Vatican City, 19 May 2010 (VIS) - "'Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place'. Gratuitousness cannot be bought on the market, or established by law. Nonetheless, both economics and politics need gratuitousness and individuals who are open to reciprocal giving". With these words, taken from his Encyclical "Caritas in veritate", Benedict XVI addressed more than 8,000 members of three Catholic associations whom he received this morning in the Paul VI Hall.
The associations present were the Federation of Christian Organisations for International Volunteer Service (FOCSIV) which brings together sixty-five Italian groups; the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Commitment which operates in the world of Italian culture, and the Christian Workers Movement, a social organisation dedicated to solidarity and volunteer work which promotes Christian principles in life, culture and legislation.
"Culture, volunteering and work are three inseparable elements of the daily commitment of Catholic lay people", said the Pope in his address. "The lay faithful become involved when they touch one or more of these aspects and, through cultural service, solidarity with those in need and work, strive to promote human dignity. These three aspects are linked by a common denominator: the giving of self. ... Your activity must be animated by charity. This means learning to see with the eyes of Christ and giving others much more than what is externally necessary; giving them ... the gesture of love they need. This arises from the love that comes from God, Who first loved us; it arises from intimate contact with Him".
The activity of Catholic volunteers bears witness to "the logic of giving", the Holy Father explained, "the giving of one's time, abilities, knowledge, and professionalism; in a word, attention to others without expecting a return in this world. By doing so, not only do people do good for others, but they also discover profound happiness, according the the logic of Christ Who gave all of Himself".
Our first experience of this gratuitous love is in the family and, when this does not happen, the family enters into crisis. "Everything we experience in the family, the unreserved giving of self for the good of others, is a fundamental educational experience for us to live as Christians in our relationship with culture, volunteering and work", Benedict XVI said.
At this point in his address he referred to his Encyclical "Caritas in veritate" in which he argues for an extension of the family model of gratuitousness to a universal dimension, because "justice alone is insufficient. In order for there to be true justice we need that 'extra' which only gratuitousness and solidarity can bring".
Concluding his remarks, the Holy Father encouraged the volunteers "to continue in their commitment towards their brother and sisters. Part of this is the task of highlighting injustices and bearing witness to the values which underpin human dignity, promoting forms of solidarity which favour the common good".