Baltimore-Washington International Airport (Baltimore, Maryland)
Dear Mr Vice–President,
1. As I take leave of the United States, I wish to express my deep and abiding gratitude to many people.
To you, Mr. Vice–President, for graciously coming here to say goodbye. To the Bishops of the Dioceses I have visited and the many people, who have worked so hard to make this visit a success. To the public authorities, to the police and security personnel, who have ensured efficiency, good order and safety.
To the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities, who have received me with great good will; to Americans of all races, colors and creeds, who have followed with interest and attention the events of these days; to the men and women of the communications media, who have labored diligently to bring the words and images of this visit to millions of people; and especially to all those who, personally present or from afar, have supported me with their prayers.
I express to the Catholic community of the United States my heartfelt thanks! In the words of Saint Paul: "I give thanks to my God every time I think of you – which is constantly in every prayer I utter" (Phil. 1:3).
2. I say this, too, to the United States of America: today, in our world as it is, many other nations and peoples look to you as the principal model and pattern for their own advancement in democracy. But democracy needs wisdom. Democracy needs virtue, if it is not to turn against everything that it is meant to defend and encourage. Democracy stands or falls with the truths and values which it embodies and promotes.
Democracy serves what is true and right when it safeguards the dignity of every human person, when it respects inviolable and inalienable human rights, when it makes the common good the end and criterion regulating all public and social life. But these values themselves must have an objective content. Otherwise they correspond only to the power of the majority, or the wishes of the most vocal. If an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in calling into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations (cf. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 70).
3. The United States possesses a safeguard, a great bulwark, against this happening. I speak of your founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. These documents are grounded in and embody unchanging principles of the natural law whose permanent truth and validity can be known by reason, for it is the law written by God in human hearts (cf. Rom. 2:25).
At the center of the moral vision of your founding documents is the recognition of the rights of the human person, and especially respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life in all conditions and at all stages of development. I say to you again, America, in the light of your own tradition: love life, cherish life, defend life, from conception to natural death.
4. At the end of your National Anthem, one finds these words: "Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’ ".
America: may your trust always be in God and in none other.
And then, "The star–spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave".
Thank you, and God bless you all!
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