POSTSCRIPT / April 20, 2008 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pope’s message in US is actually ‘urbi et orbi’

UNIVERSAL: As in his messages “urbi et orbi” (to the city [of Rome] and to the world) periodically made from the Vatican, the statements of Pope Benedict XVI during his current five-day US trip have both local (American) and universal application.

In his remarks at the White House, where President George Bush and his wife, Laura, and some 9,000 guests received him Wednesday, the Pontiff spoke of freedom as “a challenge for each new generation (which) must be constantly won over.”

The Holy Father’s remarks on freedom, seeds that find fertile soil in the US, are quickly wafted across the Pacific to the Philippines where we are still struggling with threats to personal liberties.

(Btw, President Bush, with his wife and his daughter Jenna, went to Andrews Air Force Base to welcome the Pope — an honor the President has never given to a visiting head of state. The Pontiff arrived on an Alitalia Boeing 777, called Shepherd One.)

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SEEDS: At the White House, the Pope said: “I look forward to meeting not only with America’s Catholic community, but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions in this country.

“Historically, not only Catholics, but all believers have found here the freedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, while at the same time being accepted as part of a commonwealth in which each individual and group can make its voice heard. 

“I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.”

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EVER NEW: He added: “Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom.”

“The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate.

“It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debates.

“In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good.”

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TRUTH: He referred to the reflections on freedom of the late Pope John Paul II:

“In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in Eastern Europe, (John Paul II) reminded us that history shows, time and again that ‘in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,’ and a democracy without values can lose its very soul.

“Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent ‘indispensable supports’ of political prosperity.

“The Church wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman.

“Democracy can only flourish, as your Founding Fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.”

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SEX ABUSE: Addressing US bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Pope said that any tendency to treat religion as a private matter should be resisted, and that faith should permeate every aspect of life.

His also touched on immigration and the formation of priests. There was reference to minority migrants adjusting to American life and to the unfortunate incidents of sex abuse involving priests.

In an earlier interview with journalists flying with him, the Pope said: “It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this (sex abuse) could happen.”

“It’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing, to give the love of God to these children… We are deeply ashamed and will do all possible that this cannot happen in the future.”

He said it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry,” he added.

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MATERIALISM: He asked the faithful: “Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?

“Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death?

“Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

He mentioned materialism as one of the obstacles to this “encounter with the living God, perhaps particularly faced by Americans.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 20, 2008)

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