Papal Address to Spain's New Envoy to Holy See

“Life Is Sacred and No One Can Dispose of It Arbitrarily”

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving the letters of credence from Spain’s new ambassador to the Holy See, María Jesús Figa López-Palop.

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Mrs. Ambassador,

On receiving the letters of credence that accredit Your Excellency as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Spain to the Holy See, I thank you cordially for the words you addressed to me, as well as the deferent greeting that you transmit to me from Their Majesties the [monarchs of Spain], the government and the Spanish people. I correspond gladly expressing my best wishes for peace, prosperity and spiritual good for all of them, whom I have very present in my memory and prayer. Receive the most cordial welcome on beginning your important task in this diplomatic mission, which has centuries of brilliant history and very many illustrious predecessors of yours.

I recently visited Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, and I recall with gratitude so many attentions and manifestations of closeness and affection to the Successor of Peter on the part of the Spanish and their authorities. They are two emblematic places, in which is highlighted both the spiritual attraction of the Apostle James, as well as the presence of admirable signs which invite to look on high even in the midst of a plural and complex environment.

During my visit I perceived many expressions of the vivacity of the Catholic faith in those lands, which have seen the birth of so many saints, and which are dotted with cathedrals, centers of assistance and culture inspired by the fecund rootedness and fidelity of its inhabitants in their religious beliefs. This entails also the responsibility of diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See which will try to foment always — with mutual respect and collaboration, within the legitimate autonomy in their respective fields — all that leads to the good of persons and the genuine development of their rights and liberties, which includes the expression of their faith and conscience, both in the public as well as the private sphere.

Because of your significant trajectory in diplomatic activity, Your Excellency knows well that the Church, in the exercise of her own mission, seeks the integral good of every nation and its citizens, acting in the ambit of their competencies and respecting fully the autonomy of the civil authorities, whom it appreciates, and for whom it prays to God that they will exercise their service to society with generosity, honesty, success and justice. This framework in which the mission of the Church and the function of the state come together, moreover, has acquired a definite form in bilateral agreements between Spain and the Holy See on the main aspects of common interest, which furnish the juridical support and necessary stability so that their respective actions and initiatives benefit all.

The beginning of your lofty responsibility, Mrs. Ambassador, takes place in a situation of great economic difficulty of global reach that also grips Spain, with truly worrying results, above all in the field of unemployment, which causes discouragement and frustration especially in young people and less favored families. I keep all the citizens very present and ask the Almighty to illumine all those who have public responsibilities to seek boldly the path to a profitable recovery for the whole society. In this connection, I would like to point out the praiseworthy action that Catholic institutions are carrying out to give prompt aid to the needy, and at the same time I hope there will be a growing disposition to the cooperation of all in this solidaristic endeavor.

With this, the Church shows an essential characteristic of her being, perhaps the most visible and appreciated by many, whether or not they are believers. However, she intends to go beyond mere external and material aid, and to aim at the heart of Christian charity, for which the neighbor is first of all a person, a child of God, always in need of fraternity, respect and acceptance in any situation in which he finds himself.

In this connection, the Church offers something that is innate to her and that benefits persons and nations: She offers Christ — the hope that encourages and strengthens — as an antidote to the disappointment of other fleeting proposals and a heart lacking in values, which ends by being hardened to the point of no longer being able to perceive the genuine meaning of life and the reason for things.

This hope gives life to confidence and collaboration, thus changing a somber present into strength of spirit to address the future with hope, [the future] both of the person as well as of the family and of society.

However, as I reminded in the message for the celebration for  the 2011 World Day of Peace, instead of living and organizing society in such a way that it fosters openness to transcendence (cf. No. 9), there is no lack of ways, often sophisticated, of hostility to the faith which “are expressed at times reneging history and religious symbols, in which the identity and culture of the majority of the citizens is reflected” (No. 13). The fact that in some realms there is a tendency to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor, even annoying, does not justify trying to marginalize it, at times through denigration, ridicule, discrimination and even indifference in face of incidents of clear profanation which violate the fundamental right of religious liberty inherent to the dignity of the human person, and which is “an authentic weapon of peace, because it can change and improve the world” (cf. No. 15).

In her concern for every human being in a concrete way and in all his dimensions, the Church watches over the person’s fundamental rights, in frank dialogue with all those who contribute to their being effective and without reductions. She watches over the right to human life from its beginning to its natural end, because life is sacred and no one can dispose of it arbitrarily. She watches over protection and aid to the family, and advocates economic, social and juridical measures so that the man and woman who enter marriage and form a family will have the necessary support to fulfill their vocation to be sanctuaries of love and life. She also advocates an education that integrates the moral and religious values in keeping with the parents’ convictions, as is their right, and as fits the integral development of young people, and that, for the same reason, includes also the teaching of the Catholic religion in all centers for those who choose it, as is established in the juridical legislation itself.

Before concluding, I wish to make a reference to my new visit to Spain to participate in Madrid, in the forthcoming month of August, in the celebration of the 26th World Youth Day. I join with joy the efforts and prayers of its organizers, who are preparing carefully such an important event, with the hope that it will give abundant spiritual fruits for young people and for Spain. I am conscious also of the willingness, cooperation and generous help that both of the government of the nation as well as the autonomous and local authorities are dispensing for the greater success of an initiative that will attract the attention of the world and show once again the greatness of heart and spirit of the Spanish.

Mrs. Ambassador, I wish you the very best in carrying out the lofty mission that has been entrusted to you, so that relations between Spain and the Holy See are consolidated and progress, while I assure you of the great appreciation the Pope has for the ever beloved peoples of Spain. I ask you also to be the interpreter of my sentiments to the monarchs of Spain and the other authorities of the nation, while I invoke abundant blessings from the most High on Your Excellency, your family accompanying you today, as well as on your collaborators and the noble Spanish people.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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