Pope Benedict XVI

Dialogika Resources

Letter to Marcello Pera on his book, WHY WE MUST CALL OURSELVES CHRISTIAN

Vatican City

Unofficial translation courtesy of Fr. Murray Watson.

Dear Senator Pera: In the last few days, I have been able to read your new book, Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians. It was fascinating reading for me. With an amazing familiarity with the sources, and with a cogent logic, you analyze the essence of liberalism, starting with its very foundations, showing that liberalism's rootedness in the Christian image of God belongs toits very essence: [the human] relationship with God, of whom human beings are the image, and from whom we have received the gift of liberty. With an irrefutable logic, you demonstrate that liberalism loses its basis and becomes self-destructive if it abandons this, its foundation. I was no less impressed by your analysis of freedom and by your analysis of multiculturalism, in which you show the internal contradictoriness of this concept and, thus, its political and cultural impossibility. Of fundamental importance is your analysis of what Europe and a European Constitution could be, in which Europe does not transform itself into a cosmopolitan reality, but finds its own specific identity, beginning with its Christian-liberal foundations. Also particularly meaningful for me is your analysis of the concepts of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

You explain with great clarity that an interreligious dialogue, in the strict sense of the term, is not possible, while you urge intercultural dialogue that develops the cultural consequences of the religious option which lies beneath [a given culture]. While a true dialogue is not possible about this basic option without putting one's own faith into parentheses, it's important, in public exchange, to explore the cultural consequences of these religious options. Here, dialogue and mutual correction and enrichment are both possible and necessary. Concerning the contribution about the meaning of all of this for the contemporary crisis in ethics, I find important what you say on the parable of liberal ethics. It shows that liberalism, without ceasing to be liberalism but, on the contrary, in order to be faithful to itself, can link itself to a doctrine of goodness, particularly the Christian one to which it is closely related, offering in this way a real contribution to overcoming the crisis. With its sober rationality, its broad philosophical and the force of its argumentation, this book is, in my opinion, of fundamental importance in this hour of Europe, and of the world. I hope that it will find a broad welcome, and will help to give to the political debate, beyond the urgent problems, that depth of reflection without which we cannot overcome the challenge of our historical moment.

With gratitude for your work, I wish you from my heart God's blessing.