POPE PAUL OFFERS
TO MEDIATE ENCYCLICAL
to the forms of thought and customs which the temporal environment offers and imposes on her, provided they are compatible with the basic exigencies of her religious and moral programme, but it should also try to draw close to them. to purify them, to ennoble them, to vivify and sanctify them.
This task demands of the Church a perennial examination of her moral vigilance. which our times demand with particular urgency and exceptional seriousness.
There is a third attitude which the Catholic Church should adopt at this period in the history of the world. an attitude characterised by study of the contacts which the Church ought to maintain with humanity.
If the Church tries to model itself on the ideal which Christ proposed to it, the result is that the Church becomes radically different from the human environment in which, of course, it lives or which it approaches.
The Church should enter into dialogue with the world in which it exists and labours. The Church has something to say. The Church has a message to deliver. The Church has a communication to offer.
Speaking in general on the role of a partner in dialogue, a role which the Catholic Church must take up with renewed fervour today, we should like merely to observe that the Church must be ever ready to carry on the dialogue with all men of good will, within and without its own sphere.
There is no one who is a stranger to its heart. no one in whom its ministry has no interest. It has no enemies, except those who wish to he so. Its name of Catholic is not an idle title. Not in vain has it received the commission to foster unity, love and peace in the world.
We gauge the distance that lies between us and the world. Yet we do not consider the world a stranger. All things human arc our concern. We share with the whole of mankind a common nature, a human life with all its gifts and problems.
In this primary. universal reality we are ready to play our part, to acknowledge the deep seated claims of its fundamental needs. to applaud the new and sometimes sublime expressions of its genius.
We possess, too, vital moral truths to he hrought to men's notice and corroborated by their consciences, to the benefit of all. Wherever men are trying to understand themselves and the world. we can communicate with them. Wherever the councils of nations come together to establish the rights and duties of man, we are honoured when they allow us to take our seat among them.
We realise, however. that in this limitless circle there are many. unfortunately very many. who profess no religion. and we are aware also that there are many who profess themselves. in various ways. to he atheists.
We know that some of these proclaim their godlessness openly and uphold it as P. programme of human education and political conduct. in the ingenuous but fatal belief that they are setting men free from false and outworn notions about life and the world. and are. they claim. putting in their place a scientific conception that is in conformity with the needs of modern progress.
This is the most serious problem of our time. We are firmly convinced that the theory on which the denial of God is based is utterly erroneous.
This theory is not in keeping with the basic, undeniable requirements of thought. It deprives the reasonable order of the world and its genuine foundations.
This theory does not provide human life with a liberating formula, but with a blind dogma which degrades and saddens it. This theory destroys, at the root, any social system which attempts to base itself upon it. It does not bring freedom. It is a sham, attempting to quench the light of the living God.
We shall, therefore, resist with all our strength the assaults of this
'phis we do in the supreme cause of truth and in virtue of our sacred duly to profess Christ and His gospel, moved by deep, unshakable love for men. and in the invincible hope that modem man will come again to discover, in the religious ideals that Catholicism sets before him. his vocation to the civilisation that does not die, but ever tends to the natural and supernatural perfection of the human spirit, and in which the grace of God enables man to possess his temporal goods in peace and honour, and to live in hope of attaining eternal good.
These are the reasons which compel us, as they compelled our predecessors, and with them everyone who has religious values at heart, to condemn the ideological systems which deny God and oppress the Church, systems which arc often identified with economic, social and political regimes. amongst which atheistic Communism is the chief.
It could be said that it is not so much that we condemn these systems and regimes as that they express their radical opposition to us in thought and deed. Our regret is, in reality. more sorrow for a victim than the sentence of a judge.
Dialogue in such conditions is very difficult, not to say impossible, although, even today, we have no preconceived intention of excluding the persons who profess these systems and belong to these regimes.
For the lover of truth, discussion is always possible. The difficulties a r e enormously increased by obstacles of the moral order: by the absence of sufficient freedom of thought and action, and by the perversions of discussion, so that the latter is not used to seek and express objective truth, but to serve predetermined utilitarian ends.
This is what puts an end to dialogue. The Church of Silence, for example, speaks only by her sufferings, and with her speaks also the suffering of an oppressed and degraded society, in which the rights of the spirit arc crushed by those who control its fate.
If we begin to speak in such a state of affairs, how can we offer dialogue, when we cannot he anything more than a voice crying in the wilderness? Silence, groaning, patience and always love, in such conditions, are the witness that the Church can still offer, and not even death can silence it.
Accordingly, bearing in mind the words of our predecessor of venerable memory. Pope John XXIII, in the encyclical Pacem in Terris, to the effect that the doctrines of such movements, once elaborated and defined. remain always the same, whereas the movements themselves cannot help but evolve and undergo changes, even of a profound nature, we do not despair: that they may one day he able to enter into a more positive dialogue with the Church than the present one, which we now of necessity deplore and lament.
Then we see another circle around us. This, too, is vast in its extent, yet it is not so far away from us. It is made up of the men who above all adore the one, supreme God whom we too adore. We refer to the children, worthy of our affection and respect, of the Hebrew people, faithful to the religion which we call that of the Old "I estament.
Then we think of the adorers of God according to the conception of monotheism. the Moslem religion especially, deserving_ of our admiration for all that is true and good in their worship of God. And then we come to the followers of the great Afro-Asiatic religions. Obviously we cannot share in these various forms of religion, nor can we remain indifferent to the fact that each one of them, in its own way, regards itself as the equal of all others. and absolves its followers from the need to try and discover whether God has revealed the perfect and definitive form, free from all error, in which He wishes to be known, loved and served.
Indeed, honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that there is but one true religion, the religion of Christianity. It is our hope that all who seek God and adore Him may come to acknowledge its truth.
But we do. nevertheless, recognise and respect the moral and spiritual values of the various nonChristian religions, and we desire to join with them in promoting and defending common ideals of religious liberty, human brotherhood, good culture, social welfare and civil order.
For our part we are ready to enter into discussion on these common ideals, and will not fail to take the initiative where our offer of discussion in genuine, mutual respect would be well received.
In reflecting on this subject, it distresses us to see how we, the promoter of such reconciliation, are regarded by many of the separated brethren as being its stumbling block, because of the primacy of honour and jurisdiction which Christ bestowed upon the Apostle Peter, and which we have inherited from him.
Do not some of them say that, if it were not for the primacy of the Pope, the reunion of the separated Churches with the Catholic Chturh would he easy? We beg the separated brethren to consider the inconsistency of this position, not only in that, without the Pope, the Catholic Church would no longer he Catholic, but also because, without the supreme, efficacious and decisive pastoral office of Peter, the unity of the Church of Christ would utterly collapse.
It would he vain to look for other principles of unity in place of the one established by Christ Himself. As St. Jerome justly says, "there would arise in the Church as many sects as there are priests".
We should also like to observe that this fundamental principle of holy Church has not as its objective a supremacy of spiritual pride and human domination. It is a primacy of service, of ministration, of love. It is not empty rhetoric which confers upon the Vicar of Christ the title of "Servant of the Servants of God".