Anne Leahy, Canada’s new ambassador to the Holy See, was received by Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday morning at an audience where she presented her credentials. Speaking to the new diplomat, the Pope recalled that Catholicism is the “cornerstone” of Canadian society and encouraged Canadians to rediscover the meaning of individual freedom.
Pope Benedict began his words to Ms. Leahy by quoting John Paul II from his visit to Canada in 2002. Canadians, said the late Pope, are "heirs to an extraordinarily rich humanism, enriched even more by the blend of many different cultural elements. But the core of your heritage is the spiritual and transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation which gave vital impetus to your development as a free, democratic, and caring society, recognized throughout the world as a champion of human rights and human dignity."
Soon, Canada and the Vatican will celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations, which the Holy Father characterized as years of encouraging multilateral collaboration to help solve the “many problems that present a challenge for humanity in this age." Two shared initiatives that Benedict XVI singled out for praise were the work to promote the treaty prohibiting anti-personnel land mines throughout the world and the effort to contribute to the “stability, peace, and development in the Great Lakes region of Africa."
The “cornerstone” of the building of Canadian society is Catholicism, the Pope said quoting Ambassador Leahy’s own words.
“Nevertheless,” the Holy Father warned, “profound changes can be noticed today, which are seen in different sectors and at times cause concern to the point of asking ourselves if it does not mean a regression in the understanding of the human being.”
The main areas in which these changes can be seen are the “defense and the promotion of life and the family based on natural marriage,” Pope Benedict said.
For a culture of life to “nourish anew the personal and social existence of Canada,” the Holy Father said that, he believes “it is necessary to redefine the meaning of the exercise of liberty.”
The root of the problem, according to Benedict XVI, is that freedom “is perceived more and more as an absolute value, an intangible right of the individual” without any regard for the fact that God is the one who gives us freedom or thought for the communal impact of individuals’ choices.
“In this interpretation, only the individual can decide and choose the form, characteristics, and ends of life, death, and marriage,” the Pope said.
"True freedom," he observed, "is ultimately based on and develops in God. It is a gift that can be accepted as the seed from which the person and society can grow responsibly and be enriched. The exercise of this freedom implies reference to a natural moral law that is universal, which precedes and unifies all rights and duties. In this perspective, I would like to show my support to all the Canadian Bishops' initiatives in favor of family life and thus of the dignity of the human being.”