Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From the Plane

After the plane-party made their way to the hotel, it didn't take long for word to start circulating about the backstory behind The Statement.

Though the question that aroused it was given in English, B16 apparently started replying in Italian when, so the story goes, a US reporter among the group asked for the Pope to reply in English... and he did... paving the way for a video moment:

For the whole context, the journo who posed the question -- the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen -- has provided a full transcript of the session, only the second press conference of the current pontificate.

Q: Can you say something to us about your sentiments and your hopes with which your approach this trip, and what your fundamental objectives are?

Benedict XVI: My trip has basically two objectives. The first is a visit to the church in America, in the United States, and naturally also the entire country. There’s a particular motive, which is that 200 years ago the Archdiocese of Baltimore was elevated as a metropolitan archdiocese, and at the same moment two or three other dioceses were created … Philadelphia, Boston, Louisville. It’s a great jubilee for the church in the United States. It’s a moment of reflection on the past, but also on the future, on how to respond to the great challenges of our time that will present themselves in the future.

Naturally, the inter-religious and ecumenical encounters are an important part of this trip, as is the encounter in the synagogue with our Jewish friends on the vigil of their Passover festival. That’s the religious and pastoral aspect … the church in the United States in this moment of our history, and the encounter with all the others in this common humanity which leads to a common sense of responsibility.

At this point, I want to thank President Bush who is coming to the airport and has devoted considerable time to our meeting, and who is also receiving me on the occasion of my birthday.

The second objective is the visit to the United Nations, and also here there’s a particular motive. This is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s an expression of the founding philosophy of the United Nations and the human and spiritual basis upon which it’s constructed. Thus it’s a moment of reflection and to refresh awareness of this important moment in history, that in this declaration of human rights diverse cultures came together. There’s an anthropology that recognizes the human being as a subject of rights prior to all institutions, with a value that must be respected by everyone. This trip, given a moment of a crisis of values, gives us the opportunity to build upon what was begun in this moment and to exploit it for the future.
Q: Holy Father, I’ll ask my question in English. I know you will speak principally in Italian, but we would be grateful for at least a few words in English. The Catholic church in the United States is large and dynamic, but also suffering, above all because of the recent sexual abuse crisis. The American people are waiting to hear what you have to say on this subject. What will your message be?

Benedict XVI: It is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general, and for me personally that this could happen. If I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing and to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future.

I think we have to act on three levels.

The first is the level of justice, the juridical level. We now have also norms to react in a just way. I would not speak in this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, [which] is another thing. We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry, this is absolutely incompatible. And who is really guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest. So the first level is, as we can do justice and help clearly the victims, because they are deeply touched. So [there are] two sides of justice, on the one hand that pedophiles cannot be priests; on the other hand, to help in all the possible ways to the victims.

The second level is the pastoral level, the level of healing and help of assistance and of reconciliation. This is a big pastoral engagement, and I know that the bishops and the priests and all the Catholic people in the United States will do all possible to help assist and to heal, and to help that in the future these things cannot happen.

The third point [is that] we have made a visitation in the seminaries to also do what is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep, spiritual, human and intellectual formation –with discernment so that only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood, only persons with a deep personal love for Christ and a deep sacramental love, to exclude that this can happen [again]. I know that the bishops and the rectors of seminarians will do all that is possible so that we have a strong discernment, because it’s more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and we have done, and we will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.....

Q: I’ll ask the question in Italian, but we would love to have just a greeting in Spanish. With the enormous growth in the Hispanic presence, the Catholic church in the United States is becoming steadily more bilingual and bicultural. Yet there’s also a growing “anti-immigrant” movement in America. Do you intend to invite the United States to welcome immigrants well, many of whom are Catholic?

Benedict XVI: Unfortunately I’m not ready to speak in Spanish, but I offer a greeting and blessing for all the Spanish-speakers! Certainly I’ll talk about this subject. I recent had the ad limina visit from the bishops of Central America, also South America. I saw the scope of this problem, above all the grave problem of the separation of families. This is truly dangerous for the social, human and moral fabric of these countries.

It seems to me that we have to distinguish between measures to be taken immediately, and longer-term solutions. The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate. We all have to work for this objective, that social development is sufficient so that citizens are able to contribute to their own future.
On this point, I want to speak with the President, because above all the United States must help countries develop themselves. Doing so is in the interests of everyone, not just this country but the whole world, including the United States.

In the short term, it’s very important above all to help the families. This is the primary objective, to ensure that families are protected, not destroyed. Whatever can be done, must be done. Naturally, we have to do whatever’s possible against economic insecurity, against all the forms of violence, so that they can have a worthy life.

I’d like also to say that although there are many problems, so much suffering, there’s also much hospitality [in America.] I know that the bishops’ conference in America collaborates a great deal with the Latin American bishops’ conference. Together they work to help priests, laity and so on. With so many painful things, it’s also important not to forget much good and many positive actions....

At the beginning, Fr. Lombardi asked about my sentiments. I’d like to say that I’m going with joy. I’ve been in the United States several times, I know this great country, and I also know the great life of the church despite all the problems. I’m happy to be able to meet in this historical moment, both through the church and my visit to the United Nations, this great country.
Providing an added "oomph" to the immigration part of the Pope's comments, B16's farewell on Sunday will come courtesy of 1,500 immigrants from the diocese of Brooklyn, who'll don native garb, pray and sing in 23 languages as they see the pontiff off at JFK Airport.

Beyond being one of global Catholicism's great melting pots, the 1.7 million-member diocese is also home to the first formal outreach to immigrants established by a local church. Brooklyn's Catholic Migration Office was founded in 1970, months after a motu proprio of Pope Paul VI urged improved pastoral initiatives to aid "all those who, like Christ exiled in Egypt with the family of Nazareth, are compelled to move in lands far from their home."

PHOTOS: Getty(1); Reuters(2,3)