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  1. 17 Jul '08 16:44 / 1 edit
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    Benedict XVI praised "the majestic splendour of Australia's natural beauty" which evokes "a profound sense of awe. It is as though one catches glimpses of the Genesis creation story: light and darkness, the sun and the moon, the waters, the earth, and living creatures; all of which are 'good' in God's eyes".

    Yet "there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth, erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption. .... And we discover that not only the natural but also the social environment - the habitat we fashion for ourselves - has its scars; wounds indicating that something is amiss; ... a poison which threatens to corrode what is good, reshape who we are, and distort the purpose for which we have been created. Examples abound, as you yourselves know. Among the more prevalent are alcohol and drug abuse, and the exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment.

    "I ask myself", the Pope added, "could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation 'explain' that these tragedies, portrayed in virtual form, are considered merely 'entertainment'? There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fuelled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made 'experience' all-important".

    "Life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences. ... It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

    "Christ offers more! Indeed He offers everything! Only He Who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life". But "the task of witness is not easy. There are many today who claim that God should be left on the sidelines, and that religion and faith, while fine for individuals, should either be excluded from the public forum altogether or included only in the pursuit of limited pragmatic goals. This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator. It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone. But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a world-view. If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image, and debate and policy concerning the public good will be driven more by consequences than by principles grounded in truth".

    "Experience shows", said Pope Benedict, "that turning our back on the Creator's plan provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order. When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognise the natural order, purpose, and the 'good' begins to wane".

    The Holy Father invited young people to be "alert to the signs of turning our back on the moral structure with which God has endowed humanity" and to "recognise that the innate dignity of every individual rests on his or her deepest identity - as image of the Creator - and therefore that human rights are universal, based on the natural law, and not something dependent upon negotiation or patronage, let alone compromise. And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space - the womb - has become a place of unutterable violence?"

    "God's creation is one and it is good", Pope Benedict concluded. "The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God Himself and thus inviolable.

    "Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit! This is the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ".