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Diocese of Rockville Centre


Vatican City, 28 July 2013 (VIS) - “In you I see both memory and hope: the memory of your country’s history and identity, and the hope of this country that, in constant openness to the light radiating from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it will continue to develop in full respect for the ethical principles grounded in the transcendent dignity of the person. Memory of the past and utopia for the future encounter each other in the present, which is not a conjuncture without past and without promise, but rather a moment in time, the challenge of accumulating wisdom and knowing how to project it”. With these words Pope Francis began his address to leading members of Brazilian society in the Municipal Theatre yesterday afternoon. The meeting was attended by politicians, diplomats, representatives of civil society, business and culture, and leaders of the country's main religious communities.

The Holy Father, who was welcomed upon arrival by the president of the Theatre and by the Secretary of State for Culture, quoted the Brazilian thinker Alceu Amoroso Lima who said that those in positions of responsibility are called to face the future 'with the calm gaze of one who knows how to see the truth', and added, “I would like to consider three aspects of this calm, serene and wise 'gaze': first, the distinctiveness of your cultural tradition; second, joint responsibility for building the future; and third, constructive dialogue in facing the present moment”.

“It is important, first”, he said, “to esteem the dynamic and distinctive character of Brazilian culture, with its extraordinary ability to integrate a variety of elements. The common 'feeling' of a people, the foundations of its thought and creativity, the basic principles of its life, the criteria with which it assesses priorities and ways of acting, all rest, unite and grow on the basis of an integral vision of the human person. This vision of man and of life so typical of the Brazilian people has been greatly nourished by the Gospel through the Catholic Church: above all, by faith in Jesus Christ, in the love of God and brotherhood with our neighbour. But the richness of this nourishment must be fully appreciated! It can render fruitful a cultural process that is true to Brazilian identity and capable of building a better future for all”.

“To promote an integral humanism and the culture of encounter and relationship: this is the Christian way of promoting the common good, the joy of living. Here, faith and reason unite, the religious dimension and the various aspects of human culture – art, science, labour, literature… Christianity combines transcendence and incarnation; it brings ever new vitality to thought and life, in contrast to the dissatisfaction and disillusionment which may creep into hearts and spread throughout the streets”.

The second element, social responsibility, “calls for a certain kind of cultural, and hence political, paradigm”, the Pope explained. “We are the ones responsible for training new generations, for helping them to be knowledgeable in economic and political affairs, and solidly grounded in ethical values. The future presents us today with the task of rehabilitating politics … which is one of the highest forms of charity. The future also demands of us a humanistic vision of the economy and a politics capable of ensuring greater and more effective participation on the part of all, eliminating forms of elitism and eradicating poverty. This is the road that we are called to travel: to see that basic needs are met and that human dignity, brotherhood and solidarity are guaranteed on every level. In the days of prophet Amos, God’s stern warning was already frequently heard: 'They sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals – they … trample down the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and push the afflicted out of the way'. The outcry, the call for justice, continues to be heard even today”.

He commented that “anyone exercising a role of leadership needs to have very practical goals and to seek specific means to attain them. At the same time, there is also always the risk of disappointment, resentment and indifference, if our plans and goals do not materialize. The dynamic virtue of hope inspires us to keep pressing on, to employ all our energies and abilities on behalf of those for whom we work, accepting results, making it possible to strike out on new paths, being generous even without apparent results, yet keeping hope alive, with that constancy and courage that arise from accepting the vocation of guide and leader”.

“Leadership also means making the most just decision after having considered all the options from the standpoint of personal responsibility and concern for the common good. This is the way to go to the heart of the evils of a society and to overcome them, also with the boldness of courageous and free actions. It is our responsibility, with all its limitations, it is important to embrace all of reality ... to make decisions in the present but with an eye to the future, reflecting on the consequences of our decisions. To act responsibly is to see one’s own actions in the light of other people’s rights and God’s judgement. To preserve this ethical sense appears today as an unprecedented historic challenge … We must seek it and integrate it in society. Beyond scientific and technical competence, the present situation also demands a sense of moral obligation expressed in a social and deeply fraternal exercise of responsibility”.

Finally, Francis spoke on the aspect he considers essential for facing the present moment: constructive dialogue. “Between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue. Dialogue between generations, dialogue with the people, because we are all the people, the capacity to give and receive, while remaining open to the truth. A country grows when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components. … It is impossible to imagine a future for society without a significant contribution of moral energies within a democratic order which will always be tempted to remain caught up in the interplay of vested interests. I consider fundamental in this dialogue the contribution made by the great religious traditions, which play a fruitful role as a leaven of society and a life-giving force for democracy. Peaceful coexistence between different religions is favoured by the laicity of the state, which, without appropriating any one confessional stance, respects and esteems the presence of the religious dimension in society, while fostering its most concrete expressions”.

“When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress, along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return. … I would define this attitude of openness and willingness, without prejudice, as 'social humility', which promotes dialogue. Only in this way can understanding grow between cultures and religions, mutual esteem without needless preconceptions, in a climate of respect for the rights of all. Today, either we stand together in dialogue, we stand together with the culture of encounter, or we all fall”.

The Pope concluded by asking those present to “accept these words as an expression of my concern as Pastor of the Church and my respect and affection for the Brazilian people. Fraternal relations between people, and cooperation in building a more just society – these are not simply a fanciful dream, but the fruit of a concerted effort on the part of all, in service of the common good. I encourage you in your commitment to the common good, a commitment which demands of everyone wisdom, prudence and generosity”.

Following his address, the Pope greeted personally the twenty representatives of the categories present and then proceeded the archbishop's palace at St. Joachim, where he lunched with the Brazilian cardinals and archbishops.