Pope Benedict received letters of credence from the new German ambassador to the Holy See on Monday. In an address to the new diplomat, Walter Jurgen Schmid, the Holy Father stressed the importance of God being personal and that “the construction of a human society requires faithfulness to truth,” especially in the areas of marriage, biotechnology and news reporting.
The Pontiff opened his remarks to the ambassador with a reference to German martyrs, particularly Fr. Gerhard Hirschfelder, a priest who died under the Nazi regime and who will be beatified in Munster on Sept. 19. “Contemplating these martyrs,” he said, “it emerges ever more clearly how certain men, on the basis of their Christian convictions, are ready to give their lives for the faith, for the right to exercise their beliefs freely and for freedom of speech, for peace and human dignity.”
Despite this, however, “many men tend to show an overriding inclination towards more permissive religious convictions.”
“The personal God of Christianity, Who reveals Himself in the Bible, is replaced by a supreme being, mysterious and undefined, who has only a vague relation with the personal life of human beings,” Benedict XVI noted. “These ideas are increasingly animating discussion within society, especially as regards the areas of justice and lawmaking,” he continued.
“If, however, one abandons faith in a personal God, then an alternative 'god' arises, one who does not know, does not feel and does not speak.
“If God does not have His own will, then good and bad end up being indistinguishable,” the Holy Father noted. “Man thus loses the moral and spiritual energy necessary for the overall development of the person. Social activity is increasingly dominated by private interest or by power calculations, to the detriment of society.”
“The Church,” he explained, “looks with concern at the growing attempts to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and the family from the conscience of society. Marriage is the lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is always open to the transmission of human life.”
Referencing his predecessor John Paul II's notion of the “culture of the person,” Pope Benedict said that the “success of marriages depends upon us all and on the personal culture of each individual citizen.”
“In this sense,” he underscored, “the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of marriage and family life. They contribute to a weakening of the principles of natural law, and thus to the relativization of all legislation and confusion about values in society.”
The Holy Father then discussed the "new possibilities" emerging within the fields of biotechnology and medicine, saying “our duty to study how these methods can help man, and where they involve manipulation of man, the violation of his integrity and dignity.”
“We cannot reject these developments, but we must remain highly vigilant. Once we have begun to distinguish (and this often already happens in the mother's womb) between a life that is worthy to be lived and one which is unworthy, then no other phase of existence will be spared, particularly old age and infirmity.”
In his remarks, the Holy Father also stressed that “the construction of a human society requires faithfulness to truth.” Regarding this, he commented on the communications media, noting that “Being in ever-greater competition with one another, they feel impelled to attract as much attention as possible.”
“Moreover, in general it is contrast that makes news, even if this goes against the truth of the story,” he said. “The question becomes particularly problematic when authority figures take up public stances on the matter, without being able to verify all aspects adequately. The intention of the federal government to look into these cases is to be welcomed.”