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Rafael Hernández Urigüen, Professor of Ethics, University of Navarra, Spain

Intellectual rigour

Mon, 29 Nov 2010 13:10:03 +0000 Published in Basque Newspaper

After following in real time through television the last papal trip to Spain, I have reread his homilies and speeches with the intellectual pleasure that gives any university professor the height of a personage listened to worldwide and recognized in the forums of contemporary thought. Since then, by reviewing articles in various media I have been able to contrast many of the critical affirmations against Benedict XVI with data that -without prejudging intentions- disprove them.

In some analyses, the number of pilgrims attending the two visits has been considered to be low issue . However, the interest of its pastoral visit is confirmed by the more than 500,000 people who came to Santiago and Barcelona, with a majority of young people, and the high audience figures on television. visit 34.8% of Spaniards, some 16.4 million viewers over the age of four, watched at least one minute of the special programming prepared by the television channels on the occasion of the Pope's visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona (source: Kantar average).

Those who have objected that in his Journey Benedict XVI "lashed out against." (a recurring verb in numerous headlines that seemed cloned by 'copy paste'), overlooked the peaceful, humble, wise and approachable tone of voice when delivering homilies and speeches.

Pope Ratzinger did not travel to impose, but offered a reasoned proposal of the Christian message of great relevance, which I will summarize in seven points:

- A vision of God as Love, friend of the human person and guarantor of his freedom and the rights of men and women.

- His courageous and liberating commitment to the truth, which together with love also guarantees respect for the person.

- A recognition of beauty as a revelation of God and a grateful tribute to the artists who created the cathedral of Santiago, the place of the Obradoiro and eminently to the unique figure of Gaudí.

- Beyond any aesthetic-intimist reductionism, his proposal encourages Catholics in Spain to continue the recognized contribution to effective charity so present in the serious economic crisis and emphasizes the inexcusable dimension of service for Christians, not as a mere option, but as an attitude inherent to faith.

- It also seems to me necessary and current its proposal of family (according to the natural law) and of the rights of the woman that allow to this one the effective conciliation and its integral development .

- His closeness to those who suffer was touching when he visited and supported the educational center for disabled children ('Nen Déu') in Barcelona.

- His manifest recognition of the development and progress of the Spanish society, and the grateful words to all the autonomous and local state authorities in the partnership for the good progress of this trip, gratitude to the authorities that he reiterated in the general audience of Wednesday already in the Vatican a few days later. Why have not been highlighted from his first speech the paragraphs that express the recognition of the current Spanish society: "(.) that which in the twentieth century has given rise to new institutions, groups and communities of Christian life and apostolic action and, in recent decades, walks in harmony and unity, in freedom and peace, looking to the future with hope and responsibility. Moved by its rich patrimony of human and spiritual values, it also seeks to overcome difficulties and to offer its solidarity to the international community".

How can it be understood, then, that so many media have focused only on some of the words that Benedict XVI pronounced on the press conference during the flight? Why were those phrases that only constitute an analogy with respect to the treatment of the Christian religion, so many times sapphic and frequently reductivist, left in a fixed image? Have not European secular intellectuals coincided in this same diagnosis of anticlerical virulence?

The words of the improvised press conference on the plane were not addressed to a government or to the leaders of political parties, but to the cultural environment and status ; rather, the Pope was launching an appeal for dialogue, if one reads these sentences carefully: "this dispute, indeed, this confrontation between faith and modernity, both very lively, is taking place again today in Spain: therefore, for the future of faith and meeting - not the disagreement! but meeting- between faith and secularity, has a central focus also in the Spanish culture".

For this reason, I do not find objective, or at least rigorous, most of the criticisms I have read, which go as far as assuring that Catholics are a minority (92.5% minority according to the Statistical Office of the Vatican State administrative office , or 72.7% according to the CIS?); they qualify the Catholic Church by defining the faithful as: "the most privileged minority of all the sectarian groups in our society"; they affirm that State aid amounts to 6.6,000 million Euros (250 million Euros are contributed by Catholics to the Church through State revenues) and omit the 35,000 million Euros that the Catholic community saves the Spanish State through its educational, welfare and social initiatives.