Friday, October 27, 2006

When Wealth Increases and God Decreases

Yesterday in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Frank De Coninck, the new ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See.

Recalling how Belgium was, from the very beginning, an active participant in "the great project of European construction," the Holy Father praised the goals achieved in this field over the last 50 years. "Little by little, the continent of Europe is finding its unity in peace," he said, "the European Union has become a major economic force and, for many people, a sign of hope."

Today, faced with "the requirements of the globalization of trade and of solidarity between human beings," Europe must "continue to open itself, committing itself to the great projects of the planet." In the first place is "the question of peace and security, ... the international situation riven by conflict, ... especially in the Middle East, and the dramatic conditions in the Holy Land, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as in Africa and Asia."

The Holy Father went on to consider challenges that "concern the future of human beings and their identity," noting how "enormous technological progress has revolutionized many practices in the field of medical science, while ... norms that once appeared untouchable have been relativized. ... In Western societies, characterized by their superabundance of consumer goods and by their subjectivism, human beings find themselves facing a crisis of meaning," while "laws are passed that put respect for human life into question."

"The Church, on the foundation of her long experience, and of the treasure of Revelation she received, ... firmly underlines her convictions concerning human beings and their prodigious destiny," said the Pope. "When Belgian bishops speak in favor of the development of palliative care to enable people ... to die with dignity, or when they participate in the debates of society" in order to draw attention to that invisible moral frontier before which technological progress must bow: the dignity of man, "they seek to serve the whole of society by identifying the conditions for a real future of freedom and dignity for mankind. With them, I invite political leaders ... to give attentive consideration to their responsibilities and to the challenges these questions pose."

"Belgium," said the Holy Father, "came into being as a monarchy, the monarch's role being to guarantee national unity and ensure respect for each linguistic and cultural community within the nation. ... The unity of a country ... requires all sides to show a will to serve the common interest and a desire for better mutual knowledge through dialogue and reciprocal enrichment. Today, the influx of ever-greater numbers of immigrants and the increasing number of communities of different cultural origin or religion, make it absolutely necessary for there to be dialogue between cultures and religions in our societies."

"We must know one another better," the Pope concluded, "respecting one another's religious convictions and the legitimate requirements of social life, in accordance with current legislation. We must welcome immigrants in such a way as always to respect their dignity" through "immigration policies that reconcile the interests of the country of destination with the necessary development of less-favored nations. ... Thus we will avoid the risks of ... exacerbated nationalism or xenophobia, and may hope for the harmonious development of our societies."


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