Pope Benedict XVI connects concerns for the young, for the poor, and for the environment

In his address to the French politicians on August 12th, 2008, an English translation of which can be found on ZENIT, Pope Benedict XVI says the following:

The Pope, as witness of a God who loves and saves, strives to be a sower of charity and hope. All of human society needs hope. This hope is all the more necessary in today’s world which offers few spiritual aspirations and few material certainties. My greatest concern is for young people. Some of them are struggling to find the right direction or are suffering from a loss of connection to family life. Still others are testing out the limits of religious communitarianism. Sometimes on the margins and often left to themselves, they are vulnerable and must come to terms on their own with a reality that often overwhelms them. It is necessary to offer them a sound educational environment and to encourage them to respect and assist others if they are to develop serenely towards the age of responsibility. The Church can offer her own specific contribution in this area. I am also concerned by the social situation in the Western world, marked sadly by a surreptitious widening of the distance between rich and poor. I am certain that just solutions can be found that go beyond the necessary immediate assistance and address the heart of the problems, so as to protect the weak and promote their dignity. The Church, through her many institutions and works, together with many other associations in your country, often attempts to deal with immediate needs, but it is the State as such which must enact laws in order to eradicate unjust structures. From a broader perspective, Mr President, I am also concerned about the state of our planet. With great generosity, God has entrusted to us the world that he created. We must learn to respect and protect it more. It seems to me that the time has come for more constructive proposals so as to guarantee the good of future generations.

I have taken the liberty to highlight in bold the three key concerns of the Pope: young people, the widening distance between rich and poor, and the state of our planet. Theologically these concerns are woven into creational and eschatological perspectives, emphasizing charity, responsibility for the world entrusted to us, and hope for the future. This offers a wonderful frame for theology in our global world. In a previous blog I referred to a recent document published by Oxfam, in which the link between social justice and care for creation are linked. The pope adds the concern for young people: both the fight against poverty and the commitment to care for creation are, indeed, of major importance to young people. They are called to change a world haunted by unacceptable and life threatening poverty and climate change. And this is a difficult challenge to take on: new ways of thinking and framing reality have to be discovered and created … the current frames (economic, political, scientific, philosophical, religious, …) are not enough and, moreover, too isolated from one another. To put difficult words to the challenge: how can we move from hermeneutics to transdisciplinary heuristics? This question keeps my mind very busy at this moment, as I am planning my courses on theology for the next academic year: how can I teach my students this kind of transdisciplinary heuristics that I am still myself exploring and for which even our university structures need a conversion? How can we create spaces where new types of knowledge (and not only knowledge) are developed? What Benedict XVI clearly says to a theologian is: this is a question of creation and of hope, this is also a question of probing the deeper interplay between youth, justice and environment. I would add: this is an issue of church building: only by committing to dignified and just communities, respectful of and grateful for the embeddedness in creation, will we be able to change our attitudes and actions.


I add the French text of Benedict XVI’s address, also available on ZENIT:

Le Pape, témoin d’un Dieu aimant et Sauveur, s’efforce d’être un semeur de charité et d’espérance. Toute société humaine a besoin d’espérance, et cette nécessité est encore plus forte dans le monde d’aujourd’hui qui offre peu d’aspirations spirituelles et peu de certitudes matérielles. Les jeunes sont ma préoccupation majeure. Certains d’entre eux peinent à trouver une orientation qui leur convienne ou souffrent d’une perte de repères dans leur vie familiale. D’autres encore expérimentent les limites d’un communautarisme religieux. Parfois marginalisés et souvent abandonnés à eux-mêmes, ils sont fragiles et ils doivent affronter seuls une réalité qui les dépasse. Il est donc nécessaire de leur offrir un bon cadre éducatif et de les encourager à respecter et à aider les autres, afin qu’ils arrivent sereinement à l’âge responsable.

L’Église peut apporter dans ce domaine sa contribution spécifique. La situation sociale occidentale, hélas marquée par une avancée sournoise de la distance entre les riches et les pauvres, me soucie aussi. Je suis certain qu’il est possible de trouver de justes solutions qui, dépassant l’aide immédiate nécessaire, iront au coeur des problèmes afin de protéger les faibles et de promouvoir leur dignité. À travers ses nombreuses institutions et par ses activités, l’Église, tout comme de nombreuses associations dans votre pays, tente souvent de parer à l’immédiat, mais c’est à l’État qu’il revient de légiférer pour éradiquer les injustices. Dans un cadre beaucoup plus large, Monsieur le Président, l’état de notre planète me préoccupe aussi. Avec grande générosité, Dieu nous a confié le monde qu’il a créé. Il faudra apprendre à le respecter et à le protéger davantage.

Il me semble qu’est arrivé le moment de faire des propositions plus constructives pour garantir le bien des générations futures.

All these texts will also be available through the official Vatican website.


2 responses to “Pope Benedict XVI connects concerns for the young, for the poor, and for the environment

  1. In his address to French politicians on September 12, Pope Benedict expressed his concern for the poor of this world. He wants societies to lessen the gap between rich and poor. Unfortunately, this pope does not give his audience a good example sensitivity to the poor. Benedict shows his love for designer sunglasses (Gucci), and everyone has seen his red Prada shoes. On special occasions he wears outfits that are trimmed with ermine, the winter fur of the stoat (weasel family); such traditions originated with European royalty, aristocrats and the like. If the Vatican wants to inspire world leaders to be concerned for the poor, maybe they could get their front man to alter his wardrobe. Dr. John Kinkel

  2. I think this is a feeling many people may and will share. I don’t want to make any comments on Benedict XVI’s personal or institutional lifestyle – who am I to judge in these matters … Rather, I want to point out that what the Pope says has – at least, so it seems to me – a value, independently of the person. Of course, the more what we say shapes our lifestyles, the more prophetically we will witness to what we say. In that sense, to be truthful to what we say is a challenge to each one of us. I don’t say this as a kind of excuse; I just want not to let slip by the value of what Benedict XVI has said.

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