Benedict XVI, Interview During the Flight to the United States of America, 15 April 2008.



Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Fr Lombardi: Welcome, Your Holiness! In the name of all my colleagues present, I thank you for your gracious availability in giving us suggestions and ideas for reporting on this Journey. It is your second intercontinental Trip: your first as Pope to America, to the United States and to the United Nations. It is an important and eagerly-awaited Visit. To begin with, could you tell us something about how you feel, the hopes you have for this Journey and what is its fundamental goal from your viewpoint?

The Holy Father: My Journey has two goals in particular. The first is to visit the Church in America, in the United States. There is one special reason for it: 200 years ago Baltimore was raised to a Metropolitan See and at the same time four other new Dioceses came into being: New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Louisville. Thus, it is a great Jubilee for this core of the Church in the United States, a time of reflection on the past and above all of reflection on the future, on how to respond to the great challenges of our time, in the present and in view of the future. And naturally, interreligious and ecumenical meetings are part of this Visit, especially an additional Meeting in the Synagogue with our Jewish friends on the eve of their Passover Feast. This is, therefore, the religious and pastoral aspect of the Church in the United States at this moment in our history, and the Meeting with all the others in this common brotherhood that binds us in a common responsibility. At this time I would also like to thank President Bush who will be at the airport to meet me and set aside a lot of time for conversation, besides receiving me on my birthday. The second goal is the Visit to the United Nations. Here too there is a special reason: 60 years have passed since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the anthropological basis, the philosophy, on which the United Nations stands, the human and spiritual foundations on which it is built. Thus, it is truly a time for reflection, the time to resume awareness of this important stage in history. Various different cultural traditions converged in the Declaration of Human Rights, above all, an anthropology that recognizes man as a subject of rights preceding all institutions, with common values to be respected by all. This Visit, which is taking place precisely at the moment of a crisis in values, therefore seems to me to be important in order to reconfirm together that everything began at that moment and to recover it for our future.

Fr Lombardi: Let us now move on to the questions that you presented in the past few days and that some of you will present to the Holy Father. Let us begin with the question of John Allen, whom I do not think needs to be introduced since he is a very well-known commentator on Vatican affairs in the United States.

Holy Father, I am asking the question in English, if I may, and perhaps, if it were possible, if we could have a sentence or a word in English we would be very grateful. This is the question: the Church you will find in the United States is a large Church, a lively Church, but also a suffering Church, in a certain sense, especially because of the recent crisis caused by sexual abuse. The American People are expecting a word from you, a message from you on this crisis. What will be your Message for this suffering Church?

The Holy Father (in English): It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general, for me personally, that this could happen. If I read the history of these events, it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible for priests to fail in this way in the mission to give healing, to give God's love to these children. I am ashamed and we will do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future. I think we have to act on three levels: the first is at the level of justice and the political level. I will not speak at this moment about homosexuality: this is another thing. We will absolutely exclude paedophiles from the sacred ministry; it is absolutely incompatible, and whoever is really guilty of being a paedophile cannot be a priest. So at this first level we can do justice and help the victims, because they are deeply affected; these are the two sides of justice: one, that paedophiles cannot be priests and the other, to help in any possible way the victims. Then there is a pastoral level. The victims will need healing and help and assistance and reconciliation: this is a big pastoral engagement and I know that the Bishops and the priests and all Catholic people in the United States will do whatever possible to help, to assist, to heal. We have made a visitation of the seminaries and we will do all that is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep spiritual, human and intellectual formation for the students. Only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood and only persons with a deep personal life in Christ and who have a deep sacramental life. So, I know that the Bishops and directors of seminarians will do all possible to have a strong, strong discernment because it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and have done and will do in the future, all that is possible to heal these wounds.

Fr Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Our colleagues sent in many questions on the subject of immigration, on the presence of Spanish-speaking people in American society. Journalist Andrés Leonardo Beltramo Alvares, who works for the Mexican News Agency, asks about this.

Your Holiness, I am asking the question in Italian and then, if you wish, you can make your comment in Spanish — a greeting, only a greeting! There is enormous growth in the Hispanic presence in the Church of the United States in general: the Catholic community is becoming more and more bilingual and almost bicultural. At the same time, there is an increasing anti-immigration movement in society: the situation of immigrants is marked by forms of precariousness and discrimination. Is it your intention to speak of this problem and to ask America to give a warm welcome to immigrants, many of whom are Catholic?

The Holy Father: I cannot speak Spanish but mis saludos y mi bendición para todos los hispánicos. Of course, I will be speaking about this point. I have had various ad limina visits from Bishops of Central America and also from South America, and I have seen the breadth of this problem, especially the serious problem of the break-up of families. And this is really dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric of these Countries. However, it is necessary to distinguish between measures to be taken straight away and long-term solutions. The fundamental solution is that there should no longer be any need to emigrate because there are sufficient jobs in the homeland, a self-sufficient social fabric, so that there is no longer any need to emigrate. Therefore, we must all work to achieve this goal and for a social development that makes it possible to offer citizens work and a future in their homeland. And I would also like to speak to the President on this point, because it is above all the United States that must help these countries to develop. It is in everyone's interests, not only these countries but of the world and also of the United States. Then, short-term measures: it is very important to help families in particular. In the light of the conversations I have had with Bishops about the main problems, it appears that families should be protected rather than destroyed. What can be done should be done. Of course, it is also necessary to do everything possible to prevent precariousness and every kind of violence, and to help so that they may really have a dignified life wherever they may be. I also want to say that there are many problems, much suffering, but also such great hospitality! I know that the American Bishops' Conference in particular works closely with the Latin American Bishops' Conferences with a view to necessary aid. Besides all the painful things, let us not forget the great and true humanity, the many positive actions that also exist.

Fr Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now a question that refers to American society and, to be precise, to the place of religious values in American society. Let us give the floor to our colleague Andrea Tornielli, who is on the Vatican desk of an Italian newspaper.

Holy Father, in receiving the new Ambassador of the United States of America, you noted that the public "values the role of religious belief in ensuring a sound democratic order" in the United States. I wanted to ask you if you consider this a plausible model for a secularized Europe too, or whether you think there can also be the risk that religion and God's Name could be used as a vehicle for certain policies, even war.

The Holy Father: Of course, in Europe we cannot simply copy the United States: we have our own history. But we must all learn from one another. What I find fascinating in the United States is that they began with a positive concept of secularity, because this new people was composed of communities and individuals who had fled from the State Church and wanted to have a lay, a secular State that would give access and opportunities to all denominations, to all forms of religious practice. Thus, an intentionally secular new State was born; they were opposed to a State Church. But the State itself had to be secular precisely out of love for religion in its authenticity, which can only be lived freely. And thus, we find this situation of a State deliberately and decidedly secular but precisely through a religious will in order to give authenticity to religion. And we know that in studying America, Alexis de Toqueville noticed that secular institutions live with a de facto moral consensus that exists among the citizens. This seems to me to be a fundamental and positive model. It should be taken into account that in Europe in the meantime, over 200 years have passed with many developments. Today, there is also in the United States the attack of a new secularism, quite a different kind. Whereas, at first the problems concerned immigration, but later in the course of history the situation became complicated and therefore differentiated. But the foundation, the fundamental model also seems to me today to be worthy of being borne in mind in Europe.

Fr Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. And now, a last topic that concerns your Visit to the United Nations, and the question about this is asked by John Pavis, who is in charge of the [Rome branch of] the Catholic News Agency of the United States.

Holy Father, the Pope is often considered to be humanity's conscience and for this reason too, his Discourse to the United Nations is very much anticipated. I would like to ask: Do you think that a multilateral institution like the United Nations can safeguard the principles of the Catholic Church deemed "non-negotiable," that is, the principles founded on natural law?

The Holy Father: The fundamental objective of the United Nations is precisely this: that it safeguard the common values of humanity, on which is based the peaceful coexistence of nations, the observance of justice and the development of justice. I mentioned briefly that I think it very important that the United Nations be founded precisely on the idea of human rights, rights that express non-negotiable values, that precede all the institutions and constitute the foundations of all the institutions. And it is important that this should be the convergence between the cultures that have achieved consensus on the fact that these values are fundamental, that they are engraved in man's very being. It is important to renew this knowledge that the United Nations, with its peacekeeping role, can only work if it is based on common values that are subsequently expressed in "rights" that must be observed by all. To confirm this fundamental concept and to bring it as current as possible is an objective of my mission. Lastly, since at the outset Fr Lombardi also asked me a question about my feelings, I would like to say that I am going most joyfully to the United States! I have previously visited the U.S. several times, I know this great Country, I know the great vivacity of the Church despite all the problems, and I am happy to be able to meet this great People and this great Church at this historical moment for both the Church and the United Nations. Thank you to all!

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Benedict XVI, Interview During the Flight to the United States of America, 15 April 2008. Accessed 5 January 2020 at:


Extract from the


National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Among the countersigns to the Gospel of life found in America and elsewhere is one that causes deep shame: the sexual abuse of minors. Many of you have spoken to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior. As you strive to eliminate this evil wherever it occurs, you may be assured of the prayerful support of God’s people throughout the world. Rightly, you attach priority to showing compassion and care to the victims. It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged.

Responding to this situation has not been easy and, as the President of your Episcopal Conference has indicated, it was “sometimes very badly handled.” Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people. While it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of clergy and religious in America do outstanding work in bringing the liberating message of the Gospel to the people entrusted to their care, it is vitally important that the vulnerable always be shielded from those who would cause harm. In this regard, your efforts to heal and protect are bearing great fruit not only for those directly under your pastoral care, but for all of society.

If they are to achieve their full purpose, however, the policies and programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context. Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person. This brings us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike. All have a part to play in this task — not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well. Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society. It calls for a determined, collective response.

Priests, too, need your guidance and closeness during this difficult time. They have experienced shame over what has occurred, and there are those who feel they have lost some of the trust and esteem they once enjoyed. Not a few are experiencing a closeness to Christ in his Passion as they struggle to come to terms with the consequences of the crisis. The Bishop, as father, brother and friend of his priests, can help them to draw spiritual fruit from this union with Christ by making them aware of the Lord’s consoling presence in the midst of their suffering, and by encouraging them to walk with the Lord along the path of hope (cf. Spe Salvi, 39). As Pope John Paul II observed six years ago, “we must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community,” leading to “a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate and a holier Church” (Address to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002, 4). There are many signs that, during the intervening period, such purification has indeed been taking place. Christ’s abiding presence in the midst of our suffering is gradually transforming our darkness into light: all things are indeed being made new in Christ Jesus our hope.

At this stage a vital part of your task is to strengthen relationships with your clergy, especially in those cases where tension has arisen between priests and their bishops in the wake of the crisis. It is important that you continue to show them your concern, to support them, and to lead by example. In this way you will surely help them to encounter the living God, and point them towards the life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks. If you yourselves live in a manner closely configured to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, you will inspire your brother priests to rededicate themselves to the service of their flocks with Christ-like generosity. Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.

Benedict XVI, Address (extract) to Bishops of the United States of America, 16 April 2008. English accessed 6 January 2020 at:


Extract from the


Washington Nationals Stadium

Thursday, 17 April 2008

It is in the context of this hope born of God’s love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children — whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure — can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.

Saint Paul speaks, as we heard in the second reading, of a kind of prayer which arises from the depths of our hearts in sighs too deep for words, in “groanings” (Rom 8:26) inspired by the Spirit. This is a prayer which yearns, in the midst of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is a prayer of unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of Christ’s own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of his Cross. With this prayer, may the Church in America embrace ever more fully the way of conversion and fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. And may all Catholics experience the consolation of hope, and the Spirit’s gifts of joy and strength.

In today’s Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. Through the surpassing power of Christ’s grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.

“In hope we were saved!” (Rom 8:24). As the Church in the United States gives thanks for the blessings of the past two hundred years, I invite you, your families, and every parish and religious community, to trust in the power of grace to create a future of promise for God’s people in this country. I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will. Above all, I urge you to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society, striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.

Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen!

Benedict XVI, Homily (extract) at Washington Nationals Stadium, 17 April 2008. Accessed 6 January 2020 at:


Extract from the


St Patrick's Cathedral, New York

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Here, within the context of our need for the perspective given by faith, and for unity and cooperation in the work of building up the Church, I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents. I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and religious community, and a time for healing. And I also encourage you to cooperate with your Bishops who continue to work effectively to resolve this issue. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant the Church in America a renewed sense of unity and purpose, as all – Bishops, clergy, religious and laity – move forward in hope, in love for the truth and for one another.

Benedict XVI, Homily (extract) at Votive Mass for the Universal Church at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, 19 April 2008. Accessed 6 January 2020 at:


Today at 4:15 p.m. the Holy Father met in the chapel at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington D.C. with a small group of persons who were sexually abused by members of the clergy.

The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, accompanied the group. They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterwards listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope.

His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse.

From the Vatican, 17 April 2008

Holy See Press Office, Press Release on the Meeting of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, with a Group of Victims of Sexual Abuse by Members of the Clergy, 17 April 2008. Accessed 6 January 2020 at: