Pope Benedict said Jan. 12 that the economic crisis hitting much of the West is the result of self-centeredness but that it also presents an opportunity to reshape society.
“The present crisis can, then, be an opportunity for the entire community to verify whether the values upon which social life is founded have generated a society that is just, fair and united,” the Pope said Jan. 12 at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
The Pope, as Bishop of Rome, was addressing the political authorities of the City of Rome, the Region of Lazio, and the Province of Rome during their traditional annual exchange of New Years greetings.
Pope Benedict told them that it is necessary at this present time to “undertake a profound rethink in order to rediscover values which are the basis of a true renewal of society.” This means not only promoting economic recovery but also “promoting the integral good of human beings.”
He proposed that the present crisis has its roots in a form of “individualism” which “obscures the relational dimension of man and leads him to close in on himself, in his own little world, to take care of his own needs and desires above all, caring little for others.”
He said that this individualistic outlook has led to speculation in the housing market, increasing difficulty for young people in finding work, isolation for many elderly people, the anonymity that often characterizes urban life, and the “sometimes superficial attention paid to situations of marginalization and poverty.”
The first step towards creating a more human society, Pope Benedict said, is for people and institutions “to rediscover relationships as the constituent element of our lives.”
He called to mind the famous fable told by a renowned consul of ancient Rome, Menenius Agrippa, who persuaded a group soldiers not to strike by explaining how each unit of society is interdependent on the other in the same way each part of the body depends on other parts of the body to function properly.
“The challenges we are currently facing are numerous and complex,” the Pope observed. And they can only be overcome “if we reinforce our awareness that the destiny of each of us is linked to that of everyone else.”
He paid particular tribute to Christian organizations that help refugees who have fled their homeland for serious economic or political reasons.
“Charity and justice require that, in times of need, those with the greatest resources should look after the disadvantaged,” he said.
He particularly urged legislators to “defend the family founded on marriage as an essential cell of society,” to encourage large families with “grants and tax breaks that encourage a positive birth rate,” and to guarantee “decent living conditions.”
The Italian economy has been particularly hit by the recent financial crisis, with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government being forced to resign in November 2011. The former government has been replaced by an emergency coalition of technocrats.