Above, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino chats with Wendy Louis (Director of the Singapore Pastoral Institute) at St. Joseph's Institution after his lecture on the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church".

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, and of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, is an ardent promoter for the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S social teaching is summarized in the book, "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" which was requested for by Pope John Paul II. It was released for by Cardinal Martino's council in October 2004 after six years of preparation.

Cardinal Martino told his Singapore audience that "this is a document destined to sow its seeds very extensively, to fertilize the soil of the building of society over long periods of time, to motivate and guide the presence of Catholics in history."

"The destiny of the compendium will be measured by the conviction with which it is received and by the use that is made of it for the relaunching of general pastoral activity in society and … in bringing about a reflective, aware, coherent and community presence of lay Catholics involved in society and in politics," he said.

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At a talk to priests and religious at St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary on Wednesday Jun 21, the cardinal frankly told his audience that he was there to "advertise" the compendium, a book he hopes each priest and religious would "wish, desire and feel the need" to have in their hands.

The compendium was produced to serve as "an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that mark our time" and be "a guide to inspire attitudes and choices that will permit all people to look to the future with greater trust and hope."

The book has universal appeal and is addressed to every person of goodwill, regardless of creed, who shares in the respect for the human person. Many parts of the compendium also serve as an instrument in fostering ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

For the church community in particular, where each member has social responsibilities, the task of evangelization should include social doctrine as it is an essential part of the mission of the church.

At another talk to 800 members of the laity at St. Joseph's Institution on Tuesday Jun 20, the cardinal said with a smile that "the pope made a good choice (of appointing him the special envoy to the celebrations here) because I was the one who negotiated with the Government of Singapore 25 years ago." "I represent history," he added to applause and laughter.

"I remember very well the things that happened… even how the relations started… all the beautiful things between this Republic and the Holy See," the cardinal spoke with nostalgia. Although he had been in Singapore before, this was his "first encounter with lay Singaporeans", he told the audience.

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Cardinal Martino reminded the faithful that social questions can only be adequately dealt with if they are viewed in the context of God's plan of love. He told the audience that compendium is divided into three parts:

- The first part identifies the great principles of social doctrine

- the centrality of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity; and the key values of life in society

- truth, justice, freedom and love.

- The second part covers the laity's role in in the economical, political, cultural and environmental spheres.

- The third part consists of guidelines to make use of the "extraordinary patrimony of human and Christian knowledge represented by social doctrine".

The cardinal advised his listeners that "social doctrine is not mere theoretical knowledge, but is meant to be put into action." Recalling Pope Benedict's encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est", he noted that the pope declares that the church's task lies in building a social order to reawake spiritual and moral forces - "As citizens of the state, they (the laity) are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity."

"This kind of spirituality builds up the world according to the Spirit of Jesus: It makes us capable of observing history without distancing ourselves from it; of nurturing a passionate love of God without looking away from our brothers and sisters, whom we are able to see instead as the Lord sees them and to love as he loves them.

At the end of the talk, he autographed books that were prepared to commemorate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See.

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