Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
20 Sep 2010
This was the most delicate political event of Benedict XVI's trip to the United Kingdom. The Pope went to Westminster Hall to meet with 1800 British politicians, business leaders and intellectuals.
In this Hall in the year 1535, St. Thomas More was condemned to death for refusing to accept the King's Act of Supremacy over the Church of England.
The Pope used that episode as a starting point for his reflections on the appropriate place for belief in the political process.
"If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy".
The Pope recalled how the lack of ethics had provoked the economic crisis, and how the presence of ethical principals firmly rooted in natural law had led to the abolition of the slave trade.
The role of religion in public debate, said the Pope, is not to propose concrete political solutions, but to help reason discover its principal moral objectives.
"Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance".
For this reason, the Pope invited British politicians and intellectuals to seek paths of dialogue between faith and reason.
Using a certain British irony Benedict XVI called for this, one of the most powerful countries in the world, to take real measures to help the poorest people of the world
"Yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed "too big to fail". Surely the integral human development of the world's peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world's attention, that is truly "too big to fail".
Among those present at the ceremony were former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The Pope greeted each one personally before leaving the hall amid great applause.