Edward Pentin's Vatican Notebook
pape Benedict XV1's irst "State of the World" address to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See was warmly received by members of Rome's diplomatic community. Ambassadors were particularly pleased with its emphasis on the importance of truth in international affairs.
Francis Campbell, Britain's newly accredited ambassador to the Holy See, called it "a very powerful critique", one in which the Holy Father showed "renewed support" for the international system and multilateralism.
Francis Rooney, the United States ' Ambassador to the Holy See, said the Pope's message "echoed what President Bush says", and that he was "heartened" by Pope Benedict's emphasis on truth and freedom. In the speech, delivered on January 9, the Holy Father echoed the same theme as his message for the World Day of Peace, delivered eight days earlier ("In truth, peace") and drew attention to specific and general concerns in world affairs.
Mr Campbell said it was a positive reminder to the diplomatic community "that truth is the first principle underlying the international system".
Both ambassadors noted a number of issues on which the policies of their two countries converge with the Holy See. Mr Campbell said the Pope's call for a "secure Israel and viable Palestine" was synonymous with the British Government's position.
Mr Campbell also welcomed the Pope's emphasis on human rights which showed that despite diversity "there is a commonality" around which to unite. Mr Rooney said the Pope's message "reflected that the policies, vision and values of the United States are in line with the Holy See's", and showed that America was "on the right track".
Mr Rooney highlighted Benedict's reference to human trafficking. For mom than three years the US embassy has campaigned against such exploitation of human persons, something Benedict labelled "a disgrace in our time".
Benedict also called on states to cut spending on armaments, saying that less than half of the immense sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. "This challenges humanity's conscience," he said.
So will the British Govern ment's conscience be challenged enough to cut defence spending and use the extra funds for humanitarian aid in the most poor countries?
"What he is saying about armaments is not pacifism," said Mr Campbell. "He recognises the legitimacy of defence budgets, that there is a role for the armed forces in the preser vation of peace." Campbell hopes Britain can collaborate with the Holy See in ending the proliferation of small armaments, something which the the Government is committed to regulating and reducing, particularly in Africa. • For the US mission, the most important part of the Pope's message was his emphatic condemnation of terrorism. "The Pope made an important move in reaching out to the Muslim world and pulling back from the idea of a 'dash of civilisations'," said Rooney.
"He clearly and rightly pointed out that terrorism disguised lbyl a religious motivation is the worst form —it is a lie, not truth."
But could the Pope's emphasis on truth and peace also be read as a critique of the dubious reasons to go to war in Iraq? Campbell disagreed: "I see his
speech as visionary and uplift ing, not iebospective," he said. "It's not finger-wagging, he's not singling out any country, but providing a reminder of the philosophical underpinnings of the international system."
ptptope Benedict XVI's encyclical, Deus caritas est, is expected o be published by the end of this month.
Many commentators are speculating that the document will review different concepts of love such as affection, friendship, erotic love and unconditional love — much as C S Lewis did in his 1960 hook The Four Loves.
According to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the Pope will try to explain that erotic love, Eros, and unconditional love. Agape, are both inherently good in God's eyes. The Cardinal has not yet read the encyclical, but Benedict has asked him to deliver an address about the major themes to a gathering of Vatican officials at the end of the month.
"What the Pope is going to do is to try to save eros," he said. "To say that our own human love, our desires, are good in themselves... The distinction between Agape and Ems is not a clean one. In fact, one influences the other and therefore both should be considered good. But we are sinful creatures, so they can be misused."
Mgr Michael Magee, a biblical scholar in Rome, expects the Pope to use the encyclical to attract people to the beauty of the Gospel message. Mgr Magee said that Benedict is looldng to recover the aesthetic tradition in theology, lost since the days of Aquinas.