On Friday, 21 May , the Holy
Father met with Members and Consultors of the Pontifical Council for the
Laity, on the occasion of their 24th Plenary Assembly. The following is
a translation of his Address to them, which was given in Italian.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with joy that I welcome you all, Members and Consultors,
participants in the 24th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for
the Laity. I extend my cordial greeting to the President, Cardinal
as I also thank him for the kind words he has expressed to me; to the
Secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens, and to all those present.
Your Dicastery's structure
in which primarily lay people, coming from across the world and from
very diverse contexts and backgrounds, work alongside Pastors
offers a meaningful cross-section of the organic community of the
Church. In her the common priesthood of the baptized faithful and the
ordained priesthood put down their roots in the unique priesthood of
each in essentially different ways, but ordered one to the other.
Now that we have almost reached the end of the Year for Priests we
feel ourselves, to a heightened degree, to be grateful witnesses of the
surprising and generous self-gift and dedication of the many men
"conquered" by Christ and configured to him in the ordained priesthood.
Day after day, they accompany the christifideles laici on their
journey of faith, proclaiming the word of God, communicating his
forgiveness and reconciliation with Him, calling them to prayer and
offering as sustenance the Lord's Body and Blood.
It is from this mystery of communion that the lay faithful draw the
profound strength to he witnesses of Christ in the concrete reality and
substance of their lives, in all of their activities and surroundings.
The theme of your Assembly: "Witnesses to Christ in the Political
Community", takes on a special importance. Of course, the technical
formation of politicians is not part of the Church's mission; various
other institutions exist for this purpose. Rather, the Church's mission
is to "pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics,
whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls
requires it.... [T]he only means it may use are those which are
in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the
diversity of times and circumstances" (Gaudium et Spes, n.
The Church concentrates particularly on the formation of the
disciples of Christ, in order that they may ever increasingly become
witnesses of his Presence, any and everywhere. It is up to the lay
faithful to demonstrate concretely
in their personal and family life, in social, cultural and political
that the faith enables them to see reality in a new and profound way,
and to transform it; that Christian hope broadens the limited horizon of
mankind, expanding it towards the true loftiness of his being, towards
God; that charity in truth is the most effective force that is capable
of changing the world; that the Gospel gives a guarantee of freedom and
a message of liberation; that the fundamental principles of the social
doctrine of the Church
such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity
are extremely relevant and valuable in order to support new paths of
development in service to the whole person and to all humanity.
It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political
life, in a manner consistently in accordance with the Church's teaching,
bringing their well-founded reasons and high ideals into the democratic
debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among all those who
care about the defense of life and freedom, the safeguarding of truth
and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy and the crucial
search for the common good. Christians do not seek political or cultural
hegemony but, whatever their work, they are animated by the certainty
that Christ is the cornerstone of every human structure (cf.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some
questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life,
24 November 2002).
In taking up the words of my Predecessors, I too can affirm that
politics is a very important field in which to exercise charity. It
calls Christians to a strong commitment to citizenship, to building a
good life in one's country, and likewise to an effective presence among
the international community's institutions and programmes.
There is a need for authentically Christian politicians but, even
more so, for lay faithful who witness to Christ and the Gospel in the
civil and political community. This demand must be reflected in the
educational programmes of ecclesial communities and requires new forms
of presence and support from Pastors. Christian membership in
faith-related associations, ecclesial movements and new communities can
provide a good school for these disciples and witnesses, sustained by
the charismatic, communitarian, educational and missionary resources of
This is a demanding challenge. The times in which we live confront us
with large and complex problems, and the social question has become an
anthropological question at the same time. In the recent past, the
ideological paradigms have been shattered that proposed to be a
"scientific" response to that question.
The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of a utilitarian and
hedonistic individualism weakens democracy and favours the dominance of
strong powers. We must recover and reinvigorate authentic political
wisdom; be demanding in what concerns our own sphere of competency; make
discerning use of the research of the human sciences; face reality in
all its aspects, going beyond any kind of ideological reductionism or
utopian dream; show we are open to true dialogue and collaboration,
bearing in mind that politics is also a complex art of equilibrium
between ideals and interests, but never forgetting that the contribution
of Christians can be effective only if knowledge of faith becomes
knowledge of reality, the key to judgement and transformation. What is
needed is a real "revolution of love".
The new generations have immense demands and challenges before them
in their personal and social life. Your Dicastery looks after them with
special care, particularly through the World Youth Days, which have for
25 years been producing rich apostolic fruits among young people. Among
these challenges is also the social and political commitment, founded
not on partisan ideologies or interests but rather on the choice to
serve man and the common good, in the light of the Gospel.
Dear friends, as I invoke abundant fruits from the Lord upon your
work in this Assembly and upon your daily lives, I entrust each one of
your families and communities to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Star of the new evangelization, and I wholeheartedly impart the
Apostolic Blessing to you all.