February 13, 2007

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

The following, in it's entirety, is a copyrighted transcript of the Vatican Information Service.

SUMMARY:


PROMOTE THE MATURATION OF MORAL CONSCIENCE

 VATICAN CITY, FEB 13, 2007 (VIS) - Late yesterday morning, the Holy Father received in audience participants in an international congress on Natural Law, being promoted by the Pontifical Lateran University.

   In his address, which was made public this morning, the Pope began by noting "the great advantages" of technological progress. He also mentioned, however, "the threats menacing the destruction of nature," and also noted "another danger, less visible but no less alarming: the method that enables us to have an ever greater understanding of the rational structures of matter, makes us ever less capable of seeing the source of this rationality: creative Reason."

   For this reason, the Holy Father went on, "there is an urgent need to reflect upon the question of natural law and to rediscover its truth" which "is common to all mankind. ... This law has as its first and most general principle that of 'doing good and avoiding evil'," from which "derive all the other more specific principles that regulate ethical judgements on the rights and duties of everyone."

   These include: "the principle of respect for human life from conception to natural end," because "life is not the property of man but a gratuitous gift of God;" and "the duty to seek the truth, a necessary supposition for all authentic human maturation." Another of the principles is human freedom, which since it "is always shared with others, ... can only be found in that which is common to everyone: the truth of human beings, the fundamental message of existence itself, in other words the 'lex naturalis'."

   Pope Benedict also dwelt upon the need for justice and solidarity, values expressed in "obligatory norms that do not depend upon the will of the legislator, nor even upon the consensus that States may give them. They are, in fact, norms that precede any human law and as such they cannot be repealed by anyone."

   "Natural law," he affirmed, "is the source from which, along with fundamental rights, flow ethical imperatives that must be honored. Modern legal ethics and philosophy reveal the widespread influence of the postulates of juridical positivism. As a consequence legislation often becomes a mere compromise between various interests; there is an attempt to transform into law private interests or desires that clash with the duties deriving from social responsibility.

   "In this situation, it is well to recall that all legal systems, both internal and international, ultimately draw their legitimacy from their rooting in natural law, in the ethical message inscribed in human beings themselves. ... Knowledge of this law ... increases with the development of moral conscience. The primary concern for everyone, and especially for those charged with public responsibilities, must then be that of promoting the maturation of moral conscience."

   "What we have said so far has very concrete applications if referred to the family," explained the Pope, "in other words 'the intimate partnership of married life and love established by the Creator and qualified by His laws.' ... Indeed, no law made by man can overturn the norms written by the Creator, without inflicting a dramatic injury to society in what constitutes its most basic foundation."

   "Finally, I feel the need to reaffirm once again that not everything that is scientifically possible is also ethically legitimate. Technology, when it reduces the human being to an object of experimentation, ends up by abandoning the weak to the power of the strongest. Entrusting oneself blindly to technology as the only guarantee of progress, without at the same time presenting an ethical code, ... would be an act of violence against human nature, with devastating consequences for everyone."

   "Scientists must also contribute in helping us to acquire a profound understanding of our responsibility for man, and for the nature entrusted to him. On this basis it is possible to develop a fruitful dialogue between believers and non believers, between theologians, philosophers, jurists and scientists, all of whom can also give legislators precious guidance for individual and social life."

   The Pope concluded his talk by expressing the hope that the conference will "bring not only a greater sensitivity among scholars towards moral natural law, but also help to create the conditions ... for an ever greater awareness of the inalienable value of 'lex naturalis' for a real and coherent progress of individual life and of the social order."

 

THE ABSENCE OF GOD IS WORSE THAN MATERIAL POVERTY

 VATICAN CITY, FEB 13, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today in the Holy See Press Office, the presentation took place of Benedict XVI's Message for Lent 2007. Participating in the press conference were Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," Msgr. Karel Kasteel and Fr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery, and Fr. Oreste Benzi, president of the John XXIII Foundation.

   Until now the pontiffs' Lenten Messages have concentrated, said Archbishop Cordes, "on works of charity in the sense of the social commitment of Christians." However, Benedict XVI's Message this year "focuses forcefully upon God the Father of Jesus Christ and has, therefore, not an anthropocentric but a theocentric emphasis. ... This alteration is also discernable in the preaching of Benedict XVI in general. He seems to want us to address ourselves more intensely to the Father in heaven, to entrust ourselves to His Son, Jesus Christ."

   "Of course, Benedict XVI is also aware that God seems to be the great missing presence of our time, whether man knows it or not. ... Clearly, the Pope cannot accept this impoverishment. The absence of God is worse than material poverty because it kills all sure hope and leaves man alone with his pain and grief."

   The president of "Cor Unum" pointed out how in this year's Message, "the Pope resumes the reflections on 'eros and 'agape' he began in his Encyclical, and sees these two forms of love come together in all their fullness in the crucified Christ. He writes: 'only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the greatest of sacrifices.'

   "Thus," Archbishop Cordes added, "the Pope also uses his Lenten Message to go back to the pain that weighs upon our lives through our own or others' fault, and he invites us to raise our eyes from the depths to the heights, 'they shall look on Him whom they have pierced'." The Holy Father reveals "a sensitivity to the despair of the world, not exclusively, perhaps not even principally, to eliminate misery by one's own efforts, but to seek energy in the fountain of love against all forms of resignation."

   Archbishop Cordes concluded by pointing out that no one, "by appealing for us to turn to Christ, seeks to substitute the service of man with service to God."

   For his part Fr. Oreste Benzi indicated that Lent must be, for all Christians, "a renewed experience of the love of God, donated to us in Christ, a love that in our turn we must 're-donate' to our fellow man, especially to the needy and the suffering."

   In this context, Fr. Benzi enumerated the tasks facing the communities and movements recognized by the Church. These include: "the struggle to defend women from abortion, recognition of the true family, the fight against drugs, the commitment to show a real welcome to immigrants ... and gypsies, the commitment to help prisoners, ... the commitment not to be employees of charity but lovers of Christ, the commitment to be a [united] people, and the struggle for freedom from slavery and prostitution."

 

HOLY FATHER'S MESSAGE FOR LENT 2007

 VATICAN CITY, FEB 13, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was The Message of Benedict XVI for Lent 2007. The text, dated November 21, 2006, has as its title a verse taken from the Gospel of St. John: "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced." The full English-language version of the document is given below:

   "'They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.' This is the biblical theme that this year guides our Lenten reflection. Lent is a favorable time to learn to stay with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, close to Him Who on the Cross, consummated for all mankind the sacrifice of His life. With a more fervent participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of penance and prayer, at Christ crucified Who, dying on Calvary, revealed fully for us the love of God. In the Encyclical 'Deus caritas est,' I dwelt upon this theme of love, highlighting its two fundamental forms: 'agape' and 'eros.'

   "The term 'agape', which appears many times in the New Testament, indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other. The word 'eros,' on the other hand, denotes the love of one who desires to possess what one lacks and yearns for union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is undoubtedly 'agape.' Indeed, can man give to God some good that He does not already possess? All that the human creature is and has is divine gift. It is the creature then, who is in need of God in everything. But God's love is also 'eros.' In the Old Testament, the Creator of the universe manifests toward the people whom He has chosen as His own a predilection that transcends every human motivation. The prophet Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the love of a man for an adulterous woman. For his part, Ezekiel, speaking of God's relationship with the people of Israel, is not afraid to use strong and passionate language. These biblical texts indicate that 'eros' is part of God's very heart: the Almighty awaits the 'yes' of His creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God's love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible. Turning in on himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life Who is God Himself, and became the first of 'those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.' God, however, did not give up. On the contrary, man's 'no' was the decisive impulse that moved Him to manifest His love in all of its redeeming strength.

   "It is in the mystery of the Cross that the uncontainable power of the heavenly Father's mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam. One could very well assert, therefore, together with Saint Maximus the Confessor, that Christ 'died, if one could say so, divinely, because He died freely.' On the Cross, God's 'eros' for us is made manifest. 'Eros' is indeed - as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it - that force 'that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved'. Is there a more 'mad eros' than that which led the Son of God to make Himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offences?

   "Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God's love, a love in which 'eros' and 'agape,' far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God Himself Who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as 'Lord and God' when he put his hand into the wound of His side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God's 'eros' toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of His 'agape.' In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the greatest of sacrifices. Jesus said: 'When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.' The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and dedicate ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ 'draws me to Himself' in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.

   "'They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.' Let us look with trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow 'blood and water'! The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Through the water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the merciful embrace of the Father. Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd, flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: 'The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation ... we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving.' Let us live Lent then, as a 'Eucharistic' time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed. Contemplating 'Him whom they have pierced' will move us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person; it will move us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people. May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must 'regive' to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way shall we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the love of Christ. I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, a fruitful Lenten journey, imparting with affection to all of you, a special Apostolic Blessing."

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