Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Scent of a Spokesman

In case you didn't already know, I love Joaquin Navarro-Valls... A lay spokesperson who is actually able to collaborate is a gift, and when he departs the service of the Holy See in the coming months as the communications operation gets shaken up and Teutonically streamlined, we media-types will be the poorer for it.

"After long wooing," Sandro Magister writes, Navarro-Valls granted an "emotionally intimate" interview that is all the buzz in Rome. It almost reads like poetry, even in the English translation.

Q: But there is now a new pope who is fully occupying the stage. How have you experienced this substitution?

A: "It has been very easy. There is a twofold continuity between the two pontiffs, on both the personal and intellectual levels. John Paul II was the one who called Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the beginning of his pontificate, and they carried out a continual exchange of ideas. If you only knew the delight of witnessing a conversation between those two! On the one side the philosopher-pope, on the other the cardinal-theologian, and between them an uninterrupted flow."

Q: But from the outside one can see a few differences.

A: "There are certainly differences of personality and character. But do you really believe that a millennia-old institution like the Church can be radically changed by the activity of a pope? There are adjustments and interactions with the historical context, but this always takes place within the dynamic of man and institution. At bottom, a pope is a known quantity, because he always deals with the same deep issues: what man is, what woman is, what human love is. These are anthropological as well as religious concepts."

Q: But it is precisely in regard to these topics that there is the risk of igniting controversy. There are already those who are hoping to see a renewed division between Church and state.

A: "Do you want my opinion? There should be separation, but not mutual ignorance. Church and state are two distinct realities that come together in the citizen and in the believer. From this point of view, the secular state is a great victory for humanity, a sphere of liberty in which all, believers and nonbelievers, should be able to express themselves freely."
Magister's story starts by Navarro's reference to a poet's line that "No one chooses his own love." It's especially in these days of the calendar when I remember how true that is. But read the interview; it's a classic.



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