in certain exceptional circumstances the use of a condom to reduce the risk of infection could represent the first step in a move towards a more human and responsible way of living sexuality.
“What comes across so clearly throughout the book is the warmth of his humanity, his deep faith in God and his profound understanding of the serious issues facing society and the Church, and the vital role of religious belief in dialogue with human reason. He sees a world that so badly needs “the light of truth, the light of Christ, the light of God in whom there is no darkness.” He acknowledges with great humility the faults and failings of the Church and the need for the Church to be purified if she is to fulfil her mission to proclaim the Good News to a society and world which also needs redemption.”