Monday, January 09, 2006

Foreign affairs

The Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings (in English)

Read through it first and then read the rest of this post.

The Holy Father's theme is a commitment to Truth and how that commitment leads to peace, understanding, etc. A couple of points that stand out are below.

The commitment to truth on the part of Diplomatic missions, at both bilateral and multilateral level, can offer an essential contribution towards reconciling the undeniable differences between peoples from different parts of the world and their cultures, not only in a tolerant coexistence, but according to a higher and richer design of humanity. In past centuries, cultural exchanges between Judaism and Hellenism, between the Roman world, the Germanic world and the Slav world, and also between the Arabic world and the European world, have enriched culture and have favoured sciences and civilizations. So it should be again today, and to an even greater extent, since the possibilities of exchange and mutual understanding are much more favourable. To this end, what is needed above all today is the removal of everything that impedes access to information, through the press and through modern information technology, and in addition, an increase in exchanges between scholars and students from the humanities faculties of universities in different cultural regions.

The bolding is mine. The Holy Father's point here is interesting in that so often, the Holy See has viewed Globalization in a not-so-positive light. There is a wide view among those who study international relations that the basic reason why there is terrorism and conflict is because there are information haves and information have-nots. The Internet, despite all its smut, is the great equalizer and those who have access to it are not going to be easily recruited into terror organizations, etc. The Holy Father's comment on this specific point can be seen in light of efforts by Negroponte and his associates in bringing inexpensive laptops to the Third World and other similar efforts.

I come now to a third point: commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation. This necessary link between peace and the commitment to truth has given rise to an objection: differing convictions about the truth cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them. In the course of history these differences have caused violent clashes, social and political conflicts, and even wars of religion. This is undeniably true, but in every case it was the result of a series of concomitant causes which had little or nothing to do with truth or religion, and always, for that matter, because means were employed which were incompatible with sincere commitment to truth or with the respect for freedom demanded by truth. Where the Catholic Church herself is concerned, in so far as serious mistakes were made in the past by some of her members and by her institutions, she condemns those mistakes and she has not hesitated to ask for forgiveness. This is required by the commitment to truth.

An implicit challenge: we can apologize for the sins of the past. Can you?

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