Today the Holy Father accepted the credentials of the new ambassador from the USA to the Holy See, Honorable Miguel Humberto Díaz.
Here is the Holy Father’s discourse with my emphases and comments.
[First comes all the diplomatic stuff...] I am pleased to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. I recall with pleasure my meeting with President Barack Obama and his family last July, and willingly reciprocate the kind greetings which you bring from him. I also take this occasion to express my confidence that diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See, formally initiated twenty-five years ago, will continue to be marked by fruitful dialogue and cooperation in the promotion of human dignity, respect for fundamental human rights, and the service of justice, solidarity and peace within the whole human family. [Something of a foreshadowing?]
In the course of my Pastoral Visit to your country last year I was pleased to encounter a vibrant democracy, committed to the service of the common good and shaped by a vision of equality and equal opportunity based on the God-given dignity and freedom of each human being. ["human dignity" for the second time...] That vision, enshrined in the nation’s founding documents, continues to inspire the growth of the United States as a cohesive yet pluralistic society [a matter of great interest to Papa Ratzinger] constantly enriched by the gifts brought by new generations, including the many immigrants who continue to enhance and rejuvenate American society. In recent months, the reaffirmation of this dialectic of tradition and originality, unity and diversity has recaptured the imagination of the world, [Probably in reference to how the financial breakdown was addressed and how the health care debate is going.] many of whose peoples look to the American experience and its founding vision in their own search for viable models of accountable democracy and sound development in an increasingly interdependent and global society.
[Keep your copy of Caritas in veritate handy...] For this reason, I appreciate your acknowledgement of the need for a greater spirit of solidarity and multilateral engagement in approaching the urgent problems facing our planet. The cultivation of the values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" can no longer be seen in predominantly individualistic or even national terms, but must rather be viewed from the higher perspective of the common good of the whole human family. The continuing international economic crisis clearly calls for a revision of present political, economic and financial structures in the light of the ethical imperative of ensuring the integral development of all people. What is needed, in effect, is a model of globalization inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world’s peoples are seen not merely as neighbors but as brothers and sisters.
Multilateralism, for its part, should not be restricted to purely economic and political questions; rather, it should find expression in a resolve to address the whole spectrum of issues linked to the future of humanity and the promotion of human dignity, ["human dignity"] including secure access to food and water, basic health care, just policies governing commerce and immigration, particularly where families are concerned, climate control and care for the environment, and the elimination of the scourge of nuclear weapons. [Now a demonstration that the Holy See does have an interest in being a player in international diplomacy...] With regard to the latter issue, I wish to express my satisfaction for the recent Meeting of the United Nations Security Council chaired by President Obama, which unanimously approved the resolution on atomic disarmament and set before the international community the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a promising sign on the eve of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Genuine progress, as the Church’s social teaching insists, must be integral and humane; it cannot prescind from the truth about human beings and must always be directed to their authentic good. In a word, fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, [A constant theme for Pope Benedict.] which alone is the guarantee of freedom and real development. For her part the Church in the United States wishes to contribute to the discussion of the weighty ethical and social questions shaping America’s future by proposing respectful and reasonable arguments grounded in the natural law and confirmed by the perspective of faith. [The Church will participate in the public square and will clarify her teaching on moral and ethical issues. Note the reference to "natural law". The Church will make some points in the public not merely on the basis of revelation, but from reason and a deep reflection on man's nature as thoughtful people observe it.] Religious vision and religious imagination do not straiten but enrich political and ethical discourse, and the religions, precisely because they deal with the ultimate destiny of every man and woman, are called to be a prophetic force for human liberation and development throughout the world, particularly in areas torn by hostility and conflict. In my recent visit to the Holy Land I stressed the value of understanding and cooperation among the followers of the various religions in the service of peace, and so I note with appreciation your government’s desire to promote such cooperation as part of a broader dialogue between cultures and peoples.
[Is Benedict now going to set the tone for this Ambassador's tenure?] Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom – the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear – "is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility;" it is "a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good" (Address at the White House, 16 April 2008). The preservation of freedom is inseparably linked to respect for truth and the pursuit of authentic human flourishing. The crisis of our modern democracies calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity. [Again, "human dignity" along with "human nature".] The Church in the United States contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse. [Again, a pointed statement that the Church will act also in the public square.] Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens. [You now see what you suspected above. "Human dignity" was code language, foreshadowing the Pope's determination to make a statement about abortion and stem-cell research, as well as freedom of conscience and the right not to be compelled to do things which people might find contrary to their values, but which are also - from the point of view een of natural law - intrinsically evil.] The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics, [This statement will not be welcomed by the Kmiecs and other squishy Catholics. Benedict is saying that the question of the dignity of life, from conception to natural death is prior to and cannot be separated from other ethicial and social questions.] for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, "a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized" (Evangelium Vitae, 93; cf. Caritas in Veritate, 15). [Talk all you want about this or that social problem. If you are killing your young through abortion, etc., your claims about justice and peace are vain.]
[Now he wraps up quickly, lest anyone think that the last point can be buried under more verbiage.] Mr. Ambassador, as you undertake your new mission in the service of your country I offer you my good wishes and the promise of my prayers. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved American people, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.
I very much like Pope Benedict’s reframing of "justice and peace".
Many who set aside abortion, etc., because they are busy working on "justice and peace" issues, are now reminded that there is no "justice and peace" when the problem of abortion is not being addressed. Abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia, etc… these are the fundamental "justice and peace" issues.
The repetition of "human dignity" and also the fact that the Church does act and will continue to act and speak in the public square is a strong signal that the American Church will not be silent in the matter of health care reform in the US.
I suspect that this address may bolster the wills of some US bishops to continue to speak out strongly on those key issues.