4. I would like to speak in a particular way to those of you who have the very delicate task of formulating and approving laws: a task which brings man close to God, the Supreme Legislator, from whose Eternal Law the validity and the obligatory force of every other law is ultimately derived. This is precisely the meaning of the dictum that positive law cannot contradict the natural law, the latter being nothing other than the expression of the primary and essential norms regulating the moral life and consequently the characteristics, the most profound requirements and the loftiest values of the human person. As I have already had occasion to state in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, "the basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable 'majority' opinions, but only the acknowledgment of an objective moral law which, as the 'natural law' written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself" (No. 70).
This means that laws, whatever the areas in which the legislator intervenes or is obliged to intervene, must always respect and promote human persons - in all the variety of their spiritual, material, personal, family and social needs. Hence a law which does not respect the right to life - from conception to natural death - of every human being, whatever his or her condition - healthy or ill, still in the embryonic stage, elderly or close to death - is not a law in harmony with the divine plan. Consequently, Christian legislators may neither contribute to the formulation of such a law nor approve it in parliamentary assembly, although, where such a law already exists, it is licit for them to propose amendments which would diminish its adverse effects. The same must be said with regard to all laws which would do harm to the family, striking at its unity and its indissolubility, or which would give legal validity to a union between persons, including those of the same sex, who demand the same rights as the family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman.
Certainly in today's pluralistic society Christian lawmakers are confronted by ideas of life and by laws and requests for legalization which run contrary to their own conscience. Christian prudence, the virtue proper to Christian politicians, will make clear to them how they should act so as not to fall short, on the one hand, of the demands of their correctly formed conscience, and not to fail, on the other hand, in their duty as legislators. For Christians today, it is not a question of fleeing the world in which God's call has placed then, but rather of bearing witness to their own faith and being faithful to their own principles in the difficult and ever new situations which mark the world of politics.
5. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the times in which God has granted us to live are in many ways dark and filled with difficulties, for they are times in which the very future of humanity is at stake in the new millennium opening up before us. In many men and women today fear and uncertainty prevail: where are we going?; what will be humanity's fate in the next century?; where are the extraordinary scientific discoveries of recent years, especially in the fields of biology and genetics, leading us? We are conscious of being merely at the beginning of a journey, but we do not know where it will take us and whether it will bring benefit or harm to the men and women of the twenty-first century.
As Christians living in these formidable and yet wonderful times, we share in the fears, the uncertainties and the questioning of our contemporaries. Yet we are not pessimistic about the future, for we have the certainty that Jesus Christ is the Lord of history, and in the Gospel we find the light which illumines our way, even in moments of difficulty and darkness.
An encounter with Christ changed your life one day, and now you have wished to renew the splendour of that encounter by making this pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. To the extent that you persevere in this close bond with Christ, through personal prayer and committed participation in the life of the Church, he, the Living One, will continue to pour out upon you the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and love, the strength and the light which all of us need.
With an act of wholehearted and steadfast faith, renew your fidelity to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, and make his Gospel the guide of your thought and of your life. In this way you will be in today's society that yeast of new life which humanity needs in order to build a more just and fraternal future, a future open to the civilization of love.
*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.45 p.7.