Benedict XVI's Message to Italy's Social Week

“Pursue Together the Good of the Country and of the Whole Human Family”

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REGGIO CALABRIA, Italy, OCT. 14, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, for the opening day of the 46th Italian Catholic Social Week, which is being held through Sunday in Reggio Calabria.

The message was read today by Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, the apostolic nuncio to Italy. The theme of the meeting is: “Catholics in Italy today. An Agenda of Hope for the Future of the Country.”

* * *

To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco,
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference
My first thought, in addressing you and the those gathered in Reggio Calabria on the occasion of the celebration of the 46th Social Week of Italian Catholics, is of profound gratitude for the contribution of reflection and encounter that, in the name of the Church in Italy, you wish to offer the country.
Such a contribution is rendered more precious by the ample preparatory course that in the last two years has involved dioceses, ecclesial groups and academic centers: the initiatives carried out in view of this event evidence the widespread willingness within Christian communities to recognize themselves “Catholics in Italy today,” cultivating the objective of “an agenda of hope for the future of the country,” as the theme states of the present Social Week.
All this takes on largely significant importance in the socio-economic juncture that we are experiencing. At the national level, the most obvious consequence of the recent global financial crisis lies in the spread of unemployment and of precariousness, which often impedes young people — especially in the areas of the “Mezzogiorno” [southern Italy] — of living in their own territory, as protagonists of development. For everyone, therefore, such difficulties constitute an obstacle on the path to realize their own ideals of life, favoring the temptation of withdrawal or disorientation. Mistrust is easily transformed into resignation, diffidence, disaffection and disengagement, to the detriment of the legitimate investment in the future.
Well looked at, the problem is not only economic, but above all cultural, and finds confirmation, in particular, in the demographic crisis, in the difficulty to appreciate fully the role of women, in the effort of so many adults in conceiving and placing themselves as educators. All the more reason why there is a need to recognize and support forcefully and actively the irreplaceable social function of the family, heart of affective and relational life, as well as the place that assures more and better than all help, care, solidarity, capacity to transmit the patrimony of values to the new generations. Because of this it is necessary that all the institutional and social subjects commit themselves to ensure that the family has effective measures of support, equipping it with adequate resources and allowing for a just conciliation with the times of work.
Catholics are not lacking in awareness of the fact that such expectations must be placed today within the complex and delicate transformations that concern the whole of humanity. As I had the opportunity to highlight in the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” “The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds ” (No. 9). This calls for “a clear vision of all economic, social, cultural and spiritual aspects” (ibid., No. 31) of development.

To address the present problems, protecting at the same time human life from conception to its natural end, defending the dignity of the person, safeguarding the environment and promoting peace, is not an easy task, but much less so is it impossible, if one is firm in trusting the capacity of man, if one stretches the concept of reason and of its use and each one assumes his own responsibilities. In fact, it would be illusory to delegate the search for solutions strictly to the public authorities: political subjects, the world of business, labor organizations, social operators and all citizens, as individuals and in an associated way, are called to develop a strong capacity to analyze, to be farsighted and to participate.
To move according to a perspective of responsibility entails the willingness to come out of the exclusive search for one’s own interests, to pursue together the good of the country and of the whole human family. When the Church recalls the horizon of the common good — category bearing her social doctrine — she intends, in fact, to refer to the “good of all of us,” which “It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it” (ibid., No. 7). In other words, the common good is that which builds and describes the city of men, the fundamental criterion of social and political life, the end of human action and of progress; it is a “requirement of justice and charity” (ibid.), promotion of respect of the rights of individuals and peoples, as well as of relations characterized by the logic of gift. This finds in the values of Christianity “not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development” (ibid., No. 4).

For this reason, I renew the appeal so that a new generation of Catholics will arise, persons interiorly renewed that commit themselves to political activity without inferiority complexes. Such a presence, certainly, is not improvised; it remains, rather, the objective to which a path should tend of intellectual and moral formation that, beginning from the great truths about God, man and the world, offers criteria of judgment and ethical principles to interpret the good of each and all. For the Church in Italy, which opportunely assumed the educational challenge as a priority in the present decade, it is a question of devoting itself to the formation of mature Christian consciences, which are alien to egoism, to greed for goods and to the desire for a career and, instead, are consistent with the professed faith, acquainted with the cultural and social dynamics of this time and capable of assuming public responsibility with professional competence and a spirit of service. The socio-political endeavor, with the spiritual resources and the attitudes it requires, remains a lofty vocation, to which the Church invites to respond with humility and determination.
The Social Week you are celebrating intends to propose “an agenda of hope for the future of the country.” Undoubtedly, it is about an innovative method of work, which assumes as its starting point actual experiences, to recognize and appreciate the cultural, spiritual and moral potentialities inscribed in our time, though very complex. One area for further reflection is the migratory phenomenon and, in particular, the search for strategies and rules that favor the inclusion of the new presences. It is significant that, exactly 50 years ago and in the same city, a Social Week was dedicated entirely to the topic of migrations, especially to those that now are taking place inside the country. In our days, the phenomenon has assumed imposing proportions: having surmounted the emergency phase, in which the Church spent herself generously for the first reception, it is necessary to pass to a second phase, which identifies, in full respect of the law, the terms of integration.
Believers, as well as all men of good will, are requested to do everything possible to reveal the situations of injustice, misery and conflict that oblige so many men to undertake the path of exodus, promoting at the same time the conditions of insertion in our lands of all those who intend, with their work and the patrimony of their traditions, to contribute to the building of a better society than the one they left. In recognizing the role of immigrants, we feel called to present the Gospel to them, proclamation of
salvation and of full life for every man and woman.
However, the hope with which you intend to build the future of the country is not resolved in the pure legitimate aspiration of a better future. Born, rather, from the conviction that history is guided by Divine Providence and tends to a dawn that transcends the horizons of human action. This “reliable hope” has the face of Christ: in the Word of God made man each one finds the courage to witness and abnegation in service. Not lacking certainly, is the wonderful trail of light that distinguishes the experience of faith of the Italian people, in the glorious track of so many men and women saints — priests, consecrated persons and laymen — who were consumed for the good of brethren and committed themselves in the social field to promote more just and equitable conditions for all, in the first place for the poor.
In this perspective, while I wish you profitable days of work and encounter, I encourage you to feel the loftiness of the challenge placed before you: the Catholic Church has a legacy of values that are not things of the past, but constitute a very living and timely reality, capable of offering a creative guideline for the future of a nation.
On the eve of the 150th anniversary of National Unity, from Reggio Calabria might emerge a common feeling, fruit of a credible interpretation of the situation of the country; a purposeful wisdom, which is the result of a cultural and ethical discernment, constitutive condition of political and economic choices. From this depends the re-launching of civil dynamism, for the future that will be — for all — the sign of the common good.  
To the participants in the 46th Social Week of Italian Catholics I wish to assure my remembrance in prayer, which I accompany with a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, October 12, 2010

Benedict XVI

[Translation by ZENIT]
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