Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pope says Church not a string of "nos"
By Philip Pullella, Sun Aug 13, 2:25 PM ET

Pope Benedict said in an interview aired on Sunday that Catholicism should not be seen as a "collection of prohibitions" because of bans on gay marriage, abortion and contraception but as a Church with positive values.

In the long and rare interview with German television and Vatican Radio, he also offered some personal insights, saying he was not lonely in his job but did not feel strong enough to plan many long overseas trips like his predecessor John Paul.

He also said he was happy that the world was now noticing other aspects of his personality to correct the stern image many people had of him while, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was the Church's chief doctrinal enforcer before his 2005 election.

The interview, which will be posted on the Vatican Web site, was recorded last week at his summer retreat south of Rome and broadcast ahead of a trip to his native Germany next month. Benedict said while he would not be traveling as much as John Paul, he yearned to visit the Holy Land, but only "in a time of peace."

"Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions," the 79-year-old Pope said. "It's a positive option ... We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer ..."

Benedict, responding to a question about the Church's positions against abortion, contraception and homosexual marriage, said: "So, firstly it's important to stress what we want. Secondly, we can also see why we don't want something. I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it's not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this," he said.

Asked if the Church should not come out of some of its defensive positions, the Pope acknowledged it had to learn better how to stress the positive. "We need to do this, above all, in dialogue with cultures and religions," he said, adding that some Africans and Asians were "horrified by the coldness of our (Western) rationality."

Benedict also said the Church was reflecting much about the role of women but repeated that they could not become priests because Christ chose only men as his apostles. He suggested, however, that canon (Church) law, which currently restricts high-level decision-making roles to ordained males, might someday be changed to give women more power in the Church short of the priesthood.

"We will have to try and listen to God so as not to stand in their (women's) way," he said.
He said he would call more meetings of cardinals from around the world to consult and hear their opinion on Church issues. Asked about AIDS, the Pope said he believed public opinion had treated the Church unfairly because of its position against condoms to stop the spread of the disease, mainly in Africa.

"In many areas (in Africa), following the destruction of war, the Church is the only structure that remains intact. This is a fact. We offer treatment, treatment to AIDS victims too, and we offer education, helping to establish good relationships with others," he said. "So I think we should correct that image that sees the Church as spreading severe 'nos'."

The Pope freely discussed personal aspects of his job. "To tell the truth, I'm not that lonely," he said when asked if he sometimes felt separated from the world because of the rigors of his job, which he said "really is tiring."

On planning future trips, he said: "I have to say, I never felt strong enough to plan many long trips." Apart from Germany in September, he is scheduled to visit Turkey in November and Brazil next year.

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