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Updated: April 29, 1997 05:00 PM GMT
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The cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says that his remarks on Buddhism published in the March 20-26 issue of the French Weekly "L´Express" were misinterpreted.

The interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger reported him as saying that "if Buddhism attracts people, it is because it appears as the possibility of touching the infinite, happiness, without concrete religious obligations, a sort of spiritual autoerotism."

The cardinal´s remarks prompted criticism from within and outside the Catholic Church, critical letters from priests and the president of the Italian Buddhist Association published in newspapers among them.

In a more recent interview in "Famiglia Cristiana" (Christian family), an Italian weekly published by the Society of St. Paul, the cardinal said that his remarks were misinterpreted.

"What I said then is not applicable at all to Buddhism as a great phenomenon in religious history, a religion of great intuitions, holding a rich vision that has educated so many people," Cardinal Ratzinger insisted.

"I was rather thinking of the bogus Buddhism, packaged as merchandise and adapted to the tastes and fashion of the modern Western world," the cardinal added in the April 23 interview.

"La Famiglia" carried its exclusive interview with the cardinal on the occasion of his just publishing an autobiography, "La Mia Vita: recordi 1927-1997" (my life: memoirs 1927-1997).

Reacting to the remarks in "L´Express," Jesuit Father Michael Barnes asked in a letter published in the British Catholic weekly "The Tablet" of April 19, "Why is it necessary to set christocentric revelation against an anthropocentric mysticism as if they are opposed to each other?"

Buddhist-Christian dialogue has shown "that real understanding begins when people learn to trust each other -- rather than rely on what can be somewhat misleading instant overviews," the Jesuit wrote.

Columban Father Frank Regan asked in the same issue of the weekly´s letters to the editor, "Is the Dalai Lama autoerotic when he chooses to live far from his ´Rome´ in exile with his people?"

"Can Cardinal Ratzinger really believe that when Buddhist monks in Vietnam burned themselves alive to protest against American bombing 25 years ago, they were practising a sort of auto-eroticism?" he also asked.


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