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Saturday, 14 April 2007

Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth has been sampled on the Web site of Italian newspaper Corriera della sera. According to The Guardian the publication, that the Italian paper says "will be released on Monday", describes "The emptiness of modern life" without God.

Monday is the Pope's eightieth birthday.

The Corriera della sera is owned by Rizzoli, the company that has published the book. On its Web site, the newspaper has placed the link to a long extract next to the rubric 'Politics'. Strange.

Here is a translation of the extract. Apologies if some parts make no sense. The original Italian was sometimes quite curious.

In his book the Pope confronts the decisive themes of our time

The Pope’s book: “You’re free to contradict me.”

Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth is anticipated, and will be released on Monday: “Not a command, rather a search for the real Jesus.”

Rome - A book that talks about Jesus but that confronts also the defining topics of our times from politics to morality. “I wanted to try to present the Jesus of the evangelists as the real Jesus, as the historical Jesus in the true sense.” A person “historically beheld and convincing.” This is one of the affirmations that open the new book of the Pope, which has been presented to the press in the Vatican. Jesus of Nazareth is the title of the new scholarly labour of the Pope as theologian, a demanding work of 448 pages.

Deep research but, says the Pope in the preamble, not a commandment: “This book is in no way an act of command, but is simply the expression of my personal research of the face of Christ. So anyone is free to disagree with me. I only ask readers to be open minded, in the absence of which there is no understanding.” The volume was edited by Rizzoli and is priced at 19.5 euros. “I am convinced, and I hope that readers will also be able to take this into consideration,” writes the Pope, “that this person is far more logical and from a historical perspective even more mindful of the reconstructions we have had to confront in recent decades.” “I consider,” affirms Ratzinger, “that precisely this Jesus - he of the evangelists - was historically real and convincing.” The text comprises 10 chapters plus a preamble and introduction, and the book avails itself of a long bibliographical note in which are listed all the principle studies of an historical and theological nature on the various phases of the life of Jesus, on the evangelists and on the Bible.

Because it was written - Jesus of Nazareth, which is, we should remember, the first book of Ratzinger in his role as Pope, is the product, as the preamble explains, of a “long inner journey” that, in some way, is the basis of his motivation in the need to take a position that was established from the 1950s and that defines “the difference between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith,” where “the one moved away from the sight of the other.” First - thanks to writers such as Adam, Guardini, Willam, Papini, Claude-Rops, the image of Jesus Christ was defined by the evangelists to emphasize how He, through man, “became the visible God and beginning with God was able to see the image of the authentic man.” An image, says Benedict XVI, that, by way of historico-critical research, “became ever more tenebrous, took on a shape that was more and more indistinct.”

And this image took on, gradually, by way of the ideals of those who attempted to clarify its profile, diverse and distant connotations, from the anti-Roman revolutionary to the “gentle moralist”, which were the cause of its own destruction. From this, says Benedict XVI, you get the impression that “ we know very little with certainty about Jesus and that as a result faith in his divinity has shaped his image,” a situation “that is critical for faith because it renders indistinct its actual point of reference: the personal friendship with Jesus, from whom all depends, threatens to grope in a void.”

Criticism of the ideology of success - In the book Benedict XVI criticises the “ideology of success and wellbeing” for example in a passage from the chapter on our Father, analysing the invocation “deliver us from evil”. Evil, he observes, “threatens to swallow us up” and “this is accompanied by the disintegration of the moral order by way of a cynical form of scepticism and illuminism”. “Even today,” he adds, “there are on one side the forces of the market, or arms trafficking, of drugs and of men, forces that press down on the world and that drag humanity in bonds from which we cannot escape. Even today,” he adds, “there is on the other hand the ideology of success, of wellbeing, that tells us: God is only an invention, he only wastes our time and takes away our will to live.” While our Father wants to say to us: “only when you have lost God have you lost yourself, look, now you’re just a contingent product of evolution. Then the ‘dragon’ has truly won. Until he can take you away from God you,” says the Pope, “despite all the misfortunes that threaten you, are still completely sane.”

Jesus gives life - At the end of the book, Benedict XVI takes up the same concepts, listing the seven “word-images” that Jesus provides himself with in the gospel of John: “I am the bread of life - the light of the world - the door - the good shepherd - the resurrection and the life - the way, the truth and the life - the true life,” powerful images, so defined, to which “it is licit to add also that of the source of water.” Citing the scholar Schnackenburg, the Pope observes that “all these figurative expressions are nothing more than variations on a single theme: Jesus came into the world so that men could have life and have it in abundance.” And this is because “man wants and needs, in the end,” Ratzinger stresses, “only one thing: life, a full life - happiness.” “Man, at heart,” these are the conclusions of the Pope, “needs one thing that holds all; but he must first learn and recognise through his desires and his superficial yearnings that which he really needs and that which he really wants. He needs God.” And behind the various figurative expressions of the gospel “there is at the last, this: Jesus gives us life because He gives us God: He can give it to us because He Himself is one thing with God. Because He is the Son. He Himself is the gift - He is life."

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