“Truth never ages,” whereas ideologies “have their days numbered.”
VATICAN CITY — As European leaders descended on Rome last week to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the European Union, the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation published an interview with Benedict XVI on the relationship between Christianity and the West.
The interview, conducted in 2012 by Fr. Germano Marani S.J., first appeared in the film “Bells of Europe” [Campane d’Europa]. Produced by the Vatican Television Center (with rites belonging to Rai Cinema), the documentary looked at the relationship between Christianity, European culture, and the future of the continent and beyond.
The film featured interviews with other important leaders in the Christian world, including Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; the Russian Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill; and the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as well as notable figures from the world of politics and culture.
In the little-seen interview, republished below, Benedict XVI shares several reasons why he has hope for Europe and the world. He reminds us that “man cannot forget God forever,” and whereas “truth never ages,” ideologies “have their days numbered.”
He also addresses the “restlessness” that is “reawakening” among young people today, as well as Europe’s present “identity crisis” which, he says, stems from the fact that “in Europe today we see two souls.”
Your Holiness, your Encyclicals present a compelling view of man: man inhabited by God’s charity, man whose reason is broadened by the experience of faith, man who possesses social responsibility thanks to the dynamism of charity received and given in truth. Your Holiness, it is from this anthropological standpoint — where the Gospel message exalts all the laudable aspects of humankind, purifying the grime that covers the authentic countenance of man created in the image and likeness of God — that you have repeatedly stated that this rediscovery of the human countenance, of Gospel values, of the deepest roots of Europe, is a cause of great hope for the European continent and [beyond]. Can you explain to us the reasons for your hope?
The first reason for my hope consists in the fact that the desire for God, the search for God, is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear. Certainly we can forget God for a time, lay Him aside and concern ourselves with other things, but God never disappears. St. Augustine’s words are true: we men are restless until we have found God. This restlessness also exists today, and is an expression of the hope that man may, ever and anew, even today, start to journey towards this God.
The second reason for my hope lies in the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, faith in Jesus Christ, is quite simply true; and the truth never ages. It too may be forgotten for a time, it may be laid aside and attention may turn to other things, but the truth as such does not disappear. Ideologies have their days numbered. They appear powerful and irresistible but, after a certain period, they wear out and lose their energy because they lack profound truth. They are particles of truth, but in the end they are consumed. The Gospel, on the other hand, is true and can therefore never wear out. In each period of history it reveals new dimensions, it emerges in all its novelty as it responds to the needs of the heart and mind of human beings, who can walk in this truth and so discover themselves. It is this reason, therefore, that I am convinced there will also be a new springtime for Christianity.
A third reason, an empirical reason, is evident in the fact that this sense of restlessness today exists among the young. Young people have seen much — the proposals of the various ideologies and of consumerism — and they have become aware of the emptiness and insufficiency of those things. Man was created for the infinite; the finite is too little. Thus, among the new generations we are seeing the reawakening of this restlessness, and they too begin their journey making new discoveries of the beauty of Christianity, non a cut-price or watered-down version, but Christianity in all its radicalism and depth. Thus I believe that anthropology, as such, is showing us that there will always be a new reawakening of Christianity. The facts confirm this in a single phrase: Deep foundation. That is Christianity; it is true and the truth always has a future. (Click to page 2 below.)