Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the President of the Department of Foreign Religious Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, has written a prologue or introduction to “The Ethics of the Common Good in Catholic Social Doctrine” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2008) by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. The article by Metropolitan Kirill was translated from the Italian and into English for the first time by Paola Fantini, an intern in the Rome office of the Acton Institute.
Considering the Orthodox concept of the common good, it must be noted that this concept refers not only to material well-being, not only to peace and harmony on earth, but most of all to the aspirations of man and human society to eternal life, which is the ultimate good of every Christian. For this reason, according to the Orthodox conscience, the debate on the common good will always be incomplete if it considers earthly life exclusively, while the highest good – life in Christ – is ignored by the preachers of radical secularism and vulgar materialism.
This does not mean, however, that the Orthodox Church denies the material aspects of human existence or considers them of little importance to the cause of salvation. The Orthodox Church limits itself to identifying correct priorities and to remembering the words of the Gospel: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8: 36) Good hard work and the production of material goods can be justified only if they are meant to ensure man a dignified standard of life which will allow him to help others and develop to his spiritual potential. In following such teachings, the individual can actively serve God and his nation. At the same time it must be noted that material goods are not a necessary condition for salvation and therefore their attainment must not become an end in itself, which would destroy the person and the foundations of human society.