A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"God is Love"

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has released his first papal encyclical.

In the long-awaited document "God is Love," Benedict explores the relationship between God's love for mankind and the church's works of charity, saying the two are intrinsically linked and the foundation of the Christian faith.

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"Love is free; it is not practiced as a way of achieving other ends," he wrote.

"Those who practice charity in the church's name will never seek to impose the church's faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love."

He rejected the criticism of charity found in Marxist thought, which holds that charity is merely an excuse by the rich to keep the poor in their place when the rich should be working for a more just society.

While the Marxist model, in which the state tries to provide for every social need, did respond to the plight of the poor faster than even the church did during the Industrial Revolution, it was a failed experiment because it couldn't respond to every human need, he wrote.

Even in the most just societies, charity will always be necessary, he said.

"There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable," he said.

Benedict stressed that the state alone is responsible for creating that just society, not the church. "As a political task, this cannot be the church's immediate responsibility," he said.

However, he said the church wants to be involved in political life by helping "form consciences in political life and stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest."

He said the church was "duty-bound" to offer such a contribution, and that the lay faithful, who as citizens of the state, are duty-bound to carry it out through works of charity.
You can visit the Vatican website here.