The Pope said this Saturday to participants in the three-day forum held in the Vatican with nongovernmental organizations, which ends today. The Secretariat of State organized the meeting to discuss best practices for cooperating on topics of global importance.
Nongovernmental organizations, also known as NGOs, are legally constituted entities directed by private citizens with no participation or representation of any government. They often work as advocates of social causes such as human rights, poverty and religious freedom.
Addressing the 85 participating associations, the Holy Father affirmed that all "have in common a passion for promoting human dignity. This same passion has constantly inspired the activity of the Holy See in the international community."
Quoting his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," the Pontiff explained the role of the diplomacy of the Church, and how the laity can cooperate in that mission.
He said: "For the most part, [the Holy See] strives to reaffirm the great fundamental principles of international life, since the Church’s specific contribution consists in helping 'to form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly.'
"On the other hand, 'the direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful' -- and in the context of international life this includes Christian diplomats and members of nongovernmental organizations -- who 'are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity' and 'to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility.'"
Pointing to the increasing amount of international cooperation between governments, Benedict XVI said, "We can look with satisfaction to achievements such as the universal recognition of the juridical and political primacy of human rights, the adoption of shared goals regarding the full enjoyment of economic and social rights by all the earth’s inhabitants, the efforts being made to develop a just global economy and, more recently, the protection of the environment and the promotion of intercultural dialogue."
The Pope added, however, that the fruits of a "relativistic logic" that is based on consensus and not on the natural moral law are all too evident in international relations. "We think, for example, of the attempt to consider as human rights the consequences of certain self-centered lifestyles; a lack of concern for the economic and social needs of the poorer nations; contempt for humanitarian law, and a selective defense of human rights."
He encouraged the participants to spread the Church’s social doctrine, and "to counter relativism creatively by presenting the great truths about man’s innate dignity and the rights which are derived from that dignity."
The Holy Father said what is needed "is a spirit of solidarity conducive for promoting as a body those ethical principles which, by their very nature and their role as the basis of social life, remain nonnegotiable."
"When experienced in solidarity," he affirmed, "legitimate pluralism and diversity will lead not to division and competition, but to ever greater effectiveness."
The Pontiff added: "The activities of your organizations will bear genuine fruit provided they remain faithful to the Church’s magisterium, anchored in communion with her pastors and above all with the Successor of Peter, and meet in a spirit of prudent openness the challenges of the present moment."