Pope calls for respect for life and protection of consciences in the U.S.

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI


This morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received the letters of accreditation from the new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Miguel H. Diaz. The Pope took the time during their meeting to weigh-in on issues being considered in the American health care debate, namely, respect for all human life and the protection of health care workers' right to conscientious objection.

As is customary, the audience began with Miguel Diaz presenting his letters of accreditation from President Obama to the Holy Father, followed by a speech by the new ambassador.

In his speech, Ambassador Diaz praised Pope Benedict's humanitarian efforts, his efforts at promoting “inter-religious dialogue for the sake of peace,” and his encouragement of “authentic stewardship of God’s creation in order to combat climate change and ensure food security.”

The newly minted ambassador brought his speech to a close, saying, “my nation looks forward to working with the Holy See to ensure that the old and the young may embrace the audacity to hope, celebrate in the fruition of justice, and work together to defend fundamental human rights, economic opportunity for all, peace in our world, and respect for the dignity of all human persons. As I take up my position as the ninth United States Ambassador to the Holy See, I promise to serve as a bridge-builder between the United States and the Holy See.”

Pope Benedict began his address to Dr. Diaz by saying that he was pleased to accept his letters of credence and asked him to return his greeting to President Obama.

Highlighting part of Ambassador Diaz's speech, the Pope said he appreciated the  “acknowledgment of the need for a greater spirit of solidarity and multilateral engagement in approaching the urgent problems facing our planet.”

“The continuing international economic crisis clearly calls for a revision of present political, economic and financial structures in the light of the ethical imperative of ensuring the integral development of all people. What is needed, in effect, is a model of globalization inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world’s peoples are seen not merely as neighbors but as brothers and sisters,” the Pope said, echoing themes from his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”

Cooperation between nations should stretch across the spectrum of issues from caring for the family, to health care, to immigration, to the elimination of nuclear weapons, to “climate control and care for the environment,” Pope Benedict said, notably refraining from using the term “climate change.”   

Recalling his visit to the United States last April, the Holy Father said he was pleased to find a “vibrant democracy” at work.

In order for democracies to function properly, the Pope emphasized that religious groups should not be excluded from public debates, since their contributions “enrich political and ethical discourse.”

“Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom – the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear – 'is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility;' it is 'a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good,'” Benedict XVI said, quoting from his address at the White House last April.

Saying that many modern democracies find themselves in crisis, the Holy Father urged them to redouble their commitment to “reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity.”

“The Church in the United States,” the Pontiff pointed out, “contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse.”

One area that the Pope highlighted as in need of “clear discernment” was that of “issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens.”

Pope Benedict concluded his speech by quoting from the “prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II” to insist upon the “unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics.”

Quoting his predecessor Benedict XVI said,  'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.'

The audience came to a close with the Holy Father invoking “God’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace” upon Ambassador Diaz, his family and “all the beloved American people.”


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