Benedict in Brazil (II)
From the Pope's address to the Brazilian Bishops assembled for Vespers in the Cathedral of Sao Paulo:
There is nothing new in the observation that your country is living through a historic deficit in social development, whose extreme effects can seen in the vast cross-section of Brazilians living in need and the great inequalities in income, even at the highest levels of society. It is your task, my dear Brothers, as the hierarchy of the people of God, to promote the search for new solutions imbued with the Christian spirit. A vision of the economy and social problems from the perspective of the Church's social teaching should always bring us to consider things from the viewpoint of human dignity, which transcends the simple interplay of economic factors. Hence, it is necessary to work untiringly to form politicians, and all Brazilians who wield a certain influence, be it great or small, as well as all members of society, so that they can fully assume their responsibilities and learn to give the economy a truly human and compassionate face.
There is a need to form a genuine spirit of truthfulness and honesty among the political and commercial classes. Those who take on leadership roles in society must try to foresee the social consequences -- direct and indirect, short-term and long-term -- of their own decisions, always acting according to the criteria that will maximize the common good, rather than merely seeking personal profit.
The rest here.
John Allen, in his weekly online column, offers background and analysis of the trip to date:
When Benedict was asked to approve the motto of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which he will formally open tomorrow in Aparecida, it was "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our people may have life." The pope asked that the final phrase be amended to, "so that our people may have life in Him. That Christological flourish hinted at the leitmotif of the trip.
So far, Brazil has offered an intriguing mix of what many regard as "the real Ratzinger," with tough talk on abortion, marriage, priestly celibacy and ecclesiastical discipline, along with the more pastoral Benedict -- praising the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador; urging work on behalf of the poor, the Amazon rainforest, and in general for "a more just and fraternal society"; and, by virtue of his very choice to be here, offering an olive branch to a Brazilian church long seen as estranged from Rome.
At bottom, Benedict's pitch seems to be that the famous social commitment of Brazilian Catholicism -- which he certainly has endorsed -- must nevertheless yield pride of place to a clear focus on Catholic fundamentals, above all what the pope calls "the primacy of God." There are no short-cuts, the pope has implied; one cannot defend the poor without defending the family and the unborn, and one cannot serve humanity without feeding its spiritual as well as material hunger. The failure to keep those priorities clear, he suggested in an address to Brazilian bishops on Friday, goes a long way towards explaining the losses of the Catholic church to Pentecostal and Evangelical "sects."
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.