Here is an English translation of the actual words of the Pope. It bears little relationship with the “summary” of what the Pope said in the Telegraph:
Dear Dott. Scalfari,
I would cordially like to reply to the letter you addressed to me from the pages of “La Repubblica” on July 7th, which included a series of personal reflections that then continued to enrich the pages of the daily newspaper on August 7th.
First of all, thank you for the attention with which you have read the Encyclical “Lumen fidei”. In fact it was the intention of my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI, who conceived it and mostly wrote it, and which, with gratitude, I have inherited, to not only confirm the faith in Jesus Christ, for those who already believe, but also to spark a sincere and rigorous dialogue with those who, like you, define themselves as “for many years being a non-believer who is interested and fascinated by the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth”.
Therefore, without a doubt it would seem to be positive, not only for each one of us,* but also for the society in which we live, to stop and speak about a matter as important as faith and which refers to the teachings and the figure of* Jesus.
In particular, I think there are two circumstances which today cause this dialogue to be precious and necessary. This is one of the principal aims of the Second Vatican Council, convened at the behest of John XXIII as well as by the Apostolic Ministry of the Popes who, each with their own sensibility and help have since then continued in the course traced by the Council.
The first circumstance* -* that refers to the initial pages of the Encyclical* -* derives from the fact that, down in the centuries of modern life, we have seen a paradox:* Christian faith, whose novelty and importance in the life of mankind since the beginning has been expressed through the symbol of light, has often been branded as the darkness of superstition which is opposed to the light of reason.* Therefore a lack of communication has arisen between the Church and the culture inspired by Christianity on one hand and the modern culture of Enlightenment on the other. The time has come and the Second Vatican has inaugurated the season, for an open dialogue without preconceptions that opens the door to a serious and fruitful meeting.
The second circumstance, for those who attempt to be faithful to the gift of following Jesus in the light of faith, derives from the fact that this dialogue is not a secondary accessory in the existence of those who believe, but is rather an intimate and indispensabile expression.* Speaking of which, allow me to quote a very important statement, in my opinion, of the Encyclical:* as the truth witnessed by faith is found in love* -* it is stressed* -* “it seems clear that faith is not unyielding, but increases in the coexistence which respects the other.* The believer is not arrogant; on the contrary, the truth makes him humble, in the knowledge that rather than making us rigid, it embraces us and possesses us.* Rather than make us rigid, the security of faith makes it possible to speak with everyone” (n.34). This is the spirit of the words I am writing to you.
For me, faith began* by meeting with Jesus.* A personal meeting that touched my heart and gave a direction and a new meaning to my existence.* At the same time, however, a meeting that was made possible by the community of faith in which I lived and thanks to which I found access to the intelligence of the Sacred Scriptures, to the new life that comes from Jesus like gushing water through the Sacraments, to fraternity with everyone and to the service to the poor, which is the real image of the Lord. Believe me, without the Church I would never have been able to meet Jesus, in spite of the knowledge that the immense gift of faith is kept in the fragile clay vases of our humanity.
Now, thanks to this personal experience of* faith experienced in Church, I feel comfortable in listening to your questions and together with you, will try to find a way to perhaps walk along a path together.
Please forgive me if I do not follow the arguments proposed by you step by step in your editorial of July 7th. It would seem more fruitful to me* -* or more congenial* -* to go right to the heart of your considerations.* I will not even go into the manners of explanation followed by the Encyclical, in which you find the lack of a section specifically dedicated to the historial experience of Jesus of Nazareth.
To start, I will only observe that such an analysis is not secondary.* In fact, following the logic of the Encyclical, this means paying attention to the meaning of what Jesus said and did and after all, of what Jesus has been and is for us.* The Letters of Paul and the Gospel according to John, to which particular reference is made in the Encyclical, are in fact created on the solid foundation of the Messianic Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth which culminated in the pentecost of death and resurrection.