Monday, January 7, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI, on peace (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 1/7/13)

This morning, Pope Benedict gave his annual address to the group of international ambassadors and representatives to the Holy See.  The full address was quickly translated and released by Vatican Radio.  Some of his more urgent or important points:

His general theme is that of peace:

The Gospel of Luke recounts that on Christmas night the shepherds heard choirs of angels who gave glory to God and invoked peace on mankind. The Evangelist thus emphasizes the close relationship between God and the ardent desire of the men and women of every age to know the truth, to practice justice and to live in peace (cf. Blessed John XXIII, Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 [1963], 257). These days, we are sometimes led to think that truth, justice and peace are utopian ideals, and mutually exclusive. To know the truth seems impossible, and efforts to affirm it appear often to lead to violence. On the other hand, according to a now widespread way of thinking, peacemaking consists solely in the pursuit of compromises capable of ensuring peaceful coexistence between different peoples or between citizens within a single nation. Yet from the Christian point of view, the glorification of God and human peace on earth are closely linked, with the result that peace is not simply the fruit of human effort, but a participation in the very love of God. It is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence. ...  The consequences of forgetfulness of God cannot be separated from those resulting from ignorance of his true countenance, the root of a baneful religious fanaticism which, again in 2012, reaped victims in some countries represented here. As I have often observed, this is a falsification of religion itself, since religion aims instead at reconciling men and women with God, at illuminating and purifying consciences, and at making it clear that each human being is the image of the Creator

He lists a number of places in the world where various sorts of violence are now taking place, without casting any particular blame.  Then he goes on:

The building of peace always comes about by the protection of human beings and their fundamental rights. This task, even if carried out in many ways and with varying degrees of intensity, challenges all countries and must constantly be inspired by the transcendent dignity of the human person and the principles inscribed in human nature. Foremost among these is respect for human life at every stage.

I am inspired by such clarity of thought!  He talks again about particular examples, such as changes in particular countries' laws regarding euthanasia or abortion.  He talks about proper understanding of human rights versus falsely-understood autonomy (license), and discusses things like education as platforms for the development of peace.  Then he hits hard at another constant theme:

 I would like to add that peace in society is also put at risk by certain threats to religious liberty: it is a question sometimes of the marginalization of religion in social life; sometimes of intolerance or even of violence towards individuals, symbols of religious identity and religious institutions. It even happens that believers, and Christians in particular, are prevented from contributing to the common good by their educational and charitable institutions. In order effectively to safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect the right of conscientious objection. This “frontier” of liberty touches upon principles of great importance of an ethical and religious character, rooted in the very dignity of the human person. They are, as it were, the “bearing walls” of any society that wishes to be truly free and democratic. 

Great analogy of our common "edifice" in society.   Without these "[weight-]bearing walls" of proper defense of religious liberty, especially in pluralistic democracies such as we know today, the edifice threatens to collapse.  Pray for our Pope! 

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