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A Compendium That Touches Everyday Life

9/11/2005 - 5:00 AM PST

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"Not Mere Theoretical Knowledge, Rather It Is Meant 'for Action'"

DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzania, SEPT. 11, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is the text of an address given by Cardinal Renato Martino during a presentation of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. He gave the address July 15.

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The Church's Mission for an Integral Humanism in Solidarity
By Cardinal Renato Martino
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Introduction

The Compendium of the Church's Social Doctrine, written by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at behest of Pope John Paul II, was presented to the press on 25 October 2004. This document -- long-awaited, since its publication was initially foreseen for shortly after the Jubilee Year, and the result of a long process of work, because of the complex problems involved in its conceptual precision and in drawing up its material content -- has been welcomed with great interest.

On the basis of the very process that generated it, however, this is a document destined to sow its seeds very extensively, to fertilize the soil of the building of society over long periods of time, to motivate and guide the presence of Catholics in history, and not merely in some extemporaneous manner. The destiny of the Compendium will be measured by the conviction with which it is received and by the use that is made of it for the relaunching of general pastoral activity in society and, above all, in bringing about a reflective, aware, coherent and community presence of lay Catholics involved in society and in politics. If today we witness a warm reception given to the Compendium, it is tomorrow that will determine whether the spirit and purpose that guided its birth have been respected.

Structure and Purpose of the Compendium

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church offers a complete summary of the fundamental framework of the doctrinal corpus of Catholic social teaching. Faithful to the authoritative recommendation made by the Holy Father John Paul II in No. 54 of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in America," the document presents "in a complete and systematic manner, even if by means of an overview, the Church's social teaching, which is the fruit of careful magisterial reflection and an expression of the Church's constant commitment in fidelity to the grace of salvation wrought in Christ and in loving concern for humanity's destiny" (Compendium, 8).

The Compendium has a simple and straightforward structure. After an Introduction, there follow three parts: the first, composed of four chapters, deals with the fundamental presuppositions of social doctrine -- God's plan of love for humanity and for society, the Church's mission and the nature of social doctrine, the human person and human rights, the principles and values of social doctrine; the second part, composed of seven chapters, deals with the contents and classical themes of social doctrine -- the family, human work, economic life, the political community, the international community, the environment and peace; the third part, which is quite brief, being composed of one sole chapter, contains a series of indications for the use of social doctrine in the pastoral praxis of the Church and in the life of Christians, above all the lay faithful. The Conclusion, entitled "For a Civilization of Love," is an expression of the underlying purpose of the entire document.

The Compendium has a specific purpose and is characterized by certain objectives that are well spelled out in the Introduction. In fact, the document "is presented as an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that mark our time; as a guide to inspire, at the individual and community levels, attitudes and choices that will permit all people to look to the future with greater trust and hope; as an aid for the faithful concerning the Church's teaching in the area of social morality."

It is moreover an instrument put together for the precise purpose of promoting "new strategies suited to the demands of our time and in keeping with human needs and resources. But above all there can arise the motivation to rediscover the vocation proper to the different charisms within the Church that are destined to the evangelization of the social order, because 'all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension'" (Compendium, 10).

A fact that we do well to emphasize, because it is found in various parts of the document, is the following: The text is presented as an instrument for fostering ecumenical and interreligious dialogue on the part of Catholics with all who sincerely seek the good of mankind. In fact, the statement is made in No. 12 that the document "is proposed also to the brethren of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to the followers of other ...

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