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The courage to condemn

· Popes Paul VI and Frances united by social sensitivity ·

On 26 March 1967 Pope Paul VI published his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, to prompt a reflection on development in the post-colonial period. Therein lies his famous formula “Development is the new name for peace”. The Pope calls to mind all of the important principles of the Church’s social doctrine, applying them to the entire world, not just to the developed world. Rejecting ideas of violence and revolution, except in cases of “manifest, longstanding tyranny”, he calls for justice between nations, conditions of peace. “Development calls for daring transformations, bold innovations”. He carefully analyzes “the flagrant inequalities not merely in the enjoyment of possessions, but even more in the exercise of power”.

It is worth lingering over this Encyclical, inspired by Father Lebret and written immediately after the first important meeting of the Latin American episcopate in Medellín in 1968. The Encylical had a strong influence in Latin America. Paul VI went to Colombia shortly after its publication: during that journey, he rather severely criticized the imperialism of money and was accused of being a Communist by a part of the American population. Affirming that “today, the social question has acquired a global dimension”, it opened the Church to globalization, development and to that Third World which had never been considered in the Church’s reflections. It rather forcefully placed the question of justice on a worldwide level and not only along national borders.

Pierre de Charentenay

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