Cardinal: Church Offers Inspiration, Not Politics

Cor Unum President Reflects on “Caritas in Veritate”

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 7, 2009 ( In his encyclical published today, Benedict XVI is not offering political ideas, but rather inspiration — presenting “charity in truth” as a guide for personal and community life, says one of his collaborators.

Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, presented “Caritas in Veritate” today during a press conference in the Vatican.

The cardinal said the text highlights the role of the Church as a facilitator of aid to the needy. This is not, he added, a “third way,” distinct from capitalism and communism, in order to attain an “earthly paradise.”

Instead, the social doctrine of the Church is an element of evangelization: “That is, the proclamation of the dead and risen Christ who the Church announces throughout time” and who “is also relevant to social life.”

Hence, Cardinal Cordes contended, the encyclical cannot be read outside of the context of the Gospel. Revelation, he explained, is also a key tenet in civil life. “The principles of social doctrine are not merely philosophical, but rather have their origin in Christ and his Word.”

Faith incarnate

The Vatican official explained that “Veritas in Caritate” takes up the theme Benedict XVI had already considered in “Deus Caritas Est”: Charity, the “royal road of the Church’s social doctrine.”

Far from proposing an ideological or political system, Catholic social doctrine is the way that Christians commit themselves to “‘incarnating’ their faith,” the cardinal said.

And the main point in this teaching is the importance of the person. “The first capital that must be safeguarded and valued is man, the person in his integrity,” Cardinal Cordes explained. Hence the “social question radically becomes an anthropological question.”

The person, however, cannot be considered in a merely horizontal plane, without taking into account his spiritual side, the prelate continued, citing the Pope’s affirmation that development is impossible without upright people committed to the common good.

Cardinal Cordes noted how in this context, the Holy Father concludes his encyclical emphasizing the importance of prayer, saying it is God who renews the person so he can be dedicated to live in charity and justice.

“Christians are not simply observers to watch or protest, infected by the modern culture of complaining, but rather they allow themselves to be converted so as to build a new culture in God,” he said. “This is true as well for members of the Church, as individuals or associations.”

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