FORUM: ‘The Message of ‘Laudato si’, mi’ Signore’ – ‘Praise Be to You, My Lord’

Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Speaks at Acton Institute Conference

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Here is the address of Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo delivered last week at a conference sponsored by the Acton Institute on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.

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‘We are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness’ (§ 53).

I warmly greet everyone participating in this important meeting. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who organised this forum. Pope Francis’ appeal in Laudato Si’ is both profoundly religious and scientific: it begins from faith, goes on to engage in a philosophical and ethical reflection, and adopts the most precise knowledge of the natural and social sciences. He affirms that the planet in which we live is our common ‘sister home’ that is sick due to the harm inflicted on it by a few individuals, while the negative consequences are suffered by everyone, especially the poorest. Ecology comes from two words, eikos and logos, which in Greek mean ‘house’ and ‘order’, that is to say, that science orders the only home that we all live in, our common home.

Pope Francis has woken up contemporary men and women, inviting them to avoid a ‘superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness’ (§ 59). Moved by the cries of the poorest caused by the climate, he returns to the heart of the gospel, to the Beatitudes and to Matthew 25:40 ‘In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’. He inserts his new concept of integral ecology into the social thought of the Church, as well as dignity, freedom of thought, fraternity, the universal destination of goods, solidarity…Integral ecology encompasses ecological balance, social justice and spiritual responsibility.

The religious vision of ‘sister earth’

This message is profoundly religious because it considers the world as God’s home, as a gift that God has given to human beings – His image – to take care of and develop according to their potentialities for the good of men and women in all times and in all places. Chesterton says in his famous ‘St Francis of Assisi’ that the Saint of Assisi enables us to discover the truth of heaven and earth in its profound sacredness, created by God and redeemed by Christ, whereas the Greek-Roman mentality, absorbed in myth, saw in the heavens and earth, in the constellations and in life, the mere fables of the passions and virtues of the gods and demigods. ‘The flowers and stars have recovered their first innocence. Fire and water are felt to be worthy to be the brother and sister of a saint. The purge of paganism is complete at last…stars stand no more as signs of the far frigidity of gods as cold as those cold fires. They are like all new things newly made and awaiting new names, from one who shall come to name them. Neither the universe nor the earth have now any longer the old sinister significance of the world. They await a new reconciliation with man, but they are already capable of being reconciled. Man has stripped from his soul the last rag of nature worship, and can return to nature’ (ch.2, cf. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks09/-0900611.txt).

Saint Francis’ vision and message regarding the world as God’s home and our common home is one that comes directly from the Gospel. ‘Praise be to God for our Sister, Mother Earth, which brings forth varied fruits and grass and glowing flowers’ ends almost with the words ‘Praise be to God for our Sister, the death of the body’. And Pope Francis wants to act on this. Thus, affirming – like a certain candidate for the US presidency – that Francis’ message is not religious because it deals with the earth, is to misunderstand what true religion is. Indeed, the Gospel requires that Francis deals with the earth and not only matters of faith and human customs, because, as we will see, the human being cannot live without a habitat that is integrally healthy, good and beautiful. As Saint Thomas said, ‘in sacred science, all things are considered under the aspect of God: either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end’ (S.Th. I, 7 c). Naturally all things, inasmuch as they are created by Him out of nothing, exist in relation to God. As such, the Pope has to be concerned with everything in relation to God. Francis addresses himself to uniting what modernity has disjoined or separated: the human being from the earth, the ecology of the environment from human ecology, and especially the creation from God. Francis joins together both dimensions in a ground-breaking approach that he calls ‘integral ecology’. The home that God has gifted to men and women has to be a common home ‘like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’’ (§ 1). The Pope carefully avoids proposing precise and technical solutions. Yet some Christians will protest: again another Pope ‘playing politics’! Francis inscribes his designs in the heart of the mystery of the love of the creation. Perhaps here his inspiration comes from St. Thomas, where he writes, ‘as therefore we say that a tree flowers by its flower, so do we say that the Father, by the Word or the Son, speaks Himself, and His creatures; and that the Father and the Son love each other and us, by the Holy Spirit, or by Love proceeding’ (S.Th. I, 37, 2.)

Concrete humanity – all peoples inhabiting our ‘common home’ – is invited to decrypt the message of trust that God has proposed since the beginning: ‘The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us’ (§ 84).

Data from the natural sciences adopted by Francis

However, according to the evidence brought forward by the natural and social sciences ‘this sister land is sick and cries out from the damage caused in her due to the irresponsible use and unjust abuse of goods placed in her by God. In modern times we have grown up thinking that we are her owners and rulers, authorized to exploit her’ without any consideration of her potentialities and laws, as if she were an inert material. Indeed, it is difficult for the Pope as it is for us all to understand how such destructive violence inflicted by man could be possible, against himself, against his brother and against his habitat. Here the Pope ascends towards a theological observation: ‘The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life’. This is why – Francis concludes – ‘the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters’ (§ 2).

Here the Pope passes from a theological beginning centred on the Gospel to a consideration and acceptance of the most precise and current data that these sciences provide. Francis begins this analysis – for the first time in the Magisterium – by talking about the climate as a ‘common good, of all and for all’. And he defines this at the global level as ‘a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life’. He then proceeds by making use of scientific notions and words, asserting that ‘a very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system’. In adopting the observations made by these disciplines, he goes on to affirm clearly that ‘in recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon’ (§ 23).

Arriving at the crucial point, the Pope accepts that ‘there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle)’ that coincide with global warming, but Francis energetically denounces the scientifically identifiable causes of this evil, declaring that: ‘a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity’ (§ 23).

The contribution of natural sciences is decisive. Laudato Si’ does not only talk about the climate problem, which is not mentioned in the Bible, it also sustains that human activity which uses combustible fossil fuels is the main cause of global warming. And it seems here that Francis, recalling his studies in chemistry during his youth, wishes to examine, like the natural sciences do, the nature of this warming phenomenon: ‘Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space’. Later he concludes: ‘The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system’. And he makes another important and scientific observation about Amazonia: ‘Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes’.

At the same time the Pope explains that ‘Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity’.

We encounter once again the newness of the epistemology of Laudato Si’. Whereas the statement that the earth is our home and we ourselves are its stewards has a Biblical foundation, the view that the climatic crisis of global warming is due to human activity that uses fossil fuels is purely scientific. The Bible can tell us that human beings must preserve and develop the earth in line with the design of God but it cannot tell us the real situation of the earth today: knowledge about this situation is a domain of the natural sciences. As a consequence, faith and reason, philosophical knowledge and scientific knowledge, are brought together for the first time in the pontifical Magisterium in Laudato Si’.

Loss of Biodiversity: Amazonia

There is a chapter devoted to the ‘loss of biodiversity’. It says that ‘the earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses’ (§ 32). Indeed, the ‘Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.’ In addition, as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and its president, Werner Arber, have said, we could add that the genes of biodiversity allow the mechanisms of evolution to function well. For this reason as well, they are essential and their loss is irreplaceable and dramatic.

The Pope at this point makes another philosophical and theological observation when considering the adage of St. Ignatius, Ad majorem gloriam Dei: ‘It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species, which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right’ (§ 33).

Pope Francis is not concerned only with the loss of genes – he is also worried about the loss of micro-organisms. He writes: ‘It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place’ (§ 34).

Furthermore, he does not fail to dwell upon the relationship between the rapacity of the liberal free market and the threats that it poses to the environment: ‘Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration’ (§ 36).

At this point Laudato Si’ directly addresses Amazonia and mentions ‘those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers’. In this sense the Amazon and the glaciers that feed it are a decisive reality and have become emblems of the question of the environment. As Pope Francis says: ‘We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future of humanity’

Indeed, the Amazon’s ecosystems ‘possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully’. So ‘when these forests are burned down or leveled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost’. Furthermore, sometimes the biological loss leads to desertification. Often deforestation produces arid deserts.

At the same time Laudato Si’ says that ‘a delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations’. In fact, there are ‘proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations’.

For that reason, with the courage that characterises Francis, he writes ‘We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests’ (§ 38).

Thus to avoid the loss of biodiversity he warns us about the destruction of forests: ‘The replacement of virgin forest with plantations of trees, usually monocultures, is rarely adequately analyzed. Yet this can seriously compromise a biodiversity which the new species being introduced does not accommodate. Similarly, wetlands converted into cultivated land lose the enormous biodiversity which they formerly hosted. In some coastal areas the disappearance of ecosystems sustained by mangrove swamps is a source of serious concern’ (§ 39).

At this point Pope Francis exhorts us to be aware of our ignorance about the extraordinary riches of biodiversity, above all that to be found in the seas and oceans. Indeed, for many experts on the earth we know only 10% of the animal and vegetable species. For example he declares that ‘Oceans not only contain the bulk of our planet’s water supply, but also most of the immense variety of living creatures, many of them still unknown to us and threatened for various reasons’. On this point the Pope comes to a conclusion that bears on food security and the modern economic system, with certain forms of industrial fishing which to catch some fish eliminate large quantities of others: ‘What is more, marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world’s population, is affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain species. Selective forms of fishing which discard much of what they collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them’ (§ 40).

He also refers to the famous coral reefs which are like the great forests on dry land: ‘In tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, molluscs, sponges and algae. Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline’. At this point the Pope asks himself, following the conclusions of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, of which he was the principal author, ‘Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?’ He answers: ‘This phenomenon is due largely to pollution, which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans. All of this helps us to see that every intervention in nature can have consequences which are not immediately evident, and that certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself” (§ 41).

Indeed, the Pope ends the section on the loss of biodiversity with a strong message: ‘Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analysing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment’. Taking up a theological idea of St. Thomas Aquinas, he stresses that: ‘all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family. This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with a view to developing programmes and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction’ (§ 42). But this is not all as regards the sciences: there are more innovations in Laudato Si’ and these come from the social sciences.

The insights of the social sciences adopted by the encyclical

One of the key points sustained throughout Laudato Si’ is the intimate relationship between the fragility of the planet and the world’s poor (whether individuals or cities of people). This comes from a deep conviction that in the world everything is intricately, intimately and causally interconnected. In other words ‘climate change is a global problem with serious social, environmental, economic, distributional and political dimensions, and poses one of the greatest challenges for humanity’. The encyclical is not ecological in the ‘green’ sense, but is primarily a social document.

The poor populations are the most severely affected even though they are the least responsible. Laudato si’ tells us that: ‘the worst impacts are reoccurring and will continue to do so even more over the following decades, particularly affecting developing countries and the poorest of the world. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry’ (§ 25).

Climate change provokes the migration of animals and plants that cannot always adapt and this in its turn affects the means of production of the poorest who are obliged to emigrate with great uncertainty as regards their future and the future of their children: ‘There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever’ (§ 25).

The detailed explanations of our academician Ramanathan, which the Pope echoes, are convincing: ‘Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths’. Poor people fall ill, for example, ‘from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general’ (§ 20).

Pope Francis also affirms that ‘The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas’ (§ 48).

In actual fact there is not sufficient awareness of the climate problems that particularly affect the poor and excluded, which consequently exacerbates both poverty and exclusion. Yet the poor and the excluded ‘are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems’ (§ 49).

Furthermore, ‘This should not make us overlook the abandonment and neglect also experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life’ (§ 154).

After the crimes of slavery and the colonial and totalitarian experiences of past centuries, humanity – like the idea of the intangible value of human life – is thus once again threatened in its existence, its dignity and its freedom. All these dramatic situations of poverty and social exclusion, caused or increased mainly by global warming, are the breeding ground of new forms of slavery and human trafficking, such as forced labour, prostitution, organ trafficking, drug dependency, etc. It is clear that full employment and schooling form the great defence against poverty, prostitution, drug addiction and drug trafficking.

Consequently, reducing our use of carbon energy is not a question only of the natural environment! The Anthropocene, a term proposed by our pontifical academicians to define the new geological age in which the model of development is based upon human activity that uses fossil fuels and makes the earth sick, is also ‘the greatest construction site for the defence of human rights of our epoch’ (Msgr. Desmond Tutu, preface to Stop Climate Change!).

For this reason Francis makes use of the social sciences together with the natural sciences. In a globalised world, we cannot fail to recognise that the true social approach is connected with ecology and vice versa: ‘a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment’. Indeed, His Holiness concludes that we must ‘hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ (§ 49).

There is also a geopolitical consideration. Through this first physical globalisation of global warming through the air and oceans, it is evident that ‘the warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. There is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries, and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, in the countries in which they raise their capital’ (§ 51).

Hence ‘every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social – and political – perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged and likewise, all socio-political consideration must have an integral ecological dimension’ (§ 93).

Solutions for an integral ecology: we are in time to address the problem

This invitation to safeguard the ‘common home’ expresses God’s appeal to man to set to work. So what are the solutions? ‘In actual fact, developing the created world in a prudent way is the best way of caring for it, as this means that we ourselves become the instrument used by God to bring out the potential which he himself inscribed in things: “The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them”’ (Sir 38:4; § 124). Caring for the earth is not like taking care of a museum, which only preserves and maintains works that have no biological life. Caring for the earth also entails developing it according to its God-given vital potentialities, in accordance with scientific discovery and activity, for the common good of man, for the sustainable development of our planet, with generational and intergenerational solidarity, leaving all progenies to inherit a healthy earth rather than a sick one. In addition, protecting an integral ecology means eradicating social exclusion and marginalisation as soon as possible, particularly poverty and new forms of slavery, which today have become the most valuable form of business for traffickers.

With regard to solutions, I want to acknowledge and commend the work being carried out by the Amazonas Sustentável Foundation, because unlike other approaches regarding the large ‘lungs of the planet’, to use the metaphor from Laudato Si’, the Amazonas Sustentável project knows how to integrate nature with human beings, who are called to safeguard it and develop it according to their means, that is, in a sustainable way.

Many lungs of the planet or reserves of biodiversity and water have become ‘national parks’ or protected areas with a legal status that enforces the protection and conservation of their rich flora and fauna. In this solution and others like it, the human being is separated from the protected or preserved region, which comes to be considered almost as a museum. But preservation in this case does not foster development. The solution proposed by Amazonas Sustentável integrates the human being into his native habitat, Mother Earth, by creating social inclusion and improving the climate, while addressing the contemporary emergencies of exclusion and global warming. This is something revolutionary, the likes of which can be seen with the Jesuit missions of the eighteenth century. Today the model that should be imitated is that of the Amazonas Sustentável.

The Pope affirms that ‘in the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters’. We should therefore search for the common good by forming partnerships on the planet, honour the value that God gives to each person in fighting for his dignity, embody the mercy of the Lord for those who are most threatened, transform socio-political mechanisms in order to reduce inequalities, and recognise the infinite patience and mercy of God towards men and women, nurturing faith, hope and charity.

We could cite here the golden rule, at the base of all civilisations and religious traditions: ‘do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you’, or in its positive formulation: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Lk 6:31). However this rule today is not enough: it deserves to be interpreted in the light of the Beatitudes of the Gospel according to St. Matthew chapter 5, and the protocol by which we shall be judged in Matthew chapter 25, which refers to the other, the poorest and the neediest in an existential and real situation of suffering. To choose the Beatitudes and the poor, those who suffer, those who weep, those of pure heart, the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers, those who love justice and are persecuted for its sake, is a choice that transcends the golden rule, which is too abstract to respond to the suffering of the other and those most in need. The option to follow the Beatitudes ‘entails recognizing the implications of the universal destination of the world’s goods’ but as the Pope mentioned in ‘the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, it demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers’. Indeed, the Pope concludes:  ‘We need only look around us to see that, today, this option is in fact an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good’ (§ 158). In definitive terms, differently from the golden rule, in the Beatitudes the other is that suffering being that the Gospel never ceases to place at its centre. Suffering is not only defined as physical suffering, as mental or moral pain, but also by the diminution or the destruction of the capacity to be and to act, to be able to do, which are felt as an attack on the integrity of the person. And, again in a different way from the golden rule, a sort of equalisation appears in the Beatitudes where suffering man is at the origin and, thanks to the shared suffering of the suffering other and oneself, the love required by the Beatitudes is not confused with mere pity, where one can be secretly happy at being rewarded. In the Beatitudes, when truly implemented, one, where the power of acting is at the outset greater than that of the suffering other, is affected by everything that the other can offer in return. From the suffering other there proceeds a gift that no longer comes from the power to act and to exist but from weakness itself. It may be precisely here that we find the proof of the love required by the Beatitudes, which, at the moment before death, lies in voices that speak to each other or the weak holding of hands.

Pope Francis in his homily at the ‘Creole Mass’ of A. Ramirez of 2014, on the occasion of the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, said that ‘The Magnificat thus introduces us to the Beatitudes, the primordial synthesis and law of the Gospel message. In light of the Magnificat, let us feel compelled today to ask for a grace, a wholly Christian grace, that the future of Latin America be forged by the poor and by those who suffer, by the meek, by those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, by the merciful, by the pure in heart, by the peacemakers, by those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ’s name, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (cf. Mt 5:1-11). May the grace be forged by those who today, are relegated to the category of slaves, of objects to be exploit or simply be rejected, by the idolatrous system of the throwaway culture’.

And we make this request, the Pope declared, because Latin America is ‘the “continent of hope”! For we expect from it new models of development, which link Christian tradition to civil progress, justice and equity to reconciliation, scientific and technological development to human wisdom, fruitful suffering to hopeful joy. This hope can be protected only by great amounts of truth and love, the foundations of all reality, revolutionary engines of an authentic new life’.

The German philosopher Habermas, in a dialogue with Cardinal Ratzinger, said that to save today’s world ‘a liberal political culture can itself require secularised citizens to take part in the effort to translate the significant material of religious language into a language that is accessible to everyone’. The most significant material of religious language, the most revolutionary discourse, the most relevant, the most human and the most divine, the shortest and the most profound, that any religious man has ever pronounced during the course of history, is that of the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, of Jesus Christ. Politicians and social scientists, in particular those of Latin America, are called to reflect on the way of embodying the Beatitudes both as a law of politics and society and also as the shared concrete goods of globalised society, and lastly as a new name for the common good. Welcome will be the thinker, the academic, the economist, the worker, the politician and the religious or social leader who is able to bring the programme of the Beatitudes of Christ to contemporary globalised society!

I very much thank you for inviting me to this city which has given a great deal and which still has a great deal to give to the world. Thank you very much for listening to me.

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