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Ireland threatened by secularism, Pope tells new envoy September 17, 2007

Ireland must guard against a loss of faith and the encroachment of secular ideology, Pope Benedict XVI warned a new ambassador from that country to the Holy See.

As he accepted the diplomatic credentials of the new envoy, Noel Fahey, the Holy Father remarked that "for over 1600 years, Christianity has shaped the cultural, moral and spiritual identity of the Irish people." That faith remains the key to the nation's character, he said.

The Pope said that the recent economic boom in Ireland has been a blessing blessing, since "prosperity has undoubtedly brought material comfort to many, but in its wake secularism has also begun to encroach and leave its mark."

Speaking about the broad question of Church-state relations in a democratic society, Pope Benedict said that the faith "serves all of society by shedding light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths and draws upon wisdom." In making that contribution, he said, the Church does not threaten the proper authority of the state, but "keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable."

Moreover, the Pontiff continued, if the Church is not allowed to proclaim the truth in public, "relativism takes its place: instead of being governed by principles, political choices are determined more and more by public opinion, values are overshadowed by procedures and targets, and indeed the very categories of good and evil, and right and wrong, give way to the pragmatic calculation of advantage and disadvantage."

The Pope welcomed the establishment of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, supported by "determined political resolve on the part of both the Irish and the British governments," and said that he hoped to see that regime succeed.

The Holy Father said that he was also pleased by the concern young Irish people have shown for the preservation of the environment. But he said it is disturbing that so many people who "are most most attuned to the awe of God's creation pay scant attention to the marvel of life in the womb."

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