Pontiff's Address to Laity Council Meeting

«Politics Is a Very Important Realm for the Exercise of Charity»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which met this week in Rome for its 24th plenary assembly. The theme of the meeting was «Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community.»
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Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome all of you with joy, Members and Consultors, participants in the 24th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. I address a cordial greeting to the president, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, thanking him for the courteous words he addressed to me, to the secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens, and to all those present.

The composition itself of your dicastery, where, together with the pastors, a majority of lay faithful work from the whole world and from the most different situations and experiences, offers a significant image of the organic community that is the Church, whose common priesthood, proper of the baptized faithful, and the ordained priesthood, sink their roots in the one priesthood of Christ, according to essentially different modalities, but ordered one to the other.

Having arrived almost at the conclusion of the Year for Priests, we feel ourselves even more grateful witnesses of the amazing and generous donation and dedication of so many men «conquered» by Christ and configured to him in the ordained priesthood. Day after day, they accompany the path of the «Christifideles Laici,» proclaiming the Word of God, communicating his forgiveness and reconciliation with Him, calling to prayer and offering as nourishment the Lord’s Body and Blood. It is from this mystery of communion that the faithful draw the profound energy to be witnesses of Christ in all the concretion and density of their lives, in all their activities and environments.
The theme of your Assembly: «Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community,» is of particular importance. 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 dialectic 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.
Dear friends, while I invoke from the Lord abundant fruits for the works of this assembly and for your daily activity, I entrust each one of you, your families and communities to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, and I impart  to you my heartfelt apostolic blessing.
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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