APOSTOLIC LETTER: ST. THOMAS MORE PATRON SAINT OF POLITICIANS
VATICAN CITY, OCT 31, 2000 (VIS) – Made public today was an Apostolic Letter in the form of “Motu Proprio” in which John Paul II proclaims St.Thomas More as Patron Saint of Statesmen and Politicians “after due consideration and willingly acceding to the petitions addressed to me” by various heads of State and government, politicians and episcopal conferences.
In the document, dated October 31 and published in Latin, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese, the Pope presents a biography of St. Thomas More and explains the reasons that have brought him to proclaim the saint as patron of statesmen and politicians. Some extracts from the text are given below:
“There are many reasons for proclaiming Thomas More Patron of statesmen and people in public life. Among these is the need felt by the world of politics and public administration for credible role models able to indicate the path of truth at a time in history when difficult challenges and crucial responsibilities are increasing. … On the other hand, scientific achievements in the area of biotechnology underline the need to defend human life at all its different stages, while the promises of a new society C successfully presented to a bewildered public opinion C urgently demand clear political decisions in favor of the family, young people, the elderly and the marginalized.”
“His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue. Unwavering in this rigorous moral stance, this English statesman placed his own public activity at the service of the person, especially if that person was weak or poor; he dealt with social controversies with a superb sense of fairness; he was vigorously committed to favoring and defending the family; he supported the all-round education of the young. … His sanctity shone forth in his martyrdom, but it had been prepared by an entire life of work devoted to God and neighbor.”
“It was precisely in defence of the rights of conscience that the example of Thomas More shone brightly. … Even if, in his actions against heretics, he reflected the limits of the culture of his time.”
“The life of Saint Thomas More clearly illustrates a fundamental truth of political ethics. The defense of the Church’s freedom from unwarranted interference by the State is at the same time a defense, in the name of the primacy of conscience, of the individual’s freedom vis-a-vis political power. Here we find the basic principle of every civil order consonant with human nature.”
“Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity. And even outside the Church, particularly among those with responsibility for the destinies of peoples, he is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal the service of the human person.”
“I am confident therefore that the proclamation of the outstanding figure of Saint Thomas More as Patron of Statesmen and Politicians will redound to the good of society. It is likewise a gesture fully in keeping with the spirit of the Great Jubilee which carries us into the Third Christian Millennium.”
“Therefore, after due consideration and willingly acceding to the petitions addressed to me, I establish and declare Saint Thomas More the heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians, and I decree that he be ascribed all the liturgical honors and privileges which, according to law, belong to the Patrons of categories of people.”
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON ST. THOMAS MORE, PATRON OF STATESMEN
VATICAN CITY, OCT 31, 2000 (VIS) – The following biography of St. Thomas More was made public on the occasion of the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio in which he names St. Thomas as Patron of Statesmen and Politicians.
Thomas More was born in the heart of London on February 7, 1478 and he was beheaded in the same city on July 6, 1535.
After studying at Oxford and the London Inns of Court, he became a prominent lawyer, a member of Parliament, and a well respected judge. He served his city in numerous capacities, but he never allowed his public duties to interfere with his close supervision of his children’s education or with his intense life of study as a leading humanist. After agreeing to enter the King’s service at forty-one, he rose quickly in his responsibilities until he became Lord Chancellor of England at the age of fifty-two. He resigned that office, however, on May 16, 1532 after King Henry VIII manipulated both Parliament and the Convocation of Clergy in order to assume control over the Church in England. Sir Thomas was eventually imprisoned for fifteen months before being tried and executed for not signing an oath that recognized the King’s supremacy in spiritual affairs.
The Christian steadfastness which Thomas More demonstrated in martyrdom has made his name famous down through the centuries. In his own lifetime, he was already known throughout Europe for his scholarship and his innovative views, which led him, for example, to give his daughters the same education his son received – a revolutionary development in those times. His work as a writer C especially his translations of the Greek satirist Lucian, his collection of original poems, and his great classic “Utopia” C lent his name incomparable prestige. “Utopia” continues to be Thomas More’s best-known work. Modeled on Plato’s “Republic,” this intellectual puzzle is one of the finest case studies ever devised for the political philosopher and the student of human nature. Like the “Republic”, “Utopia” is filled with internal contradictions that invite the attentive reader to think deeply about the perennial ethical values which give meaning to personal and social life.
Thomas More has been venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church since 1935, and since 1980 his name has been included in the Anglican calendar of saints. He has been recognized as a symbol of integrity and a hero of conscience by people regardless of their nations or beliefs. His last words, “I die the King’s good servant and God’s first,” remain an inspiration for all those who dedicate their lives to the service of the common good.
Today, October 31, 2000 Pope John Paul II proclaimed him Patron of Statesmen and Politicians.
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