Scripture Is Guide for Social Ministry, Says Cardinal

Affirms Christian Belief That a Better World Is Possible

MADRID, Spain, FEB. 10, 2011 ( The Word of God is the best guide for Christians to discern how to minister in the world, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Cardinal Peter Turkson affirmed this Wednesday when he gave the final address at a "Sacred Scripture in the Church" conference in Madrid. The event was promoted by the Spanish bishops' conference on the occasion of the publication of the official version of the Bible in Spanish.

The cardinal spoke on "The Word of God and Commitment in the World," focusing on Benedict XVI's social encyclical "Caritas in Veritate." He stressed that the encyclical "brings together many resources of Scripture and of our Catholic social tradition and puts them at the base of the crucial social questions of our days."

The Pope "does not prescribe any plan or recipe, or policies or solutions. Instead, he recommends the Word of God as our tool of discernment," Cardinal Turkson suggested.

The cardinal gave a reading of the encyclical as a call "to continue the work of the Word in the world," building "the city of man with qualities closer to the city of God."

The African prelate stressed that Christianity contributes to "the building of a human city that faithfully reflects the city of God" through "grace and the power of the Word of God, through which He leads to the fulfillment of all his plans."

The Church's social ministries are a prefiguring of the city of God, the cardinal continued. He added that the "city of man is not promoted only with relationships of rights and duties but first and even more so, with relationships of gratitude, of mercy and of communion."

Cardinal Turkson summarized the focus of "Caritas in Veritate" in five "dimensions" of social ministries: "Begin with a realistic attitude; base the work on fundamental values; assume with confidence new responsibilities; be open to a profound cultural renewal; and be committed to work with coherence and consistency."

"The first step is to begin with a realistic attitude given the difficulties of the present time, not with prefabricated answers or simplistic ideologies, but with the Word of God as our key of discernment," he explained.

In this connection, the cardinal criticized those who "prefer to remain passive hoping that things will take a new course."

He acknowledged that it takes a "real effort" to stay current in reading the "signs of the times," but he said, "it is our Christian responsibility to do so with balance and intelligence."

The second dimension, basing work "on fundamental values and a new vision of the future," can only begin with oneself, the cardinal continued, "and that is why this second competency can be correctly called conversion."

In this connection, he reminded that Scripture "illumines human existence and moves one's conscience to revise one's life in depth, as the whole history of humanity is under God's judgment."

The third dimension, regarding taking responsibilities "with confidence, more than with resignation," implies seeing them as a vocation and mission, the prelate proposed.

The Christian vision "is completely informed by God's salvific plan for the world -- as established in the Scriptures," he explained.

In regard to the fourth "recipe," to be open to a profound cultural renewal, the cardinal acknowledged that it is "very widespread to be negative, nihilist, pessimistic -- which not only leaves us outside of reach, but also removes us from both histories, the human and the divine."

Christians "believe firmly that a more just and peaceful world is possible," Cardinal Turkson recalled, "therefore we ourselves must be instruments of reconciliation and peace."

Finally, the Vatican official spoke of the need for "new forms of commitment, with coherence and consistency."

"Human dignity is a characteristic imprinted by God the Creator in his creature, assumed and redeemed by Jesus Christ through his incarnation, death and resurrection. That is why the diffusion of the Word of God reinforces the affirmation and respect of these rights," he stressed. "God's own commitment to the world through the Word, must be carried out in the best way possible by our competent and generous commitment, with the poor of the many poverties that we must combat, our commitment in favor of reconciliation, justice and peace."

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