By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The world of politics and governance requires “a true revolution of love” in which citizens are inspired by the Christian values of solidarity and truth to work for the common good, Pope Benedict XVI said.
For Christians to be effective in the world of politics, which is “a complex art” of balancing ideals and individual interests, they must transform their “intelligence of faith into an intelligence of reality,” which is key for making sound judgments and bringing about true social transformation, he said.
The pope made his comments in an audience May 21 at a meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The council’s plenary assembly May 20-22 focused on the theme, “Witnesses to Christ in the Political Community.”
Pope Benedict told his audience that the current culture of “confused relativism and utilitarian and hedonistic individualism weakens a democracy and promotes the domination of the most powerful.”
“Authentically Christian politicians are needed” — laypeople who are true witnesses to Christ and the Gospel in the civil and political spheres, he said.
Politics needs to be renewed by “authentic political wisdom,” which is open to real dialogue and collaboration with all sectors of society and is not limited by an ideological viewpoint or utopian assumptions, he said.
The church’s role is not to promote any particular political party or system nor tell people how to run a country, he said. However, the church is called to preach the faith, teach social doctrine and give moral guidance on matters regarding public life, fundamental human rights and the salvation of souls, he said.
Assisted by the church, laymen and women must demonstrate through their personal, social and political lives how Christian faith and values can effectively address current issues, he said.
The lay faithful need to actively participate in political life in a way that is consistent with Church teaching, the pope said.
By using arguments founded on reason and inspired by great ideals, Catholic citizens can seek broad consensus with everyone who cares deeply about defending human life and liberty, safeguarding the truth and the well-being of the family, promoting solidarity with those in need and seeking the common good, he added.
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, told Vatican Radio May 20 that the church needs to give laymen and women proper formation so they live in a way that is consistent with church teaching and courageously give witness to Christ in the public realm.
He also said attitudes of apathy and skepticism toward the world of politics need to be overcome so citizens will reengage with their communities and promote the common good.
In his address to the plenary assembly, Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella said the key to transforming politics was for parties and individual politicians to build broad political platforms that are based on a clear moral and ethical vision of humanity.
Laws impact the way people understand what is right and wrong, he said in his address, which was published in part by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, May 21.
“If a lawmaker trivializes life with laws that make abortion easier to procure or that lead to a human sexuality that is without any rules,” and if laws focus only on preventative measures, he said, then the lawmaker will not have brought about real moral progress within society.
Instead, politicians need to create a political vision that challenges the current culture to be inspired by basic human values, and helps people develop a moral and ethical conscience from which they can be guided in their everyday life, said the archbishop, who is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Swearing allegiance to uphold a nation’s constitution “should never prevent a Christian in politics from also being faithful to the Gospel,” he said.
A love for truth is what should animate political life, he said. Yet that love cannot just be proclaimed, it also must be lived out in one’s life.
What qualifies as good or bad politics depends on the level of integrity of the policy maker’s intentions, the goodness of the policy’s aims and the level of honesty employed in its making, he said.
In fact, good politics is not always successful nor does it always bring about any real political advantage, he said. What matters is that it has an ethical dimension and that its aim — inspired by love for others — is to bring about the good.
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