Friday in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Mary Ann Glendon, the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See and former president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Addressing the new ambassador in English, the Pope expressed his conviction "that the knowledge and experience born of your distinguished association with the work of the Holy See will prove beneficial in the fulfilment of your duties and enrich the activity of the diplomatic community to which you now belong".
"From the dawn of the Republic, America has been … a nation which values the role of religious belief in ensuring a vibrant and ethically sound democratic order", said the Holy Father, noting the American characteristic "of uniting people of good will, regardless of race, nationality or creed, in a shared vision and a disciplined pursuit of the common good.
"Today", he added, "this task of reconciling unity and diversity, of forging a common vision and summoning the moral energy to accomplish it, has become an urgent priority for the whole human family, which is increasingly aware of its interdependence and the need for effective solidarity in meeting global challenges and building a future of peace".
"The experience of the past century, with its heavy toll of war and violence, culminating in the planned extermination of whole peoples, has made it clear that the future of humanity cannot depend on mere political compromise. Rather, it must be the fruit of a deeper consensus based on the acknowledgement of universal truths. … The building of a global juridic culture inspired by the highest ideals of justice, solidarity and peace calls for firm commitment, hope and generosity on the part of each new generation".
"The building of a more secure future for the human family means first and foremost working for the integral development of peoples, especially through … curbing the corruption and militarisation which divert precious resources from many of our brothers and sisters in the poorer countries.
"The progress of the human family is threatened not only by the plague of international terrorism, but also by such threats to peace as the quickening pace of the arms race and the continuance of tensions in the Middle East", said the Pope who also expressed his hope "that patient and transparent negotiations will lead to the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons and that the recent Annapolis Conference will be the first of a series of steps towards lasting peace in the region".
The Holy Father recalled the role played by the United Nations in resolving this and other problems, highlighting how such international organisations, "by their nature are capable of fostering genuine dialogue and understanding, reconciling divergent views, and developing multilateral policies and strategies capable of meeting the manifold challenges of our complex and rapidly changing world".
Benedict XVI noted with gratitude "the importance which the United States has attributed to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue as a positive force for peacemaking. The Holy See is convinced of the great spiritual potential represented by such dialogue, particularly with regard to the promotion of non-violence and the rejection of ideologies which manipulate and disfigure religion for political purposes, and justify violence in the name of God".
The Pope alluded to the "American people's historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues", noting that at times this role is "contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life and public discourse".
Such appreciation, he told the ambassador in conclusion, "is reflected in the efforts of so many of your fellow citizens and government leaders to ensure legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death, and the safeguarding of the institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman, and that of the family".