Church must educate laity on social teachings, Pope says

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The Catholic laity must be better educated in the Church's social teaching if the common good is to take precedence in politics, Pope Benedict said Nov.3.

The "fundamental problems affecting the destiny of peoples and of world institutions, as well as of the human family … have by no means disappeared,” Benedict XVI said in a message he sent to participants in the full assembly of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The council is dedicating its time to examining how the Pope's encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” has been received around the world.

The Pontiff said that the reason problems have not disappeared is that “Co-ordination among States … is often inadequate” because efforts are not aimed at solidarity but rather at achieving “a balance of power.” This leaves the field “open to renewed inequalities, to the danger of the predominance of economic and financial groups which dictate - and intend to continue to do so - the political agenda at the expense of the universal common good,” he said.

The solution to this situation is to educate the Catholic laity in the Church's social doctrine, he told the council. Lay Catholics, he added, "must undertake to promote the correct ordering of social life, while respecting the legitimate autonomy of worldly institutions."

The Pope also extended this responsibility to the realm of politics.

"Only with charity, supported by hope and illuminated by the light of faith and reason, is it possible to achieve the goals of the integral liberation of man and universal justice."

"A profound understanding of the social doctrine of the Church is of fundamental importance, in harmony with all her theological heritage and strongly rooted in affirming the transcendent dignity of man, in defending human life from conception to natural death and in religious freedom,” the Pope explained.

Pope Benedict concluded his message to the council by saying he hopes it will continue "to prepare fresh 'aggiornamenti' (updates)” of the Church's social doctrine.

“In order to globalize this doctrine,” he said, "it may be appropriate to create centers and institutions for its study, dissemination and implementation throughout the world." He also urged council members to spread Church teaching through the lay press, universities and economic and social study centers.

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