VATICAN CITY, 2 OCT 2009 (VIS) - This morning in Castelgandolfo the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of three new ambassadors to the Holy See: Mercedes Arrastia Tuason of the Philippines; Henriette Johanna Cornelia Maria van Lynden-Leijten of the Netherlands, and Miguel Humberto Diaz of the United States of America.
Speaking English, the Pope began his remarks to the Filipino ambassador with assurances of his "spiritual closeness and prayers, especially for the victims of Typhoon Ketsana" which struck the country recently. "I am confident that the faith of the Filipino people", he went on, "which gives them the resilience to face any hardship or difficulty, will arouse in them a desire to participate ever more fervently in the worldwide task of building up a civilisation of love, the seed of which God has implanted in every people and every culture".
After then praising development initiatives in the Philippines, including the reform of social assistance programmes, the Holy Father noted that such programmes are "primarily aimed at improving the actual living conditions of the poorest, thus enabling them to fulfil their responsibilities towards their families and to carry out the duties which fall to them as members of the wider community. Above all, the struggle against poverty calls for honesty, integrity and an unwavering fidelity to the principles of justice, especially on the part of those directly entrusted with the offices of governance and public administration.
"In an age when the name of God is abused by certain groups", he added, "the 'work of charity' is particularly urgent. This is especially true in regions that have been sadly scarred by conflicts". The Pope concluded by praising the "courageous steps" being taken in the Philippines "to foster reconciliation and mutual understanding", in which context he mentioned "the commendable work of the Bishops Ulama Conference, the Mindanao People's Conference, as well as that of many grassroots organizations".
"While some of the Dutch population would declare itself agnostic or even atheist", said the Pope in his address to the ambassador from the Netherlands, "more than half professes Christianity, and the growing numbers of immigrants who follow other religious traditions make it more necessary than ever for civil authorities to acknowledge the place of religion in Dutch society". In this context he noted how "faith schools receive State support in your country, and rightly so, since such institutions are called to make a significant contribution to mutual understanding and social cohesion by transmitting the values that are rooted in a transcendent vision of human dignity".
The Holy Father continued his English-language remarks: "Even more basic than schools in this regard are families built on the foundation of a stable and fruitful marriage between a man and a woman. ... The Catholic Church in your country is eager to play its part in supporting and promoting stable family life, as the Dutch Bishops' Conference stated in its recent document on the pastoral care of young people and the family.
"It is my earnest hope that the Catholic contribution to ethical debate will be heard and heeded by all sectors of Dutch society, so that the noble culture that has distinguished your country for centuries may continue to be known for its solidarity with the poor and the vulnerable, its promotion of authentic freedom and its respect for the dignity and inestimable value of every human life", he concluded.
In his audience with the new ambassador from the United States, the Pope referred to the need for "a model of globalisation inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world's peoples are seen not merely as neighbours but as brothers and sisters.".
"Genuine progress, as the Church's social teaching insists, must be integral and humane; it cannot prescind from the truth about human beings and must always be directed to their authentic good", he said.
"Religious vision and religious imagination do not straiten but enrich political and ethical discourse; and the religions, precisely because they deal with the ultimate destiny of every man and woman, are called to be a prophetic force for human liberation and development throughout the world, particularly in areas torn by hostility and conflict".
Benedict XVI went on: "The crisis of our modern democracies calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity. The Church in the United States contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate", he said. In this context, the Pope concluded by highlighting the need for "clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of healthcare workers, and indeed all citizens".
CD/CREDENCE/PHILIPPINES:NETHERLANDS:USA VIS 20091002 (820)