Remarks of Most Rev. Gerhard L. Müller,
Embassy of Germany to the Holy See
Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like begin by thanking Ambassador Schweppe, not only for his very generous words of introduction but indeed for his kindness in having invited us here this afternoon, thus affording us the opportunity of getting to know one another in an informal atmosphere.
I am very grateful to him and to his wife Margret for organizing this event, and indeed to all of you for having taken time out of your very busy schedules to be here.
As you know, my name is Gerhard Müller. I was born in Mainz (more years ago than I care to remember!). I have one brother and two sisters and I have 22 nephews and nieces - with number 23 on the way!
After my ordination to the priesthood and having finished my studies I was, for 16 very happy years, Professor of Theology at Munich. I was then the Bishop of Regensburg (in Bavaria) for ten years until earlier this year when the Holy Father asked me to take up the post of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I am, I must confess, humbled by the confidence placed in me by the Holy Father in giving me this appointment, but I am delighted to be here and I will strive to do my best to merit that confidence.
It is well known that according to a Catholic viewpoint the Church is not understood in the same way as a State or other political entity. The Church is not a man-made reality. Rather it is that living organism, founded by Jesus Christ - the unique Saviour of the World - whose purpose is to preach a life-giving Gospel to all peoples. As such the Church is not limited to any one geographical, political or social sphere, rather she is able to exist and operate in all the diverse cultures and countries of the world, in her attempt to work with all men and women of good will in the service of the common good. The Church, therefore, does not wish to dominate society, either politically or culturally, rather she seeks to serve society by promoting those goods which are integral to the well being of all human persons. The Church, therefore, does not seek to occupy a privileged position within any State, but she does require of every civil government the freedom to announce her Gospel of Life and to promote the fundamental Gospel truths and moral principles which she believes are necessary for the well being of humankind. In this way the Church strives to defend promote the dignity of the human person, a dignity endowed by God which admits no exceptions or instrumentalization. She does this in serving especially those who are most weak and vulnerable, and those whose human rights are constantly threatened: the weak, the sick, the immigrant and refugee, the old and the unborn.
As you know, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith often receives fairly bad press! This is unfortunate and is often based on biased and inaccurate media perceptions of the Church and the role of the Congregation in the Church. However, it is also partly because the very notion of the objectivity of truth has become so counter cultural that any attempt to set down limits for rational discourse is seen as unacceptable. Yet, the Church gives voice to the Natural Law, those truths of our created nature written on the human heart by the Creator and knowable to all through the gift of reason. Also, within a revealed religion whose core faith is the incarnation of the Truth, the Word of God, the notion of unchanging doctrine passed on in concepts which have permanent validity is neither surprising nor un-understandable. In fact, the denial of the objectivity of truth can lead all too easily, as Pope Benedict has so ably pointed out, not to an emancipation of the human spirit but to a tyranny of relativism which enslaves and does not liberate.
The work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to protect the authentic tradition of the Church from erroneous interpretation and destructive manipulation. This work is carried out in humility as a service to the truth and to the People of God - who have the right to know the authentic teaching of the Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is a community of faith which is open and inclusive of all precisely because the Gospel she announces is not her own but that entrusted to her by Jesus Christ, who came not to destroy what is authentically human but to bring life and life in all its fullness. In this way, the Church can be seen as a sacrament of the communion of all men and women with God, an instrument and sign of the unity of all mankind. Such a vision of the Church as instrument of unity was the profound conviction of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, the 50th anniversary of the opening of which we will observe beginning on October 11th with the inauguration of the Year of the Faith.
It is the love of Christ, as St. Paul says, that urges us on. For love of Him and love of neighbour, the Church wishes to stand against all exploitation and manipulation of human beings. As a community of faith, hope, and love, we wish to stand for the freedom, dignity and rights of all human beings. It is only when the inalienable and God-given dignity of all human beings is respected in every part of the world that a civilisation of love can be established which will guarantee a true and lasting peace.
I would like to express my gratitude to each one of you for your important work in service to your various nations. The tensions the world is experiencing in these days in North Africa and the Middle East only underscore the valuable work you do in building up a diplomatic community of respect and dialogue, the essential foundation for peace among nations. It is precisely in view of this peace that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, affirmed in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, which he signed this past weekend in Lebanon, that inter-religious dialogue is not dictated by pragmatic considerations of a political order, but is based primarily on the foundation of faith. Jews, Christians, and Muslims confess faith in a single God and, for this reason, they should recognize in the other believer a person deserving of respect and love, thus avoiding the exploitation of religion for conflicts and violence which are unjustifiable for authentic believers. As a partner on the road to peace, the Catholic Church is also committed to this same attitude of respect with regard to the other great religious traditions of the world and to all men and women of good will.
Thank you again for taking the time to be here this evening. I ask for your prayers for me and pray that God will bless you all and the many people you represent. Thank you.