VATICAN CITY – In the first two years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has focused on strengthening Christian values in a world disoriented by indifference, relativism and increasing secularism, said a top Vatican official.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, made the comments in Milan, Italy, March 20 in a speech to Ethics and Finance, an Italian association of business people.
The cardinal said Pope Benedict’s overall goal is to reclaim the authentic Christian identity as understood by the faithful and practiced in the world.
In the pope’s view, he said, a fundamental problem for faith is relativism, which holds that there is no undeniable truth and that no one can claim to have the right answer.
In today’s context of widespread secularism, Pope Benedict recognizes that faith needs to be explained in a way that appeals to human intelligence, said Cardinal Bertone. This recognition has brought the pope into dialogue with experts in the fields of science, philosophy and theology, he said.
Renewing Catholic identity also means trying to change the indifference of wealthy nations toward Third World nations suffering from poverty, Cardinal Bertone said.
For example, in mid-March Pope Benedict sent a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking her to remember that the African continent needs help from wealthy nations in order to pull itself out of poverty.
Cardinal Bertone said the pope also has begun to direct more attention to the sanctity of human life by opposing war and violence, genetic-modification research and euthanasia, and by promoting the Christian model of the family.
Two key words have reappeared frequently in the pope’s speeches – joy and friendship – both of which refer to God, said Cardinal Bertone. The pope has reminded his audiences frequently that God is with them, accompanying them, teaching and guiding them through life, he said.