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“For the greatest poverty is the lack of love.”

May 7, 2012
Cambodia

photo: One Dollar, Sir! by Trey Ratcliff

Pope Benedict XVI gave an address to non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See. He points toward the increase of globalization, new media, the lure of fashionable ideas that lead to destruction, the need for man to have God not only as a friend but to help with his moral compass, the reiteration of families (with strong marriages between that of a man and a woman being open to life) as a key building block of society, and the solidarity we should all have with those in poverty and in ill economic conditions. Even the Occupy Wall Street movement can find a sympathizing ear as the pope brings attention to the problem of materialism and consumerism. Here is an excerpt:

“The development of mass communications has made our planet, somehow, smaller. The ability to know almost immediately the events taking place worldwide, just as the needs of peoples and individuals, is an urgent call to be close to them in their joys and in their difficulties. The reality of the great suffering caused worldwide by poverty and misery, both material and spiritual, invites a new mobilization to respond, in justice and solidarity, to all that threatens human society and its environment”.

“Urban migration, armed conflict, famine and pandemics, which affect so many people, dramatically develop poverty which today has taken on new forms. The global economic crisis has brought more and more families to an increasingly precarious situation. While the creation and multiplication of needs led people to believe in the possibility of unlimited enjoyment and consumption, once the necessary means to satisfy these needs were lacking, feelings of frustration emerged. Loneliness due to exclusion increased. And when poverty coexists with the very rich, a perception of unfairness is born that can become a source of rebellion. It is therefore appropriate that States ensure that the social laws do not increase inequalities and enable people to live decently”.

“For this, consideration must be given to helping people overcome this shortfall, by rendering them actors in their society, enabling them to take charge of their own future, helping them to occupy a place within society according to their abilities. Because “man is more precious for what he is than for what he has” (CONC. VAT. II, Gaudium et spes, 35). Development for which every nation aspires each should concern the integral person, not economic growth alone. This belief must become an effective will for action. Experiments such as microcredit, and initiatives to create equitable partnerships, show that it is possible to harmonize economic goals with social needs, democratic governance and respect for nature. It is also good, for example […] to promote manual labour and to promote an agriculture that is first of all at the service of the inhabitants”. “The quality of human relationships and resource sharing are the foundation of society, allowing each to have his or her place and live with dignity in accordance with their aspirations”.

“For strengthening the human foundation of the socio-political reality, we must be attentive to another kind of poverty: that of the loss reference to spiritual values, to God. This vacuum makes discernment between good and evil as well as the overcoming of personal interests for the common good, more difficult. It makes it easier to adhere to ideals currently in fashion and avoid the necessary effort of reflection and criticism. And many young people in search of an ideal, turn to artificial paradises which destroy them. Addiction, consumerism and materialism, do not fill the heart of man made for infinity. For the greatest poverty is the lack of love. In distress, compassion and selfless listening are a great comfort. Even without great material resources, it is possible to be happy. Living simply in harmony with what we believe, should remain a possibility, and become ever more possible. I encourage all efforts undertaken, particularly in favour of families. Moreover, education must awaken to the spiritual dimension as “the human being develops when he grows in the spirit” (Caritas in veritate, 76). Such education helps build and strengthen more authentic bonds because it opens up to a more fraternal society which it helps to build”.

“States have the duty to promote their cultural and religious heritage which contributes to the development of a nation, and to facilitate access to all, for in familiarising oneself with history, each individual is brought to discover the roots of his or her own existence. Religion permits us to recognize in the other a brother in humanity. Allowing all the opportunity to know God, and in full freedom, means helping to forge a strong interior personality which enables him to witness to good and accomplish good even if it comes at a cost. “Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity” (Caritas in veritate, 78). In this way we can build a society where experiences of sobriety and fellowship will help reduce poverty, and take precedence over the indifference and selfishness of profit and waste, and above all over exclusion”.

Pope Benedict packs a lot of issues in five paragraphs that encompasses modern day man. It leaves one to further contemplation. There is a poverty of thought, solidarity, spiritual growth, but “the greatest poverty is the lack of love”. Isn’t that the problem–the lack of authentic love, agape–that infests our society, relationships with one another, our homes and families?

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