Pope John Paul II on the Declaration of Independence

In his first visit to the United States in 1979 Pope John Paul II gave a homily in Philadelphia (October 3 1979). He spoke of the political heritage represented by the signing of the declaration and the ringing of the liberty bell. He said “there are easily recognized strong connections with basic religious and Christian values. A sense of religion itself is part of this heritage.” There is a strong afirmation of the moral basis for the political order. Here is a longer excerpt:

“Philadelphia is the city of the Declaration of Independence, that remarkаble document, containing a solemn attestation of the equality of all human beings, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights : life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, expressing a ‘firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence’. These are the sound moral principles formulated by your Founding Fathers and enshrined forever in your history. In the human and civil values that are contained in the spirit of this Declaration there are easily recognized strong connections with basic religious and Christian values. A sense of religion itself is part of this heritage. The Liberty Bell which I visited on another occasion proudly bears the words of the Bible: ‘Proclaim liberty throughout the land’ (Lev 25 :10). This tradition poses for all future generations of America a noble challenge: ‘One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’.

Can these truths even be spoken in public now thirty years since the Pope visited that noble city and affirmed  the presence of God and religion in our heritage? Has newspeak erased our history?

Here is another passage fro his homily at Logan Square:

“How then can a Christian, inspired and guided by the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption of Christ, strengthen his or her own values and those that are embodied in the heritage of this nation?  . . Let me touch upon a few important points. These values are strengthened: when power and authority are exercised in full respect for all the fundamental rights of the human person, whose dignity is the dignity of one created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1 :26) ; when freedom is accepted, not as an absolute end in itself, but as a gift that enables self-giving and service; when the family is protected and strengthened, when its unity is preserved, and when its role as the basic cell of society is recognized and honored.  . . .  Human-Christian values triumph by subjecting political and economic considerations to human dignity, by making them serve the cause of man—every person created by God, every brother and sister redeemed by Christ.” §4

Finally, he s our heritage with his own recent reflections upon human dignity and the Redeemer of Man:

“I have mentioned the Declaration of Independence and the Liberty Bell, two monuments that exemplify the spirit of freedom on which this country was founded. Your attachment to liberty, to freedom, is part of your heritage. When the Liberty Bell rang for the first time in 1776, it was to announce the freedom of your nation, the beginning of the pursuit of a common destiny independent of any outside coercion. This principle of freedom is paramount in the political and social order, in relationships between the government and the people, and between individual and individual. However, man’s life is also lived in another order of reality : in the order of his relationship to what is objectively true and morally good. . . . In my first Encyclical I wrote in this regard : ‘These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning : the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world’ (Redemptor Hominis, 12). §5-6

Pope John Paul II loved the United States and he called us to live up to our noble heritage. Even more than it was thirty years, the United States needs to be re-evangelized if it is preserve its liberty under law..

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