VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2006 (Zenit.org).- In his message for this year’s Lent, Benedict XVI states that there cannot be development without responding to the material and spiritual needs of people.
The papal message in fact is an appeal for “the true good of man” which will lead to “authentic peace.”
This year, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, falls on March 1. The Pope has entitled his message using a quotation from Gospel according to Matthew (9:36): “Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity.”
The papal message affirms that the Church “knows that if we are to promote development in its fullness, our own ‘gaze’ upon mankind has to be measured against that of Christ.”
“In fact, it is quite impossible to separate the response to people’s material and social needs from the fulfillment of the profound desires of their hearts,” explains the Pope.
Benedict XVI cites an encyclical of Pope Paul VI, “Populorum Progressio,” in which the latter denounced “the lack of material necessities for those who are without the minimum essential for life, the moral deficiencies of those who are mutilated by selfishness” and the “oppressive social structures, whether due to the abuses of ownership or to abuses of power, to the exploitation of workers or to unjust transactions.”
Noting the suffering that these causes bring to millions of people, Benedict XVI says that the “gaze” of Christ “impels us to affirm the true content of this ‘complete humanism'” that “consists in the ‘fully-rounded development of the whole man and of all men.'”
“For this reason, the primary contribution that the Church offers to the development of mankind and peoples does not consist merely of material means or technical solutions. Rather, it involves the proclamation of the truth of Christ,” he stresses.
This proclamation, the Pope writes, “educates consciences and teaches the authentic dignity of the person and of work; it means the promotion of a culture that truly responds to all the questions of humanity.”
The Holy Father continues: “In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world’s population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the ‘gaze’ of Christ. …
“Even in this era of global interdependence, it is clear that no economic, social or political project can replace that gift of self to another through which charity is expressed.”
These reflections lead the Holy Father to emphasize “the central role of authentic religious values in responding to man’s deepest concerns, and in supplying the ethical motivations for his personal and social responsibilities.”
“These are the criteria,” the message urges, “by which Christians should assess the political programs of their leaders.”