Pope: Charity a Gift for Democracy

Notes Christianity’s Contribution to Iceland

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A mature democracy that fosters tolerance, acceptance, dialogue and collaboration, is enriched even more by the Christian virtue of charity, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this Thursday upon receiving in audience Elín Flygenring, the new ambassador of Iceland to the Holy See. In his address to the envoy, the Pontiff recalled that Christianity was formally accepted in Iceland more than 1,000 years ago.

He said Christians in the nation «can look back with gratitude to that moment and recall the truths, principles and values enshrined in your society’s institutions, laws and customs which continue to nurture and educate the population.»

«It is my fervent hope that the people of Iceland, as individuals and as a nation, will continue to draw inspiration from this rich tradition,» the Holy Father added. «I pray that it will enlighten them as they defend and promote human rights at home and abroad while encouraging respect for all religions and the legitimate exercise of freedom.»

«Mature democracies,» the Pontiff continued, «tend to educate people in tolerance and mutual acceptance, in respectful dialogue and collaboration for the common good. The positive effects of this social and political environment are enriched when Christians receive and practice the gift of charity that is expressed through dialogue and practical collaboration.

«I trust that in your country the members of the Catholic Church and all who search for Christian unity and for the wider good of society will continue to grow in mutual knowledge, respect and cooperation.»

Benedict XVI said the Church also values the work Iceland has done to promote peace, fight against poverty and work to preserve the environment: «Your country’s experience and technological expertise in the use of alternative energies can be of great service to other populations and contribute to mankind’s desire to be better stewards of God’s creation.

«I likewise cannot fail to commend Iceland’s concern for those who suffer the effects of war and underdevelopment which has made your population generously open in receiving refugees and, among other initiatives, eager to see international trade established on a more equitable basis.»

Regarding the current global financial downturn, Benedict XVI said many view with «apprehension the present period of international economic instability.»

«The Holy See is concerned for its negative effects on countries and individuals,» he said, «and follows with particular attention the proposals to consolidate national and international financial institutions on more prudent and morally responsible foundations.»

«I pray,» the Pope added, «that political and economic leaders will be guided in their decisions by wisdom, foresight and appreciation of the common good.»

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