Benedict XVI's Message to Brazilian Bishops

«Authentic Social Life Begins in Each Conscience»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 15, 2009 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s Saturday address to bishops of Southern Brazil, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Revered Cardinal,

Dear Archbishops and Bishops of Brazil,

In the midst of the ad limina Apostolorum visit you are fulfilling, you have come together today to go up to the house of the Successor of Peter, who welcomes all of you with open arms, esteemed pastors of the Southern Region 1, in the state of Sao Paulo. There is found that important center of hospitality and evangelization, the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, where I had the joy of being able to visit in May of 2007 for the opening of the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. I hope that the seed sown then will bear true fruits for the spiritual and also the social good of the populations of that promising continent, of the dear Brazilian nation and of your federal state.

They «have the right to a full life, proper of the children of God, with more human conditions: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence (Opening Address 13/V/2007, n.4). Once again, I wish to express my gratitude for all that was done with such great generosity and renew my cordial greeting to you and to your dioceses, remembering in a special way the priests, the consecrated men and women and the lay faithful who help you in the work of evangelization and the Christian animation of society.

Your people harbor in their hearts great religious sentiments and noble traditions, rooted in Christianity, which are expressed in heartfelt and genuine religious and civil manifestations. It is a patrimony rich in values that you — as the reporters show, and Father Nelson referred to in the affable greeting he just addressed to me in your name — try to maintain, defend, extend, deepen and vivify. In rejoicing greatly over all this, I exhort you to continue this work of constant and methodical evangelization, conscious that the truly Christian formation of the conscience is decisive for a profound life of faith and also for social maturity and the true and balanced well-being of the human community.

In fact, to merit the title of community, a human group must correspond, in its organization and objectives, to the fundamental aspiration of the human being. That is why it is not exaggerated to affirm that an authentic social life begins in each one’s conscience. Given that a well formed conscience leads to fulfilling the true good of man, the Church, specifying what this good is, enlightens man and, throughout the whole of Christian life, tries to educate his conscience. The teaching of the Church, due to its origin — God –, to its content — the truth — and to its point of support — the conscience — finds a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of each person, whether or not a believer.

Concretely, «the question of life and of its defense and promotion is not only the prerogative of Christians. Even if it receives the light and extraordinary strength of faith, it belongs to every human conscience that aspires to truth and lives attentive and watchful of the destiny of humanity. (…)The ‘people of life’ rejoice to be able to share their commitment with many others, so that the ‘people of life’ will be ever more numerous, and the new culture of love and of solidarity can grow for the true good of the city of men» [Enc. Evangelium Vitae (25/III/1995), 101].

Venerable Brothers, speak to the heart of your people, awaken consciences, unite wills in a joint effort against the growing wave of violence and contempt for the human being. The latter, from gift of God received in the loving intimacy of marriage between a man and a woman, is now seen as a mere human product. «Today, a primary and crucial field of cultural strife between the absolutism of technology and man’s moral responsibility is that of bioethics, where the possibility of integral human development is radically at stake. It is a most delicate and decisive realm, where the fundamental question of knowing whether man produces himself or depends on God bursts with dramatic intensity. The scientific discoveries in this field and the possibilities of technical intervention seem so advanced that they impose a choice between these two conceptions: that of reason open to transcendence or that of reason enclosed in immanence» [Enc. Caritas in Veritate (29/VI/2009), 74].

In a provocative way, Job calls irrational beings to give their own testimony: «But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind» (Job 12:7-10). The conviction of right reason and the certainty of faith that the life of the human being, from conception until natural death, belongs to God and not to men, confers on it that sacred character and that personal dignity that arouses only one correct legal and moral attitude, that is, one of profound respect. Because the Lord of life said: «[f]or your life-blood I will surely require a reckoning (…) for God made man in his own image» (Genesis 9:5.6).

My dear and venerable brothers, we must never be discouraged in our appeal to conscience. We would not be faithful followers of our Divine Master, if we did not know in all situations, also in the most arduous, how to carry our hope «against all hope» (Romans 4:18). Continue to work for the triumph of God’s cause, not with the sad spirit of one who only sees want and dangers, but with the firm confidence of one who knows he can count on Christ’s victory. United to the Lord in an ineffable way is Mary, fully conformed to her Son, conqueror of sin and death. Through the intercession of Our Lady Aparecida, I implore from God the light, consolation, strength, intensity of resolutions and achievements for you and your most direct collaborators, while at the same time I grant you from my heart — and extend to all the faithful of every diocesan community –, my particular Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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