1) Ecology of nature but above all of man
2) Positive secularity
by Sandro Magister
The address has the style and prudence of
However, this does not change the fact that the address transmits messages that intentionally go against other tendencies. Three of them in particular.
1. ECOLOGY OF NATURE, BUT ABOVE ALL OF MAN
The first message coincides with the one previously issued by Benedict XVI for the World Day of Peace, celebrated on New Year's Day: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation." With a decisive and unconventional emphasis: the primacy given to the comprehensive safeguarding of man.
Here are three passages from the address that develop this theme:
"Twenty years ago, after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the materialistic and atheistic regimes which had for several decades dominated a part of this continent, it was easy to assess the great harm which an economic system lacking any reference to the truth about man had done not only to the dignity and freedom of individuals and peoples, but to nature itself, by polluting soil, water and air. The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, in as much as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God." [...]
"If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown. [...]
"Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and
2. POSITIVE SECULARITY
A second unconventional message is addressed mainly to
"The causes of the situation which is now evident to everyone are of the moral order, and the question must be faced within the framework of a great programme of education aimed at promoting an effective change of thinking and at creating new lifestyles. The community of believers can and wants to take part in this, but, for it to do so, its public role must be recognized. Sadly, in certain countries, mainly in the West, one increasingly encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular. It is clear that if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end.
"There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility. Here I think of
3. FREEDOM OF RELIGION
Finally, a third message defends freedom of religion, and denounces situations in which this freedom is violated.
Benedict XVI cites some of the examples that see Christians as the victims:
"Out of love for the dialogue and peace which protect creation, I exhort the government leaders and the citizens of
"The grave acts of violence to which I have just alluded, combined with the scourges of poverty, hunger, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment, have helped to swell the ranks of those who migrate from their native land. Given the extent of this exodus, I wish to exhort the various civil authorities to carry on their work with justice, solidarity and foresight. Here I wish to speak in particular of the Christians of the
As in years past, this time as well the text of the address was prepared in the offices of the secretariat of state.?
But this time as well, Benedict XVI did not fail to make his mark on it.?
The personal "signature" of Joseph Ratzinger is in the opening lines, in which he immediately offered to the diplomats present, many of whom are strangers to the Christian faith, the contemplation of the birth of the incarnate Word, announced by the angels to the shepherds. And he cited the preface of the second Mass for Christmas:
"We recognize in Christ the revelation of your love. No eye can see his glory as our God, yet now he is seen as one like us. Christ is your Son before all ages, yet now he is born in time. He has come to lift up all things to himself, to restore unity to creation."