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The laity are called to renew the temporal order

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 13 April 1994 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. There is an order of reality--institutions, values, activities--which we are used to describing as "temporal" insofar as it directly concerns things that belong to the context of the present life, although they are also destined to eternal life. Today's world is not made up of appearances and deceptive shadows, nor can it be considered only in relation to the hereafter. As the Second Vatican Council declared: "All those things which make up the temporal order...not only aid in the attainment of man's ultimate goal but also possess their own intrinsic value" (AA 7).

The biblical account of creation presents this value to us as recognized, desired and established by God. According to Genesis, God saw how good creation was (cf. Gen 1:12, 18, 21). Indeed, he "found it very good" after the creation of man and woman (cf. Gen 1:31). With the Incarnation and the redemption, the value of temporal things is not eliminated or diminished, as though the work of the Redeemer was opposed to the work of the Creator. Rather, it is restored and elevated, in accord with God's plan, "to sum up all things in Christ" (Eph 1:10) and "through him to reconcile all things for him" (Col 1:20). In Christ therefore all things hold together (cf. Col 1:17).

2. Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the historical experience of evil, and for man, of sin. This can only be explained by the revelation of the fall of his first parents and of the subsequent human falls from generation to generation. "In the course of history," the Council states, "the use of temporal things has been marred by serious vices" (AA 7). Today too, instead of having dominion over things in accord with God's plan and command, as scientific and technological progress would enable them to do, many people, through excessive confidence in their new powers, are enslaved by them and seriously harmed.

The Church's task is to help people to properly orientate the whole temporal order and direct it to God through Christ (cf. AA 7). Thus the Church makes herself the servant of mankind and lay people "participate in the mission of service to the person and society" (CL 36).

3. In this respect, it is necessary to remember first of all that lay people are called to help promote the human person, an especially urgent and necessary task today. It is a question of safeguarding--and often restoring--the pivotal value of the human being. Precisely because he is a person, a human being can never be treated "as an object to be used, or as a means, or as a thing" (CL 37).

All men are equal as regards their personal dignity. No racial, sexual, economic, social, cultural, political or geographical discrimination is permissible. It is a duty of solidarity to compensate for the differences stemming from the conditions of time and place in which each person is born and lives. This involves an active human and Christian support, expressed in concrete forms of justice and charity, as St. Paul explained and advised the Corinthians: "Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality" (2 Cor 8:13-14).

4. Promotion of the person's dignity is linked with "the respect, the defense and the promotion of the rights of the human person" (CL 38). First of all, this means recognition of the inviolability of human life. The right to life is essential and can be considered "the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights" (CL 38). As a result, "Whatever is opposed to life itself...whatever violates the integrity of the human person...whatever insults human dignity...all these things and others of their like...are a supreme dishonor to the Creator" (GS 27), who wanted man to be made in his image and after his likeness (cf. Gen 1:26), and placed under his dominion.

A special responsibility in this defense of personal dignity and the right to life belongs to parents, educators, healthcare workers and all those who wield economic and political power (cf. CL 38). In particular, the Church urges lay people to face bravely the challenges of the new bioethical problems (cf. CL 38).

5. The individual rights to be defended and promoted include the right to religious freedom, as well as to freedom of conscience and freedom of worship (cf. CL 39). The Church maintains that society has the duty to ensure the individual's right to profess his convictions and to practice his religion within the due limits established by the just requirements of public order (cf. Dignitatis Humanae 2, 7). There has been no lack of martyrs in every age to defend and to promote this right.

Lay people are called to be involved in political life according to their capacities and the conditions of time and place, to promote the common good in all its needs and especially to implement justice in service to citizens as persons. As we read in Christifideles Laici: "A political policy on behalf of the person and society finds its continuous line of action in the defense and promotion of justice" (n. 42). It is clear that in this activity, which belongs to all the members of the earthly city, lay Christians are called to give the example of honest political conduct. This does not aim for personal advantage or seek to serve the causes of groups and parties by illegal means, which lead to the collapse of even the noblest and most sacred ideals.

6. Lay Christians will not fail to join in society's efforts to re-establish peace in the world. For them it is a question of realizing the peace given by Christ (cf. Jn 14:27; Eph 2:14) in its social and political dimensions, in individual countries and in the world, as people's awareness increasingly demands. To this end, it is their task to carry out a thoroughgoing work of education in order to defeat the old culture of selfishness, hate, revenge and hostility, and thereby to develop the culture of solidarity and love of neighbor at every level (cf. CL 42).

It is also the task of lay Christians to be committed to economic and social development. This is a requirement of respect for the individual, of justice, solidarity and fraternal love. It is up to them to work together with all people of goodwill to find ways to guarantee the universal purpose of goods, whatever social regime is in force (cf. CL 43). It is also up to them to defend the rights of workers, seeking satisfactory solutions to the most serious problems of increasing unemployment, while striving to overcome all injustices. As lay Christians, they express in the world the Church's application of her own social doctrine. Nevertheless, they must be aware of their personal freedom and responsibility in matters of opinion, in which their choices, though always inspired by Gospel values, should not be presented as the only alternative for Christians. Respect for legitimate opinions and choices different from one's own is also a requirement of love.

7. Finally, lay Christians have the task of helping to develop human culture with all its values. Present in the various areas of science, artistic creation, philosophical thought, historical research, etc., they will contribute the necessary inspiration deriving from their faith. The development of culture increasingly implies the involvement of the mass media, a vital means for the formation of mentalities and behavior. So they will have a keen sense of responsibility in their involvement in the press, cinema, radio, television and theater, always carrying out their work in the light of the mandate to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This has particular relevance in today's world, which urgently needs the ways of salvation that Jesus Christ has opened to everyone (cf. CL 44)."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Nach dieser kurzen Betrachtung grübe ich Euch alle, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, nochmals sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Grub gilt den Pilgern, die an der von der Kirchenzeitung ”Tag des Herrn“ in den neuen Bundesländern organisierten Pilgerreise teilehmen, sowie den zahlreichen Schülern und Jugendlichen. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen zu Hause sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Chcę pozdrowić wszystkich tych, którzy zostali powitani przez o. Konrada, w szczególności pozdrawiam księży z krakowskiej archidiecezji, chóry oraz chorych, zwłaszcza ze Skarżyska-Kamiennej; również PKS-Zakopane. Witam także członków Fundacji “Serce” obecnych na dzisiejszej audiencji. Celem waszej fundacji jest budowa Polikliniki Kardiologicznej w Celejowie (województwo lubelskie). Klinika ta ma upamiętnić ofiarę naszych rodaków, którzy narażali swe życie, a wielu z nich nawet je oddało, pomagając osobom narodowości żydowskiej przetrwać okres II wojny światowej na ziemiach polskich. Dużo było, bardzo dużo było takich ludzi, którzy świadczyli samarytańską pomoc swym braciom Żydom, ratując ich od zagłady. Dobrze, że się o nich pamięta i że się o nich mówi. Życzę wam, wszystkim tu obecnym, wszystkim członkom fundacji, abyście nie ustawali w świadczeniu dobra, abyście mieli zawsze otwarte serce, pamiętając słowa Chrystusa: “co uczyniliście jednemu z tych braci moich najmniejszych, Mnieście uczynili”.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’adresse un salut cordial aux personnes de langue française présentes ici ce matin, en particulier aux groupes paroissiaux de Sceaux et de Sainte-Odile à Paris.

Aux jeunes, venus en grand nombre, notamment aux servants de messe de la Trinité à Paris, je souhaite de profiter de leur séjour à Rome pour approfondir leur vie chrétienne, et je les encourage à être d’authentiques témoins du Christ Ressuscité auprès de leurs camarades dans leurs lycées et collèges.

A tous, jeunes et adultes, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to greet the group of Catholics from Korea on the occasion of their visit to the Holy Land and Rome. My greeting also goes to the Patrons of the Vatican Museums from the United States. To the alumni of the Pontifical Irish College and of St. Charles Seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia I offer prayerful good wishes as they celebrate the anniversaries of their priestly ordination. I also welcome the Anglican clergy and faithful from various Dioceses in England.

My special greeting goes to the group from Nippon Television involved in the production of the documentary on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel. May your work help people everywhere to appreciate the magnificent beauty and profound spiritual message of Michelangelo’s art. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Christ.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar ahora a los visitantes de lengua española; de modo particular a los peregrinos de Madrid, a diversos grupos escolares de España y a miembros del Movimiento “Regnum Christi” de México.

Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí, os imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica, extensiva a vuestras familias.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo cordialmente os peregrinos de língua portuguesa. E como penhor de esperança na glorificação com Cristo, nossa Páscoa, a todos abençoo.

Ai fedeli italiani

Rivolgo ora un cordiale augurio pasquale ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua italiana presenti all’odierna Udienza.

Saluto il gruppo di fedeli della Parrocchia di San Pietro Martire in Varano, dell’Arcidiocesi di Ancona, e delle Parrocchie di Sormano e di Asso, che, accompagnati dai membri della neo-ricostituita Arciconfraternita della Buona Morte e dell’Orazione, sono venuti a confermare la loro fede sulle tombe degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo.

Formulo un augurio tutto speciale ai sacerdoti dell’Arcidiocesi di Milano, che, con animo grato a Cristo Sacerdote Eterno, ricordano il loro 50o anniversario di Ordinazione Presbiterale.

Carissimi, vi esprimo di cuore il mio vivo compiacimento per la vostra partecipazione ed invoco volentieri su di voi, per intercessione della Vergine Santissima e di Sant’Ambrogio, una rinnovata effusione di favori e di conforti celesti.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Saluto con particolare cordialità i giovani, gli ammalati e gli sposi novelli presenti a questa Udienza.

Carissimi, in questi giorni avete rinnovato con gioia la vostra fede nel Signore morto e risorto. Guardate ora al Risorto per ritrovare in Lui, cari giovani, il modello e la forza per vivere pienamente le ricchezze della vostra età; guardate a Lui, cari ammalati, per accettare con serenità la sofferenza; ed anche voi, cari sposi novelli, per far crescere la vostra famiglia nella fedeltà e nella donazione reciproca. A tutti la mia Benedizione.

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