(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, celebrated Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica for the 50th anniversary of the encyclical ‘Populorum Progressio’.
During his homily for the Mass on Monday, Cardinal Parolin thanked the members and consultors of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, for Health Pastoral Care, and Cor Unum for their collaboration and service as the Councils were merged into the new Dicastery for Integral Human Development.
“The celebration of this Eucharist, with you and for you, is a fitting occasion to give thanks to the Lord for the establishment of this Office that serves the Holy Father in the exercise of his Petrine ministry. The particular characteristic of this service is a commitment to the integral development of every person.”
Cardinal Parolin said the new Dicastery “will carry out its mandate only to the extent that it walks the way of the Gospel in its efforts to support the fullest possible growth of every person and of every country. This will entail a constant concern for the dignity of the person – in the trilogy of body and soul, man and woman, individual and society – but also for the common good, to be pursued in truth and in justice.”
Please find below the original English version of the homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I offer a warm greeting to all of you, representatives of the offices of the Roman Curia and of the rich variety of ecclesial realties from various continents. A special greeting goes to the Members and Consultors who have served the universal Church by collaborating with the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, for Health Pastoral Care and Cor Unum, which, on 1 January 2017, merged to form the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The celebration of this Eucharist, with you and for you, is a fitting occasion to give thanks to the Lord for the establishment of this Office that serves the Holy Father in the exercise of his Petrine ministry. The particular characteristic of this service is a commitment to the integral development of every person.
It is significant – even providential – that the creation of the new Dicastery coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio of Blessed Paul VI, which the Conference that we inaugurate today is meant to commemorate.
I readily recall that this Encyclical, the preparation of which began in 1963, was published on 26 March 1967, Easter Day, causing some to speak of the “Encyclical of the Resurrection”, aimed at shedding the light of the Gospel and the Resurrection on the social problems of the time.
In the Encyclical, Paul VI outlined the principles of a new “universal humanism”. These were taken up twenty years later by Saint John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, and once again, forty years later, by Pope Benedict XVI, in Caritas in Veritate. They have also been tirelessly reiterated by Pope Francis, who, often without it being recognized, draws inspiration from the vision of his predecessor. Pope Paul’s vision continues to be completely timely in its dramatic and radical diagnosis: “Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations” (No. 66).
The treatment proposed by the Holy Father also remains valid and timely: namely, a human development that is both “integral” and “fraternal”. The Encyclical sets out the coordinates of an integral development of the human person and a fraternal development of humanity, two themes which can be considered as the axes around which the text is structured. Development consists in the passage from less humane living conditions to more humane living conditions: “What are less than human conditions? The material poverty of those who lack the bare necessities of life, and the moral poverty of those who are crushed under the weight of their own self-love; oppressive political structures resulting from the abuse of ownership or the improper exercise of power, from the exploitation of the worker or unjust transactions.
What are truly human conditions? The rise from poverty to the acquisition of life’s necessities; the elimination of social ills; broadening the horizons of knowledge; acquiring refinement and culture. From there one can go on to acquire a growing awareness of other people’s dignity, a taste for the spirit of poverty, an active interest in the common good, and a desire for peace. Then man can acknowledge the highest values and God Himself, their author and end. Finally and above all, there is faith – God’s gift to men of good will – and our loving unity in Christ, who calls all men to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men” (No. 21).
But how do we arrive at this development? It is significant that Pope Benedict XVI, in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which was intended “to pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI,” wished to emphasize the extent to which “development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God’s love” (No. 79)
God is Alpha and Omega. God is the origin and goal of human development, which is always his gift. For our part, we need to receive from on high the gifts of truth and love in order to become bearers, stewards and multipliers of those same gifts, especially for the benefit of those in greatest need. This means promoting, in the light of the Christian message, a world where none are marginalized or prey to persistent violence and extreme poverty, a world without globalized indifference to the needs of others.
Today’s readings offer an invitation and an encouragement to lift up our eyes to God, in whose name is our help. The first reading admonishes us: “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18). There is no lack of debates and strategies for eliminating conditions that violate human dignity, for overcoming the manifold injustices, both individual and structural, encountered on a daily basis, and for proposing a future of general well-being. Yet solutions are often proposed that contradict those good intentions, favouring economic and military power in relations with others, choosing power, in whatever form it is expressed. Loving in deed and in truth means substituting “the love of power” with “the power of love”. For what is the power of Jesus Christ, if not the power of an ultimately unsettling love (cf. Jn 13:1), a love that, the more we reflect on it, the more our self-regard diminishes and God’s dominion in our life increases?
The Gospel passage we have just heard speaks clearly and dramatically of the importance of concrete actions. It is charity that leads to salvation and entrance into the Kingdom. “Come, O blessed of my Father… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:34-36). It matters not to which race, religion, ethnic or social group people belong, in order to receive charity from the disciples of Jesus. This universality is truly radical. Every act of solidarity is shown to the Lord, present in the person who is suffering. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
This is the horizon against which the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development must operate. It will carry out its mandate only to the extent that it walks the way of the Gospel in its efforts to support the fullest possible growth of every person and of every country. This will entail a constant concern for the dignity of the person – in the trilogy of body and soul, man and woman, individual and society – but also for the common good, to be pursued in truth and in justice.
As the Encyclical Populorum Progressio reminds us: “The development we speak of here cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man… What counts for us is man – each individual man, each human group, and humanity as a whole.” (No. 14).
In the Motu Proprio Humanam Progressionem (31 August 2016), Pope Francis stated his reasons for establishing the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development: “so that the Holy See may be solicitous in [the] areas [of “attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation”], as well as in those regarding health and charitable works... This Dicastery will be competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.”
These are the forms of marginalization, suffering, injustice and hurt to which we must bring the oil of mercy and justice, hope and new life.
Do not be frightened by the immensity of the challenges that lie ahead of you, or by the limited nature of the means at your disposal. Do not reject or undervalue any contribution that may be suggested. For such contributions will be the result of cooperation between the Superiors and Officials of the new Dicastery, drawing on the competence and experience of each of the bodies that have merged into it, together with the authoritative assistance of the Members and Consultors. And, as Blessed Paul VI wished, your work will be carried out in harmonious cooperation with the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, with other Christians and believers, with all people of good will, and with political and cultural leaders (Populorum Progressio, Nos. 81-86)
No one is too small to play a part in helping development to serve all humanity and the whole human person. We think of the account of the multiplication of the loaves: it was a young person who enabled Jesus to feed the crowd (cf. Jn 6:9). We think too of today’s Gospel and the parable of the Last Judgment.
With the merging of the former Dicasteries, you have now become a single body with different functions, each at the service of the other, like the Church herself, which is the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-30). “We must travel this road together,” Paul VI urged, “united in minds and hearts.” No. 80). United and concerned for one another, you will be all the stronger in your efforts to attain the goals set for you.
So do not be afraid of swimming against the tide in proclaiming the Gospel of our salvation, in centres and on the peripheries. The dialogue between cultures and religions, peace, disarmament and the reconciliation between individuals and peoples, a correct anthropology of the person and of the family, migration: all these and many more questions call for generous commitment on the part of all. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty. Like Jesus, bend down to embrace every human situation with generosity and dedication, to save lives and to instil hope, peace and justice in the world.
May the Lord bless the mission of the new Dicastery and your tireless labour in his vineyard. Amen.
(Devin Sean Watkins)