Conversion breaks bonds of selfishness, pope says in Lenten message
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Conversion to Christ gives people the strength to break the bonds of selfishness and work for justice in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said in his message for Lent 2010.
"The Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love," the pope said in the message released Feb. 4 at the Vatican.
Latin-rite Catholics begin Lent Feb. 17 while most Eastern-rite Catholics begin the penitential season Feb. 15.
The theme of the pope's message was, "The Justice of God Has Been Manifested through Faith in Jesus Christ."
The common understanding of "justice," he said, is to give each person his or her due.
But because people are created in God's image, they not only need food, water, shelter and jobs; they need God and they need love, he said.
The greatest sign of God's love is the gift of salvation in Christ. When people accept that gift, the pope said, they recognize that they are dependent on God.
"Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one's own need -- the need of others and God, the need of his forgiveness and his friendship," the pope wrote.
The Vatican invited Hans-Gert Pottering, the former president of the European Parliament and president of Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation, to present the pope's message to the press.
Pottering said the basic call of the pope's message is "to work in union with our creator on our responsibility in the world."
"In these words -- charity, solidarity, fraternity -- lie the key to a true understanding of the responsibility of Christians in the world," he said. "Solidarity or charity implies the responsibility to defend and protect the universal dignity of any human being anywhere in the world under any circumstances."
Pottering said unfortunately modern politics has placed so much emphasis on promoting freedom and equality that it has almost ignored the obligation to promote solidarity and fraternity.
For example, "whereas Europe and the world have already invested unimaginable sums for the fight against the financial crisis, the implementation of charity leaves much to be desired, especially in the fight against hunger in the world," he said.
More than a billion people live on less than $1.50 a day, he said. AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are devastating the world's poorest nations, and pollution is destroying the air, water and farmable land.
The international reaction to the financial crisis demonstrates that "international cooperation can overcome huge challenges. A similar firmness is equally necessary in the fight against worldwide poverty," Pottering said.
On a concrete level, he called on all countries and all airlines to join the UNITAID project, which works with the World Health Organization to buy bulk quantities of anti-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis drugs using funding from a $1 or $2 surcharge on airline tickets.
The minor increase in the cost of a plane ticket, he said, "could help ease the misery in the world."