WASHINGTON - One of Pope Francis' messages is that the world is becoming increasingly cold, not cold in the meteorological sense, but in a relational sense, George Weigel, distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, explained in his Tuesday address to the Catholic Information Center's second annual "Blessed John Paul II Award Dinner for the New Evangelization."
"Pope Francis has reminded us, as indeed his two noble predecessors reminded us, we're living in an increasingly cold world. Not cold because of Canadian air flows. But cold because of a tendency to measure human beings by their utility rather than their dignity. To walk past those who are 'other.' To fail to at least attempt to understand why others fail to perceive the world as we do," he said.
Culture is becoming "increasingly unreal," Weigel believes. In this "new gnosticism," "everything is plastic and malleable" and "anything goes." Citing examples of the right to life, from conception to natural death, and the redefinition of marriage, Weigel said that this culture "not only permits unreality but now is beginning to legally require it."
To provide another example, Weigel recalled a law passed in Spain about six years ago saying that one could change their gender identity on their driver's license simply by signing an affidavit. No surgery or hormonal therapy was required.
Christians can learn to meet the challenge of this new cold world, Weigel said, by "living inside a biblical optic on the world."
Weigel recalled Pope John Paul II's trip to Israel for the "Great Jubilee" of 2000. The purpose of the trip was "to hear again the Great Commission," said Weigel, who was John Paul II's official biographer.
The Great Commission was not just for the disciples, he explained, but for all Christians. "Everyone is baptized into the Great Commission."
John Paul II "carried us back to the Holy Land," he recalled, "so that we could be inspired by those first witnesses to live lives of such compassion, decency, charity and nobility, that others would be compelled to ask us, 'how can you live like that?' And then we, like the first witnesses, could say, 'we have been empowered to live that way by the grace of God, manifest to us through friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ.'
"This learning to look again at the world through the eyes of biblical faith is essential to meeting the challenges of this moment, this country, and this culture."