/ 30 November 2007

Pope: Progress won’t save humanity

Humanity will not be saved by progress, science or political revolution, but only in the collective hope offered by Christianity, Pope Benedict XVI said on Friday in a theological letter setting out his views on faith.

The ”Spe Salvi [Saved by Hope]” encyclical is the second of his papacy and intended as a guidance for the worldwide Roman Catholic flock.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church begins his encyclical with a ”self-criticism of modern Christianity”, which he says has reacted to the belief in progress that has marked the past two centuries with a tendency to withdraw into the ”personal salvation of the soul”, according to Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi.

Nearly two years after his first encyclical ”Deus Caritas Est [God is Charity]” on love and charity in January 2006, the pope devotes his new near-70 page doctrinal on the three ”theological virtues” — faith, hope and charity — considered by Christians to be gifts of God.

In this new text the pope explains his conviction that ”the refusal of faith, and of Christian hope, and in the end the refusal of God, leads man ultimately to lose himself”, Lombardi said.

The pope states once again the failure of ”the hope of establishing a perfect world” as proposed by Marxism, and underlined the ”ambiguity of progress”, which has both ”potential to do good” and the ”possibility of abysmal evil”, he added.

The pope regrets that ”modern Christianity, faced with the success of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted the attention to the individual and his salvation”, Lombardi said.

”Our hope is always essentially a hope for others,” the pope writes in his address to the 1,1-million Catholics worldwide. ”We should also ask: What can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.”

Pope Benedict affirms that ”since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world”, his spokesperson said.

”Justice exists”, namely the justice of the ”final judgement”, the pope argues in the text — rehabilitating the concepts of heaven, hell and purgatory that have somewhat fallen into disuse among modern-day Catholics.

Lombardi said the pope is ”convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of a faith in eternal life”.

In contrast with previous popes who have issued politically minded encyclicals, Benedict’s texts are essentially spiritual in dimension.

Lombardi said, however, there is a thread of ”self-criticism” connecting the works of different popes.

”We have often appreciated the ‘mea culpas’ so often expressed by previous popes: here we have a ‘mea culpa’ entirely characteristic of the current pope, in which the pastoral and cultural aspects are deeply united,” he told Vatican radio. — Sapa-AFP