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Cardinal Poupard on 'Populorum Progressio'

11/14/2007 - 23:22 PST

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"Lack of Education Is As Serious As Lack of Food"

ROME, NOV. 14, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the text of a speech delivered by Cardinal Paul Poupard, retired president of the Pontifical Councils of Culture and Interreligious Dialogue, titled "'Populorum Progressio': Education for Development."

The speech was given Oct. 29 at the Patristic Augustinianum Institute during an event organized by the Society of Jesus' Commission for Social Communications, which presented the "Give 1, Get 1" initiative of the One Laptop per Child Project.

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1. At the invitation of the Secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Society of Jesus, Father Thomas Rochford, I am pleased to be here to speak about the encyclical letter "Populorum Progressio," whose fortieth anniversary we are celebrating this year. Previously Father Rochford has approached me regarding the Nexus Mundi Foundation, which I know some of you are familiar with. Today, instead, we are here to hear about another project: Nicholas Negroponte's project One Child One Laptop. To all of you my cordial salutations.

Paul VI's encyclical on the development of peoples contained two great affirmations, one in the introduction, "the social question ties all men together", and the other in the conclusion "Development is the New Name for Peace". Between them Papa Montini articulated a solemn call to "urge all men to pool their ideas and their activities for man's complete development and the development of all mankind" ( 5). Our reflection on this encyclical -- taken largely from my recent publication "Populorum progressio tra ricordi e speranze" -- aims to continue its message within today's conference, resurrecting the spirit of hope and confidence for the integral development of each individual in an atmosphere of fraternal concern, the central thrust of the encyclical.

2. I was a young collaborator in the Secretariat of State of Pope Paul VI when he himself asked me to present his encyclical letter "Populorum Progressio" at the Press Room of the Holy See. It was my first press conference, and so you can imagine what an emotional occasion it was for me! And not only for me, there was great expectation among the bishops, the clergy, religious men and women, and lay people, and also further afield among men and women of goodwill who saw this occasion as the next great moment in the pastoral care of the Catholic Church for the contemporary world. Indeed, some journalists measured the arc of time in terms of the Second Vatican Council document "Gaudium et Spes," John XXIII's "Pacem in Terris" and now this new encyclical of Paul VI, whose publication date was adjusted to Tuesday of Easter Week, due to the great amount of interest. In fact, the document did have other precursors in Leo XIII's encyclical "Rerum Novarum," Pius XI's encyclical "Quadragesimo Anno," Pius XII's radio messages to the world, and John XXIII's "Mater et Magistra." And let us not forget too that since then we have had "Laborem Exercens," and "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis." But by far the most dramatic document, for its timing, insight, and sense of occasion, was Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio."

3. When the encyclical was conceived, we were living through times of great ferment. The third world had made its voice heard through their bishops at the Second Vatican Council, right at the heart of the Church, which had opened itself to the world, wishing to be as leaven in the bread, to nourish and sustain the world in transformation, a world which was increasingly multicultural and multiracial, a world inebriated by its technological progress and facing the nuclear threat, a world in which east and west, north and south were in ever closer contact. A world that had become socialised.

The 1960s would see Kennedy and Khrushcev, Chairman Mao and President Johnson, and then that cultural, social and political movement in the Springtime of Prague and the student revolutions across the world, notably in California, Paris and Turin. A cultural revolution which expelled age-old institutions and educational models, opening the door to new challenges and opportunities; an ambience in which customs, mindsets, and ways of life would change, the very fabric of culture transformed as people sought a society less authoritarian and free. Religious, political and civil authority changed its nature, and the bizarre slogan became the new gospel "interdit d'interdire", "no banning allowed". While the intentions of the student movement were to replace the old institutions with a more humane society, what actually happened was the creation of a void which would be filled by economic promoters eager to make material gain; publicity and marketing became the new truth, particularly with the rise of television, and man became closed in on himself, or as my friend the poet Pierre Emmanuel put it, we became "ontologically distracted." It ...

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