Pontiff: Church-State Relations Face a Certain "Tension"

Receives in Audience New Envoy From Austria

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Secular authorities want the best of both worlds with regard to Church-state relations, says Benedict XVI. 

The Pope said this today upon receiving in audience the new ambassador from Austria to the Holy See, Alfons Kloss. Speaking in German, the Holy Father noted a certain “tension” in Church-state relations: “On one hand, the political authorities take care not to grant public places to religions, understanding them as merely individual ideas of faith of the citizens.

“Sought, on the other hand, is the application of criteria of a secular public opinion to religious communities. It seems that they would like to adapt the Gospel to the culture and yet, they seek to impede, in an almost shameful way, that the culture be molded by the religious dimension.”

Nonetheless, the Holy Father acknowledged the work of some Central and Eastern European countries, such as Austria, “that seek to make room for man’s fundamental questions, faith in God, and faith in salvation through God.”


Speaking of the Church’s contriubtion to society, Benedict XVI underlined “the effort of the Church for the needy,” which he said “makes it evident the way in which it is the spokesman of underprivileged persons.”

“This ecclesial effort,” he continued, “which receives widespread recognition in the society, cannot be reduced to mere welfare. Its most profound roots are in God, in the God who is love. 

“Hence it is necessary to respect fully the action proper to the Church, without converting it into one of the many services of social aid. It is necessary to consider it in the totality of its religious dimension.”

“All the social forces have the urgent and constant task of guaranteeing the moral dimension of culture, the dimension of a culture that is worthy of man and of his life in community,” the Pope added. “That is why the Catholic Church will work with all her strength for the good of society.”

The Holy Father noted as well the Church’s concern for the family, which he said forms the “foundations of human life”: “The social order finds an essential support in the spousal union of man and woman, which is also directed to procreation. Because of this, marriage and the family call for special protection on the part of the state. 
“It is for all its members a school of humanity with positive effects for the individuals in addition to being so for society. In fact, the family is called to live and protect mutual love and truth, respect and justice, fidelity and collaboration, service and availability to others, in particular toward the weakest.”

Large families

Benedict XVI lamented the challenges facing families with many children. He said some would point to the problems of these families — such as poverty, less opportunities for education, and even more divorce — and suggest they be “eliminated from society.”

He also lamented that the lack of protection for newborns, and that they “are often given a secondary right of existence in relation to the liberty of their parents’ decision.”

“The building of the common European home can come to a good end only if this continent is conscious of its own Christian roots and of the values of the Gospel, in addition to the Christian image of man, which are — also in the future — the leaven of European civilization,” the Pontiff stated. “Faith lived in Christ and active love for one’s neighbor, reflecting the word and life of Christ, and the example of the saints, must weigh more in Western Christian culture. 

“Your compatriots proclaimed saints recently, such as Franz Jagerstatter, Sister Restituta Kafka, Ladislaus Batthyany-Strattman and Karl of Austria, can offer us wider perspectives. These saints, through different paths of life, offered themselves with the same dedication to the service of God and of his message of love for one’s neighbor. Thus they leave us an example of guidance in the faith and of their witness of understanding among peoples.”

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-31658?l=english

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