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Populorum Progressio


Encyclical letter, "On the Development of Peoples," promulgated by Pope paul vi on the feast of Easter, March 26, 1967. The pope's intention is to encourage "the development of those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic disease, and ignorance; of those who are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are aiming purposefully at their complete fulfillment" (no. 1).

The encyclical is divided into three principal parts. In the first part, "On Man's Complete Development," the pope reflects on human development under three headings. First, in "Data of the Problem" (nos. 611), he isolates the problem that impedes human development: "Freedom from misery, the greater assurance of finding subsistence, health, and fixed employment; an increased share of responsibility without oppression of any kind and in security from situations that do violence to their dignity as human beings; better educationin brief, to seek to do more, know more, and have more: that is what people aspire to now when a greater number of them are condemned to live in conditions that make this lawful desire illusory" (no. 6). Next, in "The Church and Development" (nos. 1221), he presents a Christian vision of development: "Development cannot be limited to economic growth. In order to be authentic, it must be complete: integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man" (no. 14). Based on this vision, in the final subsection, "Action to Be Undertaken," the pope recommends actions to enhance human development (nos. 2242).

In part 2, "The Development of the Human Race in a Spirit of solidarity," Pope Paul establishes as a point of departure that "there can be no progress towards the complete development of humanity without the simultaneous development of all people in the spirit of solidarity" (no. 43). He proposes specific mechanisms for achieving universal solidarity under three headings. In "Aid for the Weak" (nos. 4553), he contends that human development requires "building a world where every person, no matter what his or her race, religion or nationality, can live a fully human life, freed from servitude imposed by other people or by natural forces over which he or she has not sufficient control; a world where freedom is not an empty word and where Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich person." Ultimately, the achievement of this goal demands "generosity sacrifice and unceasing effort on the part of the rich" (no. 47). In "Equity in Trade" (nos. 56-65), the pope contends that "efforts to assist developing nations would be illusory if their benefits were partially nullified as a consequence of the trade relations between rich and poor nations" (no. 56). Thus, for international trade to be "human and moral, social justice requires that it restore to the participants a certain quality of opportunity." To reach this long-range objective, "we must begin now to create true equality in discussion and negotiations" (no. 61). Additional factors that militate against universal solidarity include "nationalism" (no. 62) and "racism" (no. 63). Finally, in "Universal Charity" (nos. 6675), the pope claims that the "illness" of the world "consists less in the unproductive monopolization of resources by a small number of individuals than in the lack of brotherhood and sisterhood among individuals and peoples" (no. 66). In view of this void, he emphasizes "the duty of welcoming othersa duty springing from human solidarity and Christian charitywhich is incumbent both on the families and cultural organizations of host countries." Conviviality of this sort offers protection from "loneliness, the feeling of abandonment and distress, which undermine all moral resistance." In the end, "hospitality should aim to provide the warm atmosphere of a fraternal welcome, with the example of wholesome living, an esteem for genuine and effective Christian charity, an esteem for spiritual values" (no. 67).

In part 3, "A Final Appeal," the pope entreats all persons to assume responsibility for the cause of human development through universal solidarity. He prevails first upon Christian laypersons "to take up as their own proper task the renewal of the temporal order." Their specific charge is, "without waiting for orders and directives, to take initiative freely and to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which they live" (no. 81). Next, he encourages "all Christians to expand their common cooperative effort in order to help humanity vanquish selfishness, pride, and rivalries, to overcome ambitions and injustices, to open up to all the road to a more human life, where each person will be loved and helped as a brother or sister, as his neighbor" (no. 82). The pope also calls upon members of non-Christian religions to "work with all their hearts and their intelligence that all the children of humanity may lead a life worthy of the children of God" (no. 82). Finally, to "all people of good will who believe that the way to peace lies in the area of development"particularly to "delegates to international organizations, government officials, members of the press, and educators"the pope acknowledges, "all of you, each in your own way, are the builders of a new world" (no. 83).

In his concluding remarks Pope Paul VI speculates that "if the world is in trouble because of a lack of thinking," resolution will come from "people of reflection and learning" who are called to "open the paths which lead to mutual assistance among peoples, to a deepening of human knowledge, to an enlargement of heart, to a more fraternal way of living within a truly universal human society" (no. 85).

[k. godfrey]

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