Saturday, May 22, 2010

"A Revolution of Love is Necessary": The Pope Talks Politics

This past week, the Pontifical Council for the Laity met in Rome for its quinquennial plenary, one dedicated to the theme of "Witness to Christ in the Political Community."

Yesterday, the international membership of layfolk and prelates met with B16, who offered up the following notable nuggets in his address:
The technical formation of politicians certainly does not enter the mission of the Church. In fact, there are several institutions with this objective. However, her mission is "to give moral judgment also on things that pertain to the political order, when this is required by the fundamental rights of the person and the salvation of souls ... using only all those means that conform to the Gospel and the good of all, according to the diversity of the times and situations" ("Gaudium et Spes," 76).

The Church concentrates particularly on educating the disciples of Christ, so that, increasingly, they will be witnesses of his presence, everywhere. It is up to the laity to show concretely in personal and family life, in social, cultural and political life, that the faith enables one to read reality in a new and profound way and to transform it; that Christian hope extends the limited horizon of man and points him to the true loftiness of his being, to God; that charity in truth is the most effective force to change the world; that the Gospel is guarantee of liberty and message of liberation; that the fundamental principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity, are very timely and of value for the promotion of new ways of development at the service of every man and of all men.

It is of the competence of the faithful also to participate actively in political life, in a way that is always consistent with the teachings of the Church, sharing well-founded reasons and great ideals in the democratic discourse and in the search for ample consensus with all those concerned with the defense of life and liberty, the protection of truth and of the good of the family, solidarity with the needy and the necessary search for the common good. Christians do not seek political or cultural hegemony, but, wherever they are committed, they are moved by the certainty that Christ is the corner stone of every human construction (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Related to the Involvement and Behavior of Catholics in Political Life, Nov. 24, 2002).

Taking up again the expression of my predecessors, I can also affirm that politics is a very important realm for the exercise of charity. The latter asks Christians for a strong commitment to the citizenry, for the construction of a good life in nations, as also for an effective presence in the headquarters and programs of the international community. Genuinely Christian politicians are necessary, but even more so lay faithful that are witnesses of Christ and of the Gospel in the civil and political community. This exigency should be very present in the educational itineraries of ecclesial communities and it requires new ways of accompaniment and support on the part of pastors. The membership of Christians in associations of the faithful, in ecclesial movements and new communities can be a good school for these disciples and witnesses, supported by the charismatic, community, educational and missionary richness proper to these realities.

It is an exacting challenge. The times we are living in place us before great and complex problems, and the social question has become, at the same time, an anthropological question. The ideological paradigms have collapsed that pretended, in the recent past, to be the "scientific" answer to this question. The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of utilitarian and hedonist individualism weakens democracy and fosters the dominance of the strong powers. A genuine political wisdom must be recovered and reinvigorated; to be exacting in what refers to one's own competence; to make critical use of the research of human sciences; to address reality in all its aspects, going beyond all ideological reductionism or utopian pretension; to show oneself open to all true dialogue and collaboration, keeping in mind that politics is also a complex art of balance between ideals and interests, but without ever forgetting that the contribution of Christians is decisive only if the intelligence of the faith becomes intelligence of the reality, key of judgment and of transformation. A real "revolution of love" is necessary.

The new generations have before them great demands and challenges in their personal and social life. Your dicastery follows them with particular attention, above all through the World Youth Days, which for 25 years have produced rich apostolic fruits among young people. Among these also is the social and political commitment, a commitment based not on ideologies or selfish interests, but on the choice to serve man and the common good, in the light of the Gospel.
PHOTO: Getty