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Monday, May 5, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 3 MAY 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who are meeting to study the theme: "Pursuing the common good: how solidarity and subsidiarity can work together".

  Addressing them in English, the Holy Father told the participants that the "heart of the matter" facing them was "how can solidarity and subsidiarity work together in the pursuit of the common good in a way that not only respects human dignity, but allows it to flourish?"

  "Solidarity", he said, "refers to the virtue enabling the human family to share fully the treasure of material and spiritual goods, and subsidiarity is the co-ordination of society's activities in a way that supports the internal life of the local communities".

  The Holy Father highlighted the relationship between the four main principles of Catholic social doctrine (human dignity, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity), explaining that "we can initially sketch the interconnections between these four principles by placing the dignity of the person at the intersection of two axes: one horizontal, representing 'solidarity' and 'subsidiarity', and one vertical, representing the 'common good'. This creates a field upon which we can plot the various points of Catholic social teaching that give shape to the common good".

  Solidarity and subsidiarity, he went on, "have the potential to place men and women on the path to discovering their definitive, supernatural destiny. ... The responsibility of Christians to work for peace and justice, their irrevocable commitment to build up the common good, is inseparable from their mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life to which God has called every man and woman".

  The Pope assured participants in the plenary assembly that their discussions "will be of service to all people of good will, while simultaneously inspiring Christians to embrace more readily their obligation to enhance solidarity with and among their fellow citizens, and to act upon the principle of subsidiarity by promoting family life, voluntary associations, private initiative, and a public order that facilitates the healthy functioning of society's most basic communities".

  "When those responsible for the public good attune themselves to the natural human desire for self-governance based on subsidiarity, they leave space for individual responsibility and initiative, but most importantly, they leave space for love, which always remains 'the most excellent way'".

  The Holy Father concluded his remarks with words of encouragement to members of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences "to survey both the 'vertical' and 'horizontal' dimensions of solidarity and subsidiarity. In this way, you will be able to propose more effective ways of resolving the manifold problems besetting mankind at the threshold of the third millennium, while also bearing witness to the primacy of love, which transcends and fulfils justice as it draws mankind into the very life of God".

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