Big statement by Pope Benedict, who answered journalists questions on the plane as he traveled to Portugal, a now familiar habit of his on these journeys. They’re spontaneous encounters, Benedict and the press, and always yield interesting thoughts and sound bites. This one had a bunch of them…

First, on the secularization of Europe (extend that to other societies). He says ‘build bridges and create dialogue’, but takes it further, returning to his frequent call to join faith and reason as the common ground of human dignity. Build communication on that, he says.

Thus I would say that secularism is normal, but separation and contrast between secularism and the culture of faith is anomalous and must be overcome.

Next, the economic crisis, and here’s an interesting reflection:

“…ethics are not something external, but inherent to rationality and economic pragmatism. … Catholic faith, Christian faith, has often been too individualist, it left concrete and economic matters to the world and thought only of individual salvation”, he said.

Yet “the entire tradition of the Church’s social doctrine has sought … to widen the ethical and faith-related dimension, over and above the individual, towards responsibility for the world, towards a rationality ‘moulded’ by ethics. Moreover, events on the markets over the last two or three years have shown that the ethical dimension is inherent and must become part of economic activity, because man is one, and what counts is … a sound anthropology that embraces everything.

But there’s more. Like the ‘Third Secret of Fatima,’ the suffering of the pope, which has been taken to explain the shooting of John Paul II. Benedict says yes, it was that. But it’s more… It’s the suffering of the pope beyond that pope, the need for a ‘passion of the Church’. Yes, the pope has been under attack, from the media and high profile dissidents and atheists…..though he didn’t say that part. Here’s what he did say:

“…attacks against the Pope and the Church do not only come from outside; rather, the sufferings of the Church come from inside the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This was always common knowledge, but today we see it in truly terrifying form: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church. Thus the Church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice”.

He would go on, later, to talk about where justice ultimately comes from.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....