The Kindly Face

A favorite excerpt from then Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, now the Pontiff Emeritus Benedict XVI:

There is one thing we must not forget: it has always been the Mother who reached people in a missionary situation and made Christ accessible to them. That is especially true of Latin America. Here, to some extent, Christianity arrived by way of Spanish swords, with deadly heralds. In Mexico, at first, absolutely nothing could be done about missionary work – until the occurrence of that phenomenon at Guadalupe, and then the Son was suddenly near by way of his Mother….and suddenly the Christian religion no longer wears the terrible face of the conqueror but the kindly face of the Mother.

¡Que viva!

In Latin America, even today, these two foci of popular piety are influential: first, a love for the Mother of God; second, identifying oneself with the suffering Christ. In these two figures, in which faith is able to express itself, people have been able to grasp that this is not a God of conquerors, but the true God, who is also their Redeemer. That is why Mary is so dear to Catholics in Latin America especially. And we ought not to accuse them, from our rational perspective, of having thereby distorted Christianity. On that point in particular they have understood it aright. They have, that is, recognized the true countenance of God, who wants to save us, who is not on the side of the destroyers. Thus they were able to become Christians on the basis of their own seeing and understanding, without having to suffer the gospel, so to speak, as a religion of colonialism.

– Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World, pp. 300-301

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