VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 4.15 p.m. today the Holy Father travelled from the apostolic nunciature in Berlin to the Reichstag where he was welcomed by the president of the German Federal Parliament. He held a brief meeting with the five chief office holders of the German State: the president, the chancellor and the presidents of the Bundestag, the Bundesrat and of the Federal Constitutional Court. He also greeted the leaders of the various parliamentary groups. He was then accompanied to the hall of the Reichstag where he listened to a speech by Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag.
In his own address to the Parliament, Benedict XVI affirmed that politics "must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. Naturally a politician will seek success, as this is what opens up for him the possibility of effective political action. Yet success is subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right". Without this, "success can be seductive and thus can open up the path towards the falsification of what is right, towards the destruction of justice".
"We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre", said the Holy Father. "We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right - a highly organised band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss".
For this reason, "to serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician", especially today. But, "how do we recognise what is right?" asked Pope Benedict. He explained that "for the fundamental issues of law, in which the dignity of man and of humanity is at stake, the majority principle is not enough. ... This conviction was what motivated resistance movements to act against the Nazi regime and other totalitarian regimes, thereby doing a great service to justice and to humanity as a whole. For these people, it was indisputably evident that the law in force was actually unlawful".
Restoring the cultural heritage of Europe
"In terms of the underlying anthropological issues, what is right and may be given the force of law is in no way simply self-evident today", said the Holy Father, recalling how, throughout history, "systems of law have almost always been based on religion". However, "unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed body of law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law. ... For the development of law and for the development of humanity, it was highly significant that Christian theologians aligned themselves against the religious law associated with polytheism and on the side of philosophy, and that they acknowledged reason and nature in their inter-relation as the universally valid source of law".
"This seemed to offer a clear explanation of the foundations of legislation up to the time of the Enlightenment, up to the time of the Declaration on Human Rights after World War II", however "there has been a dramatic shift in the situation in the last half-century". Due to the predominance of a positivist conception of nature and reason, "the idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into discussion in a non-Catholic environment".
"A positivist conception of nature as purely functional ... is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law. ... The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding which is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason. ... Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field. ... This is a dramatic situation which affects everyone, and on which a public debate is necessary.
"The positivist approach to nature and reason", Pope Benedict added, "is a most important dimension of human knowledge and capacity that we may in no way dispense with". But, "where positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture, ... it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity. I say this with Europe specifically in mind, where there are concerted efforts to recognise only positivism as a common culture and a common basis for law-making, so that all the other insights and values of our culture are reduced to the level of subculture, with the result that Europe vis-a-vis other world cultures is left in a state of 'culturelessness' and at the same time extremist and radical movements emerge to fill the vacuum".
This is why it is so important for reason and nature to rediscover their true greatness, and reassert themselves in their "true depth, with all its demands, with all its directives", said the Pope. We must "listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly", bearing in mind that "man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he listens to his nature, respects it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled".
"At this point Europe's cultural heritage ought to come to our assistance. The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people's responsibility for their actions.
"Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. ... The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between ... Israel's monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. ... In the awareness of man's responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history".
Having completed his address, Benedict XVI withdrew for a few moments before meeting with members of the Jewish community.
PV-GERMANY/ VIS 20110923 (1100)