Pope-emeritus exchanges letters with noted atheist philosopher

   Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has had an exchange of letters with the noted Italian mathematician and philosopher, Piergiorgio Odifreddi, excerpts from which appeared in the Tuesday edition of the Italian daily, La Repubblica. At the beginning of September, Benedict sent a lengthy and detailed response to criticisms the atheist thinker Odifreddi had published in his volume, Caro papa ti scrivo, a book-length essay that was itself a critique of certain arguments and lines of thought found in the Pope-emeritus’ theological writings, starting from his 1967 volume, Introduction to Christianity.
The context of the exchange is therefore that of an ongoing conversation about the contents and merits of a lifetime of public intellectual engagement. The topics covered in the exchange range from the abuse crisis in the Church, to the question whether theology can properly be considered a science to the need for frank and open dialogue among believers and non-believers.
The tone of the correspondence is unfailingly civil, and at times pointed: Benedict says that, although he read portions of Odifreddi’s tome, “with pleasure and profit,” he found that there were nevertheless, “a certain aggressiveness and hastiness in argumentation.” The Pope-emeritus goes on to say: “Dear Prof. [Odofreddi], my criticism of your book is in part harsh. Frankness, however, is part of dialogue: only in this way can understanding grow. You were quite frank and so you will accept that I should also be so. In any case, however, I very much appreciate that you, through your confrontation with my Introduction to Christianity, have sought so open a dialogue with the faith of the Catholic Church and that, notwithstanding all the contrasts in the central area, points of convergence are nevertheless not lacking.”


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