February 17, 2000
volume 11, no. 34

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    Since there has been a delay in receiving the Wednesday Papal Audience address, we are bringing you something different. Rather than bringing you the Holy Father's words today, we're providing a special address to and about the Pope from one of the most loyal sons of the Church His eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the closing ceremonies of the Plenary Assembly in late January this year of this curial congregation. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency.

Words of homage from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to His Holiness John Paul II at close of Plenary Assembly for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

    Holy Father,

        At the end of our Plenary Assembly, which has gathered us here for four days of intense study, I want to express to you, in the name of all themembers of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the joy and profound gratitude we feel for this encounter, which permits us to share the results of our common research with Your Holiness.

        During these days, our attention has been especially concentrated on the activities of the past two years. We had the opportunity to examine the various doctrinal and moral questions that have affected the work of this dicastery. At the same time, this gave us a way to provide precision on other problems of a disciplinary nature, which are also responsibility of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

        Among the various arguments we touched on in our common reflection, the study of the theme of the salvific uniqueness and universality of Christ and the Church deserves special attention, in consideration of the diffusion of erroneous and confused ideas and opinions, not only in the arena of theological discussion, but also in certain ways of thinking and the language of church groups and associations. The consideration of this theme has a special relevance on the occasion of the Jubilee Year that we are living, fully centered on the contemplation and celebration of the event of the Incarnation of the Son of God, Only Mediator and Fullness of the Revelation of the Father, as Your Holiness reminded us in your Apostolic Letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente."

        This is a serious doctrinal problem, to which the Church must give a response. Already the International Theological Commission considered with the theme of the oneness and absoluteness of the mystery of Christ in the context of the theology of the religions, concluding the study with the publication of the document, "Christianity and the Religions." Our reflection took up these arguments again, with the principal scope of identifying the current theories contrary to the Catholic faith or seriously ambiguous with the greatest precision possible, not only to answer them in the light of Catholic doctrine contained in dogmas and Magisterial teachings, but also with the positive intention to contribute to a renewed and deepened knowledge of the mystery of Christ and to make love for the Lord grow.

        The reflection of our Plenary Assembly was then directed to a review of the norms reguarding the so-called "delicta graviora" [more serious offenses], a study that is explicitly entrusted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus" (cf. art. 52). In this part of the discussions, we examined the results of the Commision that had been created to identifiy those reserved sins and to prepare the proper procedure to follow. The concern of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over the past two years has not been limited to identifying the acts necessary to rectify the comportment of Church persons and institutions, but rather was directed actively towards the diffusion of the Word of God and the promotion of the faith.

        Thus, particular mention is made of the Symposium on "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church," which was held in September 1999, in the Vatican, with the participation of experts coming from around the world, among whom were some Protestants and an Orthodox. The Symposium was organized by the Congregation in the desire of having a better knowledge of the current state of Biblical studies, particularly concerning the question of the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture, the problem of the canon, the relation between the Old and New Testament, and in general, the criteria of Christian interpretation of the Bible.

        The acts of the Symposium are presently being printed so that they can become the object of future reflections, particularly by the Shepherds of the Church, to take on the more significative indications, following the directions of research mentioned by the participants, and to bring together the challenges of the Incarnation of the Word of God in our time.

        Finally, I would like to recall the collaboration that our dicastery offered in the preparation of the "Official Common Statement of the World Lutheran Federation and the Catholic Church" with its "Appendix," which was signed on October 31, 1999, along with the "Joint Declaration of the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation on the Doctrine of Justification."

        Holy Father, with sentiments of filial recognition we now await your illuminated word, which represents a comfort and guide in our service, and at the same time, we invoke your fatherly apostolic blessing.


February 17, 2000
volume 10, no. 34

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