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Pope gives a nod to Obama

Benedict XVI leans to his left to greet the visiting president

Several days ago the pope sent a telegram to the disgraced Polish Archbishop Julius Paetz of the Poznian diocese, who was forced out of public duty in 2002 by John Paul II after numerous complaints of sexual abuse by seminarians. Benedict congratulated Paezt for his “fruitful service” to the church on the 50th anniversary of his ordination.

“Guiding your sheepfold, you gave a testimony of faith in the resurrection of Christ which drove all fear away,” the pope declared.

His scandal had driven Paetz from public view. “The archbishop, now 74, has attended several recent audiences with Pope Benedict in Rome where he has a luxury apartment,” reported The Tablet, an English Catholic biweekly, on July 4.

By helping Paetz rehabilitate his career, Benedict sends a contradictory signal after his apology to priest abuse victims in America last year.

In “Love in Truth,” Benedict asserts that declining birth rates — a clear reference to Western Europe — has caused “strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings ... and narrows the ‘brain pool’ upon which nations can draw for their needs.”

The pope calls for a heightened ethical dimension to corporate life, and stronger partnerships with governments  and public charities with greater transparency on budgets for aid programs and in social safety nets.

Although “Love in Truth” has been in the works for several months, the release is clearly timed to assert a role for the Holy See in public debate on themes staked out by the G8 leaders.

With outsourcing jobs in mind, the letter states: “Business management cannot concern itself only with the interest of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business.”

The encyclical hop-scotches over vast areas of economics and morality, as when one page reflects on access to education as a basic right, and the next reflects upon international tourism that “follows a consumerist and hedonistic pattern, as a form of escapism planned in a manner typical of the countries of origin.”

Although the breadth of Benedict’s concerns is striking, his thematic lens comes back, time and again, to the morality of economic imbalance. In a swipe against subprime loans, he writes: “The weakest members of society should be helped to defend themselves against usury, just as poor peoples should be helped to derive real benefit from micro-credit, in order to discourage the exploitation.”

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