In the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo, Benedict XVI received 200 people who have been participating in a conference of the Executive Committee of the Centrist Democratic International (IDC), which is presided by the Italian politician Pierferdinando Casini.
The Pope told his audience how "your visit gives me an opportunity to bring to your attention some of the values and ideals that have been molded and deepened in a decisive way by the Christian tradition in Europe and throughout the world, such as the centrality of the human person, a respect for human rights, a commitment to peace and the promotion of justice for all."
These "fundamental principles," the Pope went on, "are closely interconnected. In effect, when human rights are violated, the dignity of the human person suffers; when justice is compromised, peace itself is jeopardized."
The Holy Father encouraged his listeners "to persevere in your efforts to serve the common good, taking it upon yourselves to prevent the dissemination and entrenchment of ideologies which obscure and confuse consciences by promoting an illusory vision of truth and goodness. In the economic sphere, for example, there is a tendency to view financial gain as the only good, thus eroding the internal ethos of commerce."
He continued: "There are those who maintain that human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity," while others "believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest or final stages." Another cause of concern, he said, lies in "the growing crisis of the family, which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman."
The Holy Father then turned to consider "the defense of religious liberty, which is a fundamental, irrepressible, inalienable and inviolable right. The exercise of this freedom also includes the right to change religion, which should be guaranteed not only legally, but also in daily practice."
"Within every human heart there are needs and desires which find their fulfillment in God alone. For this reason, God can never be excluded from the horizon of man and world history. That is why all authentically religious traditions must be allowed to manifest their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it.
"Moreover," he added, "due respect for religion helps to counter the charge that society has forgotten God: an accusation shamelessly exploited by some terrorist networks in an attempt to justify their threats against global security. Terrorism is a serious problem whose perpetrators often claim to act in God's name and harbor an inexcusable contempt for human life.
"Society naturally has a right to defend itself, but this right must be exercised with complete respect for moral and legal norms, including the choice of ends and means. In democratic systems, the use of force in a manner contrary to the principles of a constitutional State can never be justified."
"In this regard, the social teaching of the Catholic Church offers some points for reflection on how to promote security and justice both at the national and international levels. This teaching is based on reason, natural law and the Gospel."
"The Church knows that it is not her specific task to oversee the political implementation of this teaching: her objective is to help form consciences in political life, to raise awareness of the authentic requirements of justice, and to foster a greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest."
"For those of you who share a faith in Christ," Benedict XVI concluded, "the Church asks you to bear witness to that faith today with even greater courage and generosity. The integrity of Christians in political life is indeed more necessary than ever so that the 'salt' of apostolic zeal does not lose its 'flavor'."