Sandro Magister on Benedict

Sandro Magister, a noted Italian journalist and Vaticanista, has a regular online journal, available at www.chiesa.espressonline.it. You can also subscribe to an email newsletter. It's really a blog, but apparently that doesn't translate as easily into Italian...

As everyone is running around doing retrospectives on B16's first year in the papacy, Magister has a good take on the phenomenon of B's ability, and willingness, to answer questions simply, spontaneously, and honestly...what Jim Weiss of B.C. theology, in Sunday's Globe, referred to as his calling as a teacher: "[Benedict's] calling as pope shows greater awareness [than JPII] of his earliest calling as a teacher. Teaching relies on patience and slow progress, rather than instant clarity and compliance. The surprises of his first year may signal a pope of some paradox after all."

Magister laments the lack of public access to B's more intimate, more off-the-cuff, Q & A sessions, and, for our benefit, provides some translations in English on some current topics. (Aside: note that B16 praises, in passing, the work of the Jesuit theologian Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini!). Some highlights:

"If it is important to read Sacred Scripture with the help of teachers and in the company of our friends, our companions on the way, it is particularly important to read it in the great company of the pilgrim People of God, the Church. Sacred Scripture has two subjects. In the first place, there is the divine subject: it is God who is speaking. But God wanted to involve man in his Word. While the Muslims are convinced that the Qur’an was inspired by God word for word, we believe that one of the characteristics of Sacred Scripture – as the theologians put it – is “synergy,” God’s collaboration with man. He involves his People in his word, and thus the second subject – as I have said, God is the first subject – is human. The authors are individual, but there is the continuity of a permanent subject: the People of God that walks with the Word of God and is in conversation with God. In listening to God, one learns to listen to the Word of God, and also to interpret it. And thus the Word of God becomes present, because individual persons die, but the vital subject, the People of God, is always alive, and remains the same down through the ages: it is always the same living subject in which the Word lives."

"We all know that reaching a goal in sports or business requires discipline and sacrifice, but then all of this is crowned by success, by reaching the desired aim. And so it is with life itself: becoming men according to the plan of Jesus requires sacrifice, but this is not something negative; on the contrary, it helps us to live as men with new hearts, to live a truly human and happy life. Because there is a consumerist culture that wants to block us from living according to the Creator’s plan, we must have the courage to create first islands and oases, and then great landscapes of Catholic culture in which life follows the design of the Creator." [I've heard the same thing, almost verbatim, from some of my Catholic Worker friends...just a caveat for those of us who have a tendency to read a right-wing bias into anything said by a church authority...]

"To come to the definitive question, I would say: either God exists or he doesn’t. There are only two options. Either one recognizes the priority of reason, of the creative Reason that stands at the beginning of everything and is the origin of everything – the priority of reason is also the priority of freedom – or one upholds the priority of the irrational, according to which everything in our world and in our lives is only an accident, marginal, an irrational product, and even reason would be a product of irrationality. In the end, one cannot “prove” either of these views, but Christianity’s great choice is the choice of reason and the priority of reason. This seems like an excellent choice to me, demonstrating how a great Intelligence, to which we can entrust ourselves, stands behind everything."

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