Pope Benedict XVI releases Social Encyclical: Caritas in Veritate

The Vatican today released Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

The third Encyclical of his papacy is about the Church's social teaching and focuses on human development in charity and truth. The Pope argues that charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine where every responsibility and every commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from love.

The Encyclical, addressed to Catholics and all men of good will, opens with the words "Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity."

The Encyclical is divided into six chapters. The first chapter analyses the message of Populorum Progressio, the Social Encyclical of Pope Paul VI published 40 years ago, in which he taught that progress is first and foremost a vocation "in the design of God, every man is called upon to develop and fulfil himself, for every life is a vocation." And without
God, progress becomes dehumanised.

The second chapter explores "Human Development in our Time". The third covers "Fraternity, Economic Development and Society". Pope Benedict explores the experience of gift and argues without a sense of the common good the market becomes detached from the political community with grave consequences for man. He calls for clear ethical governance and behaviour at an individual level if economic activity is not to harm man. "Justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity... as every economic decision has a moral consequence." Love goes beyond justice, but must first see justice done.

In chapter four on "The Development of People, Rights and Duties, the Environment", Pope Benedict XVI argues that the sharing of reciprocal duties is a more powerful incentive than the mere assertion of rights, exploring the need for economies and society as a whole to be underpinned by an ethic that promotes an openness to life. This should manifest itself in policies that support and promote the centrality of the family, encourage solidarity with all and promote stewardship of the environment.

In chapter five on "The Co-operation of the Human Family" the Pope appeals for humanity to re-discover that we are all one: "the development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family..." He argues strongly that religions can
offer their vital contribution to development "only if God has a place in the public realm". Exclusion of religion from the public square (or at the other extreme, religious fundamentalism) hinders encounter and dialogue between people and is a loss for all of society for it prevents fraternal collaboration and authentic progress. This co-operation between people is essential for development, with subsidiarity as a guiding principle in the way economies structure themselves.

In a critique of international structures, the Pope calls on the United Nations to reform and for a global institution to govern globalisation. On the issue of finance, he calls on complete reform which seeks the common good rather than the total good and which places the human at the heart of all economic endeavour.

The final chapter explores "The Development of Peoples and Technology", where the Pope again calls for the common good to inform our choices for it is not what technology enables us to do that should govern choices, but rather whether this would serve humanity. "There cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people's spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account." Merely technical or organizational development is not truly human progress.

Underpinning the entire Encyclical is the argument that without a belief in God, authentic development is impossible for "man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved."

Archbishop Nichols, President of the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales, today announced that the Bishops' Conference is planning a one-day conference in the City on 21 October 2009 to explore the Papal Encyclical and Catholic Social Teaching in today's market economy.

Commenting on the Papal Encyclical, Archbishop Nichols said:  "Catholics in England & Wales will warmly welcome this Encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate, as a powerful and thorough application of the vision of Christian faith to the complex problems of human development. Our hope is that it will be widely read. The letter deserves and rewards careful study. I look forward to reading it more thoroughly than I have been able to do thus far. The Encyclical stands firmly in the line of Catholic Social Teaching and most especially in the tradition of Christian humanism, expressed so clearly by Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio."

Caritas in Veritate follows Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict's previous two Encyclicals. Previous Papal Encyclicals on social teaching include Pope Paul VI's Populorum Progressio and Pope John Paul II's Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.

Caritas in Veritate is available online at:  www.catholicchurch.org.uk and will be published in the UK by the Catholic Truth Society next Monday. To order see: www.cts-online.org.uk/acatalog/info_Do784.html

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