Papal Message to Social Sciences Academy
"There Will Always Be a Place for Charity"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the message Benedict XVI sent to Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, on the occasion of 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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To Her Excellency
Professor Mary Ann Glendon
President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences
As the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences gathers for its thirteenth Plenary Session, I am pleased to greet you and your distinguished confreres and to convey my prayerful good wishes for your deliberations.
The Academy's meeting this year is devoted to an examination of the theme: "Charity and Justice in the Relations among Peoples and Nations." The Church cannot fail to be interested in this subject, inasmuch as the pursuit of justice and the promotion of the civilization of love are essential aspects of her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Certainly the building of a just society is the primary responsibility of the political order, both in individual States and in the international community. As such, it demands, at every level, a disciplined exercise of practical reason and a training of the will in order to discern and achieve the specific requirements of justice in full respect for the common good and the inalienable dignity of each individual. In my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I wished to reaffirm, at the beginning of my Pontificate, the Church's desire to contribute to this necessary purification of reason, to help form consciences and to stimulate a greater response to the genuine requirements of justice. At the same time, I wished to emphasize that, even in the most just society, there will always be a place for charity: "there is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love" (No. 28).
The Church's conviction of the inseparability of justice and charity is ultimately born of her experience of the revelation of God's infinite justice and mercy in Jesus Christ, and it finds expression in her insistence that man himself and his irreducible dignity must be at the centre of political and social life. Her teaching, which is addressed not only to believers but to all people of good will, thus appeals to right reason and a sound understanding of human nature in proposing principles capable of guiding individuals and communities in the pursuit of a social order marked by justice, freedom, fraternal solidarity and peace. At the heart of that teaching, as you well know, is the principle of the universal destination of all the goods of creation. According to this fundamental principle, everything that the earth produces and all that man transforms and manufactures, all his knowledge and technology, is meant to serve the material and spiritual development and fulfilment of the human family and all its members.
From this integrally human perspective we can understand more fully the essential role which charity plays in the pursuit of justice. My predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was convinced that justice alone is insufficient to establish truly humane and fraternal relations within society. "In every sphere of interpersonal relationships," he maintained, "justice must, so to speak, be 'corrected' to a considerable extent by that love which, as Saint Paul proclaims, 'is patient and kind' or, in other words, possesses the characteristics of that merciful love which is so much of the essence of the Gospel and Christianity" (Dives in Misericordia, 14). Charity, in a word, not only enables justice to become more inventive and to meet new challenges; it also inspires and purifies humanity's efforts to achieve authentic justice and thus the building of a society worthy of man.
At a time when "concern for our neighbour transcends the confines of national communities and has increasingly broadened its horizon to the whole world" (Deus Caritas Est, 30), the intrinsic relationship between charity and justice needs to be more clearly understood and emphasized. In expressing my confidence that your discussions in these days will prove fruitful in this regard, I would like briefly to direct your attention to three specific challenges facing our world, challenges which I believe can only be met through a firm commitment to that greater justice which is inspired by charity.
The first concerns the environment and sustainable development. The international community recognizes that the world's resources are limited and that it is the duty of all peoples to implement policies to protect the environment in order to prevent the destruction of that natural capital whose fruits are necessary for the well-being of humanity. To meet this challenge, what is required is an interdisciplinary ...
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