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Online Edition: August 2009
Vol. XV, No. 5

News and Views

Charity in Truth: Human Dignity and Social Concerns

Pope Benedict XVI’s long-anticipated encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) was released Tuesday, July 7.

First announced in 2007, this encyclical on social and economic concerns was formally presented at the Vatican Press office by Cardinal Renato Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and Stefano Zamagni, professor of political economy at the University of Bologna, Italy and consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

On June 29, when Pope Benedict administered the pallium to new metropolitan archbishops at St. Peter’s, he gave a brief preview of his encyclical, and mentioned that it recalled “the themes of Populorum Progressio”, the 1967 encyclical of Paul VI, and said that “this document … intends to focus on some aspects of the integral developments of our time, in the light of charity in truth”.

“I entrust to your prayers this latest contribution the Church offers to humanity in its task of sustainable progress, with full respect for human dignity and the real circumstances of all”, he said.

The encyclical was released the day before the G-8 Summit met in L’Aquila.

The day following its release, in his General Audience on July 8, Pope Benedict summarized the encyclical, and emphasized that “charity in truth is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.... Only with charity, illuminated by reason and by faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value”.

He said that the encyclical “intensifies Church analysis and reflection on social themes of vital interest to humankind in our century”.

Pope Benedict said that Caritas in veritate “does not seek to offer technical solutions to the enormous social problems of the modern world.... What it does do is recall the fundamental principles that are indispensable for building human development over the coming years”. Among these principles, it highlights “concern for the life of man, seen as the center of all true progress; respect for the right to religious freedom ... and the rejection of a Promethean vision of human beings which sees them as the sole architects of their own destiny”.

“Faced with the vast and profound problems of today’s world”, the pope said, “I indicated the need for a world political authority regulated by law, one that observes the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity and is firmly directed towards attaining the common good, while respecting the great moral and religious traditions of humanity”.

He revisited the new encyclical in his Angelus message on July 12, noting that the Church brings hope to a world threatened by the “absolutism of technology” and repeated that all political decisions must respect the true dignity of the person.


Pope and US President Meet in Rome

Pope Benedict XVI received US President Barack Obama and his entourage on July 10. Obama had just participated in the G-8 (Group of Eight) Summit, a meeting of leaders of the world’s major industrialized countries, which had concluded that morning in L’Aquila, Italy. (The G-8 countries are the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, United Kingdom, and Italy.)

This first meeting of Pope Benedict with President Obama took place only three days after the release of the pope’s third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), on social and economic issues. The new encyclical, originally planned in 2007, was delayed in part because of the current world economic crisis.

The meeting was held in the library of the apostolic palace, and reportedly lasted more than 30 minutes. A Vatican Information Service communique said that just prior to the audience with Pope Benedict, Obama had met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

The Vatican report summarized the meeting:

In the course of their cordial exchanges the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all and which constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience.

Reference was also made to immigration with particular attention to the matter of reuniting families.

The meeting focused as well upon matters of international politics, especially in light of the outcome of the G8 Summit. The conversation also dealt with the peace process in the Middle East, on which there was general agreement, and with other regional situations. Certain current issues were then considered, such as dialogue between cultures and religions, the global economic crisis and its ethical implications, food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, and the problem of drug trafficking. Finally, the importance of educating young people everywhere in the value of tolerance was highlighted.

Following their closed-door meeting, President Obama introduced his family and the rest of his entourage to Pope Benedict, and gifts were exchanged, as is customary. In addition to a mosaic of St. Peter’s, the pope gave the president a copy of the new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, which he had been presenting to visiting heads of state since its release July 7.

Significantly, Pope Benedict also gave President Obama a copy of the recent (December 2008) Vatican Instruction on biomedical ethics, Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of a Person), which focuses on recent biomedical technologies involving stem cells, emphasizes the dignity of the human embryo, and promotes research that respects the dignity of every human being.

The G-8 Summit focused on the economic crisis, climate change and global tensions. Several other G-8 leaders had audiences with Pope Benedict after the L’Aquila meeting.

President Obama’s “Listening session” with Catholic Journalists
In anticipation of his meeting with Pope Benedict, President Obama held an unprecedented meeting with Catholic journalists at the White House on July 2. Representatives of the National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, Catholic News Service, America, Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Vatican Radio attended the meeting, along with the religion writer from the Washington Post.

During the conversation, the president told the group that he has been profoundly influenced by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s “seamless garment” approach to social justice issues. President Obama came to know Cardinal Bernardin when he was a community organizer in Chicago, working on a project funded in part by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.


Twelfth Annual William Byrd Festival

Dr. Richard Marlow of Trinity College, Cambridge, England will return to Portland, Oregon in August to conduct Cantores in Ecclesia in its 2009 festival of choral masterpieces by the greatest composer of the English Renaissance, William Byrd (1540–1623). The event is to take place August 7-23.

The Byrd festival, sponsored by Cantores in Ecclesia, will feature five liturgical services, three concerts and five public lectures. The festival was begun in 1998 by Richard Marlow and Dean Applegate, founder and director of Cantores in Ecclesia, and has been held every year since.

The opening concert will be Apt for Viols and Voyces, an illustrated recital of songs and instrumental music by William Byrd, to be held at St. Stephen’s Church, Portland, on August 7.

Among the featured speakers at the festival will be Dr. William Mahrt, professor at Stanford University and president of the Catholic Music Association of America (CMAA), who will give three lectures.

Masses will feature Byrd’s music. The final concert, on August 28, will be Music for Twelfth Night and Ascension Thursday from Byrd’s Gradualia (1607), a choral concert by Cantores in Ecclesia, directed by Richard Marlow. CD recordings of the choral group are available.

Further information: www.byrdfestival.org — Contact: Cantores in Ecclesia, Dean Applegate, Director, P.O. Box 2783, Portland, Oregon 97208-2783; Phone 503-295-2811, www.cantoresinecclesia.org

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