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Cardinal Martino's Address in Singapore on the Laity

Social Doctrine and Human Promotion

SINGAPORE, JUNE 26, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the address that Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the pontifical councils for Justice and Peace and for Migrants and Travelers, gave June 20 in Singapore on the laity.

The cardinal was there as a special envoy of Benedict XVI for the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and the Holy See.

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1. I am very pleased to be here to present the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a document drawn up by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as desired by the unforgettable Servant of God John Paul II. The Compendium has been long-awaited and is the result of a long process of elaboration. It has been received with great interest, judging from the vast number of copies published and translations made. However, it remains a document that, in keeping with the very ideals that brought it into being, is intended to sow its seeds for a long time and to provide for the long-term fertilization of the ground on which society is built.

2. The Compendium presents in a broad and systematic manner the principles, assessments and guidelines that the Church has placed before Catholics and before men and women of good will, above all starting with Leo XIII's encyclical "Rerum Novarum," in order that they might face the difficult social questions of our modern age.

The text is divided into three parts: in the first part, it is seen that social questions -- if they are to be adequately dealt with -- must be placed in and brought back to the context of God's plan of love; in proclaiming the Gospel of justice and peace the Church too is placed at the service of this plan of love. In this first part, the great principles of social doctrine are illustrated: the centrality of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity; also presented are the key values of life in society: truth, justice, freedom and love.

The second part of the document deals with a whole series of issues that touch on social life: The first issue is family life, then work, economic life, the political community, international life, the environment and peace. As you can easily see, these are issues that are of utmost concern for us: They have implications for the lives of billions of people; they are connected with our present day, but above all they affect the fate of future generations. The Compendium ends with a rather short section in which certain guidelines are suggested, especially for the lay faithful, regarding the best way to make use of the extraordinary patrimony of human and Christian knowledge represented by social doctrine.

3. The lay faithful -- both as individuals and in associations -- are the Compendium's privileged partners; this document is meant to represent for them a precious instrument for formation and a constant source of inspiration. The lay faithful, by virtue of their baptism, are placed within the mystery of God's love for the world that Christ has revealed and of which the Church is a continuation in history. They therefore participate in the mystery, the communion and the mission found within the Church, but they do so according to their particular nature, their secular dimension.[1]

They live directly where social life is secularly organized: in the areas of the economy, of politics, of work, of social communications, of law, of institutional organizations where decisions and choices become social structures affecting civil life. The laity are not in the world to a greater degree than other ecclesial subjects, but they are in the world in a different way: They deal directly with secular realities, building the structural relations existing between the members of social and political communities, giving a certain direction to the course of world events by their work, determining the organizational and structural aspects of the world.

The lay faithful, by means of their competence and professional character, and by means of their responsibility for working in particular contexts, in some way complete the Church's social doctrine, as far as practice is concerned, and mediate its necessary impact on reality. Social doctrine is not mere theoretical knowledge, but is meant to be put into action, it is oriented to life and is to be applied creatively and actively practiced.

The lay faithful have a very particular role in this area, even if it is not a role that belongs exclusively to them. Since social doctrine is the meeting between the truth of the Gospel and human problems, the lay faithful -- both as individuals and in associations -- must actively guide the directives for action found in social doctrine towards operative results that are concrete and effective. They are people who take risks and who are open to new experiences. The lay faithful, coming up with concrete, ...

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