By Kathleen Gilbert

VATICAN CITY, October 6, 2009 ( – In an address to the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the central role of the dignity of human life and freedom of conscience in Catholic social teaching. 

The choice of Miguel Diaz, who says he is pro-life, as U.S. ambassador met with criticism from pro-life Catholic leaders earlier this year, due in large part to the fact that Diaz had famously thrown his support behind the strongly pro-abortion Health and Human Services Secretary and fellow Catholic Kathleen Sebelius.

Benedict gave the remarks as he officially accepted Diaz's credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America in a ceremony at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo.

In addressing the U.S. Church's contribution to public discourse, the Pope said: “Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens.”

“The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics,” Benedict continued, “for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.'”

Touching on the pursuit of “the common good of the whole human family,” Benedict pointed out that, “Genuine progress, as the Church's social teaching insists, must be integral and humane; it cannot prescind from the truth about human beings and must always be directed to their authentic good.”

“In a word, fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and real development,” he said. 

The pontiff added that the U.S. bishops' perspective on faith and natural law was important in answering “the weighty ethical and social questions shaping America's future.”

“Religious vision and religious imagination do not straiten but enrich political and ethical discourse, and the religions, precisely because they deal with the ultimate destiny of every man and woman, are called to be a prophetic force for human liberation and development throughout the world, particularly in areas torn by hostility and conflict,” said the Pope.

See related coverage:

Obama Appoints Sebelius Supporter Miguel Diaz as United States Ambassador to Holy See


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