Benedict XVI's Address to Belgian Ambassador

«The Gospel Is a Force That There Is No Reason to Fear»

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2010 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s address given Saturday in an audience with the new Belgian ambassador to the Holy See, Charles Ghislain.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the letters that accredit you as extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See. I thank you for the words that you have addressed to me. For my part I ask you to kindly express to His Majesty Albert II, King of Belgium, whom I recently was able to greet in person, my cordial vows to his person, and also for the happiness and success of the Belgian people. Through you I also greet the government and all the officials of the kingdom.

Your country experienced at the beginning of this year the two sad tragedies of Liege and Buizingen. I would like to renew the assurances of my spiritual nearness to the families that were affected and to the victims. These catastrophes bring us to measure the fragility of human existence and grasp the necessity, in order to protect it, of authentic social cohesion that does not weaken the legitimate diversity of opinions. This is based on the conviction that human life and dignity constitute a precious good that must be defended and promoted with decision, founding itself upon natural law. For quite some time the Church has inscribed itself fully in the history and the social fabric of your nation. It desires to continue to be a factor in the harmonious coexistence among all. It contributes to this in a very active way, especially through its numerous educational institutions, its work of a social character and the voluntary efforts of so many faithful. The Church is happy therefore to place itself at the service of all the components of Belgian society.

Nevertheless, it does not find it unnecessary to stress that it has, as an institution, the right to express itself publicly. It shares this right with all individuals and institutions, with the scope of speaking its mind on questions of common interest. The Church respects the right of everyone to think differently from it; it would like that its right to expression also be respected. The Church is a depository of a teaching, of a religious message that it received from Jesus Christ. It can be summarized with the following words from Sacred Scripture: «God is love» (1 John 4:16) and throws its light upon the meaning of the personal, familial and social life of man. The Church, having the common good as its objective, asks nothing other than the freedom to be able to propose this message, without imposing it on anyone, in respect for freedom of conscience.

It was in nourishing himself with this ecclesial teaching in a radical way that Joseph de Veuster became he who is now called «St. Damien.» The exceptional destiny of this man shows to what point the Gospel awakens an ethics that is a friend to the person, above all if he is in need or marginalized. The canonization of this priest and the universal fame that he enjoys is a legitimate reason for pride among the Belgian people. This attractive personage is not the fruit of a solitary journey. It is well to recall the religious roots that nourished his education and formation as well as the teachers who awakened that admirable generosity in him. It led him to share the marginalized life of the lepers, to the point of exposing himself to the illness from which they suffer. In the light of similar witnesses everyone can understand that the Gospel is a force that there is no reason to fear. I am convinced that despite the sociological developments, the Christian «humus» is still rich in your land. It can generously nourish the commitment of a growing number of volunteers who, inspired by evangelical principles of fraternity and solidarity, accompany persons who experience difficulties and who, for this reason, need to be helped.

Your country, which already hosts the headquarters of international community institutions, has seen its European vocation once again reaffirmed by the choice of one of your countrymen as president of the European Council. Certainly these successive choices are not only linked to the geographical position of your country and its multilingual capacities. A member of the original nucleus of founding countries, your nation committed itself and distinguished itself in seeking a consensus in very complex situations. This quality must be encouraged at the moment to face, for the good of all, the challenges internal to your country.

Today I would like to underscore that the art of consensus, if it is to bear lasting fruit, must not be reduced to a purely dialectical ability but must seek the true and the good. Because «[w]ithout truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present» («Caritas in Veritate,» no. 5).

Profiting from our meeting, I would like to warmly greet the bishops of Belgium, whom I will have the pleasure of receiving very soon on the occasion of their ad limina Apostolorum visit. My thoughts turn especially to His Excellency Archbishop Léonard, who, with enthusiasm and generosity, has just begun his new mission as archbishop of Malines-Brussels. I would also like to greet the priests of your country as well as the deacons and all the faithful who make up the Catholic community of Belgium. I invite them to bear witness to their faith with audacity. In their roles in society may they assert fully their right to propose values that respect human nature and correspond to the deepest and most authentic spiritual aspirations of the person!

In the moment in which you officially assume your functions at the Holy See, I offer my best wishes for a happy carrying out of your mission. You can be certain, Mr. Ambassador, that you will always find a cordial attention and understanding among my coworkers. Invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St. Damien, I pray to the Lord to pour out his generous blessings upon you, upon your family and your coworkers, and also upon the Belgian people and their leaders.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

© Copyright 2010 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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