News Conference Remarks by His
Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
at the 125th Supreme
Convention of the Knights of Columbus
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
In 2004 there was a great
debate in the United States about those politicians who support abortion and
whether they should be denied Communion. In the 2008 election we may also
see Catholics running for office, including those who support abortion. Is
this a debate beyond the United States and is this something where the Vatican
may wish to issue guidelines to guide the bishops?
I don’t think that it is
necessary to repeat new norms because the norms are well explained in the
doctrine of the Church, and those norms which deal with the proper stance of
individuals who want to receive Communion.
I don’t understand how a person
in public office or one engaged in political activity can be obliged to renounce
his Catholic identity because the party, be it in the U.S. or in other
countries, imposes an ethical choice on the basis of the party’s program.
This, according to me, does not
respect freedom of conscience. It even seems to me to be an oppression of
conscience. Where is the freedom of conscience that is so proclaimed and
defended in America?
I am speaking here about the
question of abortion, about homosexual marriage, about embryonic research, all
the points that were discussed so eloquently yesterday by the Supreme Knight,
What are your impressions
of the American Church in light of this visit?
First of all, I would like to say
that this visit has shown me that the Church in the United States is really
alive; I would like to express two particular impressions:
• I met good bishops and good
cardinals (of course, I am defending my own category!).
• I have to speak about the
vitality and the lively spirit of the people here, especially the Knights of
Columbus, present not only in the United States but in other countries as well.
I recognize in them a strong identification with the Catholic Church.
Speaking about the religious
life, I have just visited the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. I met some
sisters who have recently celebrated their seventy-fifth jubilees and I met many
more incredibly young sisters who are also very beautiful and very intelligent.
Two weeks ago, eleven of them professed their First Vows and, at the same time,
another eleven made their Solemn Profession. They present a truly beautiful face
of the Church and of the Church in the United States.
with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and a possible visit of Pope Benedict to
the United States.
The telephone conversation should
really remain private – notwithstanding the fact that some of those
conversations may be able to be tapped. The conversations dealt primarily
with the state of Christians in the Middle East. I recognize the untiring
efforts of the American Secretary of State in her work. I told her that
her travels by plane, in her efforts for peace, are accompanied by the angels.
If they weren’t accompanied by the angels, then she would never be able to knit
back together all of these relationships that have been so fragile and
difficult. I think that we will be able to continue these discussions
during a future visit of the Secretary of State of the United States to Rome.
As you know, the visit of the
Holy Father [to the United States] is a work in progress. Perhaps the Apostolic
Nuncio, present here, will be convening meetings of the interested parties, as
the planning stages go further for this particular visit, probably next year.
The situation in Iraq –
what would a moral withdrawal look like?
I refer back to the words of the
Holy Father who said we’re in a very critical moment of this discussion. I don’t
want to say we’re in a blind alley; nevertheless, it is a very complicated
situation and that’s the position where we are at right now. Perhaps we can
begin thinking about some round tables or discussions where people are brought
together to discuss this at a regional and at an international level. I
encourage all to search for a satisfactory solution in the Middle East.
The Church in China – What
does the Vatican have to say about the invitation that was given and then taken
The situation of the Church in
China was presented in a very accurate way in a letter that the Holy Father
wrote to the Catholic Chinese people.
The areas that the Pope dealt
with in that letter and the manner in which he dealt with them are the best
possible way that we can address the situation in China, probably much more than
many of the articles we have read in the newspapers. The letter was well
received and widely discussed, not only at the religious level, but on many
different levels in China. With regard to the question of an "invitation," I
should say that this was not done formally by the Chinese authorities. The
invitation was made by an individual, in his personal capacity, and not in the
name of the Chinese government.
The question of a visit has been
suspended for the time being, and we are waiting for some kind of move on the
part of the Chinese government. At this time we are at a moment of reflection.
The letter of the Pope to the
Chinese Catholics is an historical moment. The letter constitutes a
watershed between the past and the future in the relationship between China and
the Catholic Church.
You have spoken very well
and warmly about Father McGivney…
The very brief life of Father
McGivney is a prophetic adumbration; he anticipated by many years the role of
the laity in the Church as presented in Vatican II and in the successive
documents of the Church.
You have to take into account the
moment of Father McGivney’s life. Historically, it was a moment in which
the Church in the United States was suffering, and the witness that Father
McGivney gave at that particular moment in history is very important to
I can only hope that his life
will be made known to many more people throughout the world, as it has been made
known to people here in the United States.
It is not only the fact that his
life revolved around questions of social concerns and social service to people,
but his life should be made known in its fullness, for all that he represented.
His life should be made known for his commitment to catechesis and
evangelization. It cannot be presented only as a life that was merely for
social concerns, but it must be considered from the perspective of a man of the
As a Salesian priest you
always had a strong connection to young people; what is your message to the
Knights of Columbus and to others as they try to bring more young people into
It appears that many of the great
organizations like yours, or Catholic Action in Europe, are suffering from the
lack of young people. We have to think about the example of Pope John Paul II
and how many young people responded to his invitations to come together, for
example, to the World Youth Days.
I look over the panorama of World
Youth Days and I consider how so many thousands of young people came together
and rediscovered their faith through the Papal invitation to World Youth Day.
We have to take the approach of
St John Bosco. His approach was to reach out to young people and to have great
faith in them, a great confidence in them. Pope John Paul II believed in
I have seen among the Knights a
very good representation of young people; however, the average age is a little
What do you think is the average
age of the Dominican Sisters I just visited? The average is 33 years
old. Write that down! There are many girls with university degrees
that are being attracted to this way of life.
I think the Knights of Columbus
will be able to attract young people as well.
With regard to the use of
the media, a Vatican web site, for reaching young people – We hear all the time
that that is the way they discover the Church again. Does the Holy Father
have plans to encourage even more use of Catholic media or secular media?
Let me say I am not a specialist
with the internet. But I do not agree with a certain American star who
said that we should suspend the use of the internet for five years. Rather
than suspend it, you have to reevaluate it and fill it with good content.
If St. John Bosco were alive
today he would have chosen the best forms of media to reach out to people and to
present the Church in this historic moment.
The pope doesn’t even use a
typewriter. He writes everything by hand. But the pope splendidly
uses the oldest way of communicating, which is the word. The words of the
Pope, the talks of the Pope, the writings of the Pope are becoming more
attractive, even in the United States.
Text messages, with the Pope’s
words, are being sent to cellular phones in Austria.
When I was the Archbishop of
Genoa, I brought many young people to Rome; young people, even the smallest ones
who were about to make their confirmation, were very attracted to the person of
While we were in Rome, all these
kids were so enthusiastic about the Pope; they were sending back all these text
messages and filling up all the boxes back in Genoa.
You expressed deep concern
about the Sex Abuse stories in July. What is your message for the American
Church, and if I may, what is your message to the Italian Church, which is
undergoing the situation with Don Gelmini?
First of all, I would like to say
the Church in the United States has suffered deeply because of this situation,
has responded with great dignity, and invites everyone to truly commit
themselves to a reversal of this situation. While I was still at the
Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and as the Archbishop of Genoa, I
accompanied the Church in the U.S. through the period of trial and, I repeat,
they faced this trial with dignity and courage.
I would like to make two concrete
First, the business which has
accompanied the sex scandals has nothing to do with respect of the human person,
with helping the victims, nor with the recovery of the guilty – whom we cannot
abandon to hell. The business created in the United States around this scandal
is really unbearable.
Secondly, I hope that other
institutions and social agencies will face this same problem with their members,
with an equal degree of courage and realism as the Catholic Church has done.
I wonder if the other agencies or institutions have also provided financial
consideration for victims as the Catholic Church has done; if they have taken
care of the victims and those who are guilty.
We must keep in mind that of the
44,000 priests here in the Unites States, the percentage of those who have been
involved in this in these scandals is very small. According to the
information, it would seem as if the Catholic Church is the only organization
that has been affected by this problem. This is unacceptable.
Regarding the Church in Italy and
the situation with the particular person mentioned, I need to have more
information, because much is not well founded and inexact. I would like to
see the clear picture.
Will you meet with the Holy
and what will be your report to the Holy Father.
Of course I am going to see the
Holy Father, it’s my job. I came with his permission, and I am going to go back
and tell him what I did.
I will give him an excellent
report of my visit to the United States. I am going to bring some written
documents, particularly the report of Mr. Carl Anderson that was presented to us