Papal Address to World of Culture a "Surprise"
Secretary of State Notes Positive Reaction From Muslims
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's discourse in France to the world of culture was both surprising and well-received, particularly to its Muslim listeners, says the Pope's secretary of state.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke with L'Osservatore Romano about the Friday evening address at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.
"[I]t was a superlative, high-flying lecture" in which "the Pope invited us to put ourselves before the word with a listening disposition, but I would also say with an attitude of veneration and with the intention of letting ourselves be transformed by this word, to be able to act according to it," Cardinal Bertone said. "So, word and work, God's work and man's work."
"Perhaps there was a bit of surprise," he continued, "because perhaps everyone was expecting the Pope to speak about faith, culture and reason, or politics perhaps."
The Holy Father "went well beyond that," Cardinal Bertone said. "As I was watching the audience, I had the impression of a clear separation between those who listened almost ecstatically and others who listened with the expression typical of people who are caught off-guard and find themselves confused."
The audience in Paris included a delegation of French Muslims -- there are some 5 million Muslims in France, between 5% and 10% of its population.
There was perhaps heightened interest in the Muslim reaction to the Pontiff's speech since exactly two years earlier, another address to the intelligentsia -- at the University of Regensburg in Germany -- brought a reaction from Muslims (sometimes violent) the effects of which (both positive and negative) continue to be notable today.
Cardinal Bertone said the Muslim listeners received Friday's address with interest.
"The Pope," the secretary of state said, "spoke about the word, about sacred Scripture, about the book of Christians that is certainly not the book of Muslims. I believe, however, that the representatives of the Muslim community listened with much interest."
I noted, for example, that they openly shared the Pope's invitation to seek God. In this, they do not think differently from us, indeed, it could be a point of contact."
Then, I can say that, when at the end of the meeting the Pope met and conversed with each of them whom he greeted, I recognized expressions of agreement."
"They were very happy and kind with the Pope," the cardinal affirmed. "So, I think that they were satisfied."