Pope Benedict answers questions in TV show aired on Good Friday
Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in history to appear in a televised question and answer session on Good Friday.
Usually, the pope only answers questions from journalists on planes when he is making official trips, the BBC said. However, the Vatican saw this foray into a television program as a first step in accountability, openness and transparency.
The show was pre-recorded and seven questions were pre-selected from thousands that were sent to the pope from around the world. The focus was on Jesus and Christian reflections with regard to current events, according to The Guardian.
The 80-minute program was aired on the Italian Rai channel, a publicly-owned television station. It was aired at 3 p.m., which is the time that Christian Catholics traditionally believe that Jesus died on the cross, the Catholic News Agency said.
The pope was described by the AP as “a bit stiff, sitting all alone in a big white chair behind his desk inside the Apostolic Palace as an unseen interviewer read out the letters to him.”
However, the pope warmly answered questions as though the questioner were in the room with him, the AP said. In a split screen, the pope could be seen sitting in the Vatican library, while those who asked the questions were filmed near their homes, according to the BBC.
The first question came from a seven-year-old girl from Japan, who was frightened when the earthquake shook her home and caused the deaths of many children, the AP said.
Elena asked, “Why do children have to be so sad? I’m asking the pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me,” the AP reported. Benedict replied that he also wondered why innocent people had to suffer so much, but noted that Jesus suffered, too.
Benedict said, “You can be sure that in the world, in the universe, there are many people who are with you, thinking of you, doing what they can for you to help you. Be assured, we are with you, with all the Japanese children who are suffering,” the AP reported.
The second question came from a woman in Italy, whose son has been in a long-term coma. Does he have a soul? She asked. The pope replied that yes, he does, the BBC said.
Benedict said, “The situation, perhaps, is like that of a guitar whose strings have been broken and therefore can no longer play. The instrument of the body is fragile like that, it is vulnerable, and the soul cannot play, so to speak, but remains present,” the BBC reported.
A Muslim woman from the Ivory Coast asked how she could cope with the conflict in her country. The pope, citing Christ said, “Violence never comes from God, never helps bring anything good, but is a destructive means and not the path to escape difficulties,” according to the BBC.
Christians in Iraq asked how they could convince other Christians to remain in the country. Benedict replied that the church encourages dialogues between faiths, the BBC said.
The remaining questions were regarding Catholic beliefs and doctrines.
A person from Italy asked what Jesus did in the time between his death and resurrection, citing a phrase from the Catholic Creed which says “Jesus descended into hell.” The pope replied that the phrase means that Jesus went to the past, even to Adam and Eve, to bring them to heaven and provide a path for men to reach God, CNA said.
The bible does not say that Jesus went to the past, including to Adam and Eve to bring them to heaven after his death.
A questioner from Italy asked why after Jesus’ death he was not immediately recognized by the apostles and others who knew him, CNA said. What did “a glorified body” mean?
Benedict said while this is beyond his experience to define, the resurrection is important in the Eucharist saying, “It is not about noting things that we cannot understand but of being on a journey to the newness that always begins again anew in the Eucharist,” CNA reported.
Catholics believe in transubstantiation which, in effect, sees the Eucharist as the actual body of Christ, rather than a symbol of Jesus’ body which many biblical Christians believe.
The final question was about the Catholic doctrine of Mary. Benedict reiterated Catholic belief in Mary as the mother of Christians and as a mediatrix between Catholics and Jesus, according to CNA.
In John 14:16 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man goes to the Father except through me.” The bible does not say that Mary is a mediator between man and Jesus.
Duncan Kennedy of the BBC said it is likely that critics will consider the program sanitized and controlled, noting that there were no questions about clergy sexual abuse and other issues.
The idea for the program came from the host, Rosario Carello who said they saw “something in Pope Benedict’s style that caused them to at least propose this idea to him. We proposed it and he accepted,” CNA reported.