Crossroads New York Cultural Center and Basic Books
With the support of Columbia Catholic Ministry
Freedom Without Roots
The predicament of Western liberalism
and the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI
A discussion on the occasion of the publication in the U.S. of
Without Roots, by Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera
Monday, February 6, 2006 at 7pm
Columbia University, Earl Hall, Auditorium
117th Street & Broadway, New York
Arch. Celestino MIGLIORE
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the U.N.
President of the Italian Senate, co-author of Without Roots
READ THE SPEECH
Dean of John Paul II Institute and Editor in Chief, Communio
READ THE SPEECH
Theologian, senior fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
|ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Pope Benedict XVI was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith under the late Pope John Paul II, and has long been regarded as one of the
most profound Catholic theological and spiritual writers of our times. His
numerous books include God and the World, Introduction to Christianity, Salt of the
Earth, and The Spirit of Liturgy.
Marcello Pera was formerly a professor of the philosophy of science at the
University of Pisa and has become President of the Italian Senate. He lives in Italy.
|The Politician and the Pope
by Pranay Gupte
The New York Sun
February 8, 2006
The world knows Joseph Ratzinger of
Germany as Pope Benedict XVI, but Marcello
Pera of Italy also knows him as a friend and
"He's a very decent man, a very bright man, a
very profound man - someone who asks a lot
of questions, and also listens carefully," Mr.
Pera, president of the Italian senate, said
yesterday. "We are both deeply concerned
with the question, 'Can a civilization exist
without any sense of the sacred?'"
That question is examined in their new work,
"Without Roots: The West, Relativism,
Christianity, Islam." Published by Basic Books,
the 160-page volume is less a narrative than
a geo-theological exchange on spiritual,
cultural, and political crisis in the West.
The protagonists are two learned men - one a
former prefect of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith under the late Pope
John Paul II, and the other a former professor
of philosophy of science at the University of
Pisa. Their exchange deals with issues such
as European identity; violence and terrorism
in Europe; the continent's uncertain relations
with America, and the rejection by France and
the Netherlands of the E.U. constitution.
The literary collaboration grew out of an
invitation Mr. Pera extended to then Cardinal
Ratzinger address the 315-member senate on
May 13, 2004.
"As far as I know, it was the first time that a
cardinal came to speak before the senate,"
Mr. Pera said.
Cardinal Ratzinger's talk followed by a day a
speech Mr. Pera gave at the Pontificia
Universita Lateranense in Vatican City.
"Although neither of us knew what the other
would be saying, we both wound up with
significantly the same conclusions - that
Europe's moral and cultural malaise needed
to be addressed at a time when much of the
continent seemed to have abandoned its
spiritual roots," Mr. Pera said.
"So we decided to collaborate on a book that
could be presented as a dialogue," he said.
"We had numerous discussions in person,
and we also exchanged letters."
The cardinal found himself increasingly
mentioned as a potential successor to the
ailing John Paul II. After his death, Cardinal
Ratzinger was elected the 265th pontiff of the
Roman Catholic Church, presiding over its 1.1
billion members around the world.
Mr. Pera was born into the church, as the son
of Luigi, a railway worker, and his wife Milena.
They lived in Lucca, a town in Tuscany.
"My parents were very poor," Mr. Pera said.
"But they were determined that I would get a
He attended technical schools, and eventually
the University of Pisa, where he obtained his
graduate degree. After that, he became an
"I love to write as well as teach," he said. "I
held discourses on the philosophy of science,
and explored questions about scientific
disputes. I found that it was relatively easy to
be regarded as an intellectual if nobody
understands you - then they think that you're
very deep. I preferred clarity, however."
His pursuit of clarity took him to the Universita
di Catania in Sicily, then back to the University
of Pisa. He was a fellow at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and later spent a year
at the London School of Economics.
All the while, Mr. Pera's reputation as a
philosopher grew. He would frequently
bemoan the future of a civilization - Europe -
that, in his words, "has abandoned its history
for relativist secularism."
It was an intellectual position Cardinal
Ratzinger shared. The German had emerged
as John Paul II's most influential adviser on
theological issues. At the same time, he'd
established a reputation as a conservative
thinker who often called on the West to
embrace a spiritual rather than political
renewal, according to Mr. Pera.
"He urged us to accept the moral beliefs that
alone can help us to make sense of changes
in technology, economics, and society," Mr.
But on the matter of personal faith, he
diverged with Cardinal Ratzinger, who's been
held by many as an exemplar of the church.
To this day, Mr. Pera describes himself as a
secularist and a nonpracticing Catholic.
Another difference lay in the fact that while
the cardinal stayed within the Church, Mr.
Pera ventured into electoral politics. As an
academia, he'd organized 20 colleagues into
forming a reformist movement. Prime Minister
Berlusconi's Forza Italia Party persuaded him
to run for the senate in 1996.
At the completion of his five-year term, Mr.
Pera decided that he could practice politics
while continuing as an author and lecturer. He
won a second term in 2001, and was then
elected as senate president. The position
makes him first in the line of accession to the
"As senate president, I must deal with politics
in a nonpartisan manner - because I preside
over a senate that has nine parties and
groupings," Mr. Pera said. "I set the weekly
agenda for a senate that is in session most of
the year, with very few breaks."
In those sessions he focuses on issues such
as judicial and constitutional restructuring.
Assisted by four vice presidents, Mr. Pera has
a packed schedule most weekdays.
"My schedule on weekends is also packed,"
That's because every Friday evening he
boards a train to his native Lucca. At the end
of a three-hour ride he faces 300,000
constituents who demand his attention.
His perorations before his constituents are
mostly about local and national issues. But
Mr. Pera also increasingly talks about
anti-Semitism in Europe.
"I hate discrimination - I really hate
anti-Semitism," he said yesterday. "And
Europe should be doing a lot more to counter
the growing anti-Semitism. Today's
anti-Semitism is somewhat different from the
old hatred of Jews - it concerns the State of
Israel. Europe hasn't done enough to
guarantee the safety and survival of Israel."
His views will appear in books that Mr. Pera
plans to write.
But one book that's already appeared in Italy
since his friend Cardinal Ratzinger became
pope is titled, "The Europe of St. Benedict."
It consists of essays, and its title points to the
Catholic saint who was the founder of
It's no coincidence a namesake of the saint is
now the prelate. It's also noteworthy that
Marcello Pera's co-author of "The Europe of
St. Benedict" is Pope Benedict XVI.
|FREEDOM WITHOUT ROOTS
From the opening speech:
It is a great honor for Crossroads to help present
"Without Roots" in New York. Our center finds its
inspiration in the life of Communion and Liberation,
the ecclesial movement founded by Monsignor
Luigi Giussani, who passed away almost exactly
one year ago. Father Giussani always
emphasized that a lived faith must, by its inner
logic, generate a new culture. Pope Benedict XVI,
then-Cardinal Ratzinger reminded us of this aspect
of our charism when, a few months before his
election to the Pontificate, he told us that "the
great contribution of Cl derives above all from
being a movement that carries a great human
culture, theological but also general. (A
movement) that fecundates today's cultural life
with a Catholic expression of culture, ... faithful to
the great constants of the Catholic tradition but
renewed in today's cultural world." These words
summarize perfectly the ideal that animates our
activity here in New York.
Those who know Benedict XVI are aware of his
love for music, and of the role that beauty play in
his theological reflection. Thus, we have thought
that there could not be a better way to open
tonight's reflections than by listening to a piece of
music on the piano. Maestro Chris Vath has kindly
agreed to play for us some pieces of Chopin. I
think you may be interested to know that Mr. Vath
had the privilege just a few months ago of playing
the piano for the Pope himself in the papal
|ABOUT THE BOOK
Reasserting Europe's Christian identity and
rebutting modern moral relativism, Rome
packs a formidable punch. Attacking
"anything goes" ethics has become a
cornerstone of Benedict XVI's papacy. Here,
months before becoming pontiff in April
2005, Ratzinger (The Legacy of John Paul II,
2005), elected pope in April 2005, engages
in provocative dialogue with the president of
the Italian Senate.
(From Kirkus Reviews)