VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, gave today on concluding the plenary session of the academy held April 27-May 1. The theme of the meeting was “Charity and Justice in the Relations Among Peoples and Nations.”
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At the conclusion of our XIII Plenary Session, I am pleased to share with you some of what we in the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences have learned over the past four days of intense meetings. In the name of the academy and its chancellor, His Excellency Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, I thank you journalists for your interest in our work this past week since we last met.
I am joined here today by Professor Juan Llach of Argentina, the principal organizer of our plenary session this year. After my introductory remarks, Professor Llach will speak to you about some of what we heard and discussed in our meetings. I will limit myself to comments of a more general character.
Our meeting this year on the theme of “Charity and Justice in the Relations Among People and Nations” is part of a broader project of the academy on questions arising from globalization. Over several years, these meetings have provided academy members with much data and creative thinking. While we are not in a position today to speak about any final conclusions, I hope to give you a sense of what we have been doing this week. In the coming months, academy members will further discuss what we have heard here, and be in a position to arrive at some conclusions for a final report. We cannot present to you today, therefore, final conclusions of the academy.
As I mentioned at the outset of our meeting, we had a record number of invited guests this year to share with us their understanding of issues related to charity and justice among nations. I would just give a few examples of what we heard.
Professor Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista, former foreign minister of Mexico, spoke about the vulnerability of poorer countries to sudden swings in world capital markets, and the need to mitigate the damage from such exposure. Doctor Jacques Diouf, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, spoke to us about the very practical issue of access to safe water. Doctor José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, addressed us the strengths and weaknesses of international law in building peaceful relations between states. Doctor Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state of the United States, spoke about how globalization is weakening the power of nation-states, precisely as their own citizens expect them to do more to mitigate the effects of that same globalization.
The meetings of the academy are also a privileged place for the Church to listen to and converse with the world of scholarship. We were honored with a substantial address from His Eminence, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, who spoke about the weaknesses of multilateral institutions.
He clarified for us that the Holy See strongly supports international institutions, but does not subscribe to an uncritical internationalism, any more that the Holy See subscribes to an uncritical nationalism in defending the rights of nations.
We also had the participation of several other curial cardinals, as well as His Eminence Cardinal Pierre Sfeir Nasrallah, patriarch of the Maronites, and His Beatitude Monsignor Antonios Naguib, patriarch of Alexandria. The latter two spoke with great passion and emotion about the challenges and crises of interreligious dialogue as a critical part of peace between nations. As one of our invited guests, Rabbi David Rosen, said: “Without peace between religions, there cannot be peace between nations.”
In his message to us for our plenary session, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI highlighted three challenges: i) the environment and sustainable development, ii) respect for the rights and dignity of persons, and iii) the danger of losing spiritual values in a technical world.
The Holy Father also wrote in general about the work of the social sciences in the relations between nations. He reminded us that the “building of a just society is the primary responsibility of the political order,” and therefore the questions before us are those largely of “practical reason and a training of the will in order to discern and achieve the specific requirements of justice.”
To this work of practical reason, the Church offers a “purification of reason,” permitting the light of the Gospel to illuminate the social order. In other words, relations between states cannot remain only a matter of technical skill; they must be animated by ethical concerns.
The work of the social sciences lies between the principles and practice. We heard some practical ideas about how the priority of ethical concerns might be concretely achieved, as you will hear presently from Professor Llach.
A final note about the question of subsidiarity. As I noted last week, that was one aspect of international relations which we were asked to think about.
In Catholic social thinking, the concept of subsidiarity allows space for individuals, families and communities to practice the virtues of charity and justice without being usurped by an all-powerful state. At the level of nations, is there room to allow for charity and justice to be exercised as virtues?
The nation-state, for all of its weaknesses, allows great numbers of peoples to live together in peace and freedom, with space allowed for the exercise of virtues which promote the common good. Can we say that international institutions do the same?
There can be no doubt that the Catholic Church, in its teachings on the unity of the human race and the universal destination of material goods, stands on the side of institutions which promote peace and harmony between nations. But the challenge is for those institutions to allow ample space for the virtues of charity and justice as well. The work of our Academy in the months ahead is to look at concrete proposals in that regard.
Professor Llach will now share with you some of the proposals that we heard.
Thank you again for your interest in our work.
[Original text: English; text adapted]