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Dear friends of Istituto Acton,

Welcome to 2010’s first international edition of “Istituto Acton Expert Analysis” We sent you two similar mailings last year compiling recent Acton News and Commentary articles with Italian translations as well as some media related to the work of the Acton Institute, but this is the debut of an introductory “Letter from the Director.” Permit me to explain briefly what we are trying to do with this bi-lingual monthly mailing.

This letter will draw your attention to some of the happenings in Rome that are of particular interest to fans and friends of the Acton Institute and its mission to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. Naturally, coming from Rome our primary but not exclusive focus will be the activities of the Pope and the Vatican offices that assist him. Generally we’ll try to examine the relationship of economics and theology, while occasionally highlighting some of the other interesting but perhaps under-reported news from the Eternal City.

The Christmas season and January are busy times in Rome. Major events included the Pope’s Christmas day Urbi et Orbi message, the celebration of the World Day of Peace on January 1, the papal address to the diplomat corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Benedict’s visit to the main Synagogue of Rome, and the just-concluded week of prayer for Christian unity. There are several valuable news reports and analyses on sites such as Catholic Culture, Zenit (especially the weekly Rome Notes issued on Thursdays by Elizabeth Lev and Edward Pentin alternately), John L. Allen’s All Things Catholic, Sandro Magister’s Chiesa, and Andrea Tornielli’s Sacri Palazzi.

Both the World Day of Peace message and the speech to the diplomats contained the usual clear thinking from Benedict XVI on the environment. Benedict has sometimes been called the “Green Pope” for reiterating what should be common sense to Christians: God wants us to protect and cultivate His creation. Previous Acton commentaries have already looked at the issue (here and here), and the latest papal statements follow this trend. So let’s not get too carried away turning the Holy Father into a Greenpeace activist about to sacrifice babies to Gaia. It shouldn’t be surprising, but it needs to be repeated that the Pope calls us to protect the weakest among us, i.e., the unborn, respect biological differences between men and women, and align our desire for freedom with God’s will – something you’ll never hear from any Green Party politician. Here are a couple of key passages from the speech to the diplomats:

“It is proper, however, that this concern and commitment for the environment should be situated within the larger framework of the great challenges now facing mankind. If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown.”

[...] “To carry our reflection further, we must remember that the problem of the environment is complex; one might compare it to a multifaceted prism. Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America. Saint Columban stated that: “If you take away freedom, you take away dignity” (Ep. 4 ad Attela, in S. Columbani Opera, Dublin, 1957, p. 34). Yet freedom cannot be absolute, since man is not himself God, but the image of God, God’s creation. For man, the path to be taken cannot be determined by caprice or willfulness, but must rather correspond to the structure willed by the Creator.”

You’ll find in this month’s edition of “Istituto Acton Expert Analysis” articles by Samuel Gregg on the problem of deficit spending and on the end of liberation theology, Jan Klos on the convergent economic teachings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and Fr. Robert Sirico comparing the message of Christmas with the exposed lies of the “climate change” movement.

Happy reading, and please let us know what you think of these mailings. As Christians called to serve and supporters of free enterprise, we’re always looking for ways to better meet the needs of others!

Kishore Jayabalan

Kishore Jayabalan is director of Istituto Acton, the Acton Institute's Rome office. Formerly, he worked for the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as an analyst for environmental and disarmament issues and desk officer for English-speaking countries. Kishore Jayabalan earned a B.A. in political science and economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In college, he was executive editor of The Michigan Review and an economic policy intern for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He worked as an international economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C.