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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Sollicitudo rei socialis

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41. The Church does not have technical revolutions to offer for the problem of underdevelopment as such, as Pope Paul VI already affirmed in his Encyclical.69 For the Church does not propose economic and political systems or programs, nor does she show preference for one or the other, provided that human dignity is properly respected and promoted, and provided she herself is allowed the room she needs to exercise her ministry in the world.

But the Church is an "expert in humanity,"70 and this leads her necessarily to extend her religious mission to the various fields in which men and women expend their efforts in search of the always relative happiness which is possible in this world, in line with their dignity as persons.

Following the example of my predecessors, I must repeat that whatever affects the dignity of individuals and peoples, such as authentic development, cannot be reduced to a "technical" problem. If reduced in this way, development would be emptied of its true content, and this would be an act of betrayal of the individuals and peoples whom development is meant to serve.

This is why the Church has something to say today, just as twenty years ago, and also in the future, about the nature, conditions, requirements and aims of authentic development, and also about the obstacles which stand in its way. In doing so the Church fulfills her mission to evangelize, for she offers her first contribution to the solution of the urgent problem of development when she proclaims the truth about Christ, about herself and about man, applying this truth to a concrete situation.71

As her instrument for reaching this goal, the Church uses her social doctrine. In today's difficult situation, a more exact awareness and a wider diffusion of the "set of principles for reflection, criteria for judgment and directives for action" proposed by the Church's teaching72 would be of great help in promoting both the correct definition of the problems being faced and the best solution to them.

It will thus be seen at once that the questions facing us are above all moral questions; and that neither the analysis of the problem of development as such nor the means to overcome the present difficulties can ignore this essential dimension.

The Church's social doctrine is not a "third way" between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather, it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church's tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities, determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation which is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behavior. It therefore belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology and particularly of moral theology.

The teaching and spreading of her social doctrine are part of the Church's evangelizing mission. And since it is a doctrine aimed at guiding people's behavior, it consequently gives rise to a "commitment to justice," according to each individual's role, vocation and circumstances.

The condemnation of evils and injustices is also part of that ministry of evangelization in the social field which is an aspect of the Church's prophetic role. But it should be made clear that proclamation is always more important than condemnation, and the latter cannot ignore the former, which gives it true solidity and the force of higher motivation.

42. Today more than in the past, the Church's social doctrine must be open to an international outlook, in line with the Second Vatican Council,73 the most recent Encyclicals,74 and particularly in line with the Encyclical which we are commemorating.75 It will not be superfluous therefore to reexamine and further clarify in this light the characteristic themes and guidelines dealt with by the Magisterium in recent years.

Here I would like to indicate one of them: the option or love of preference for the poor. This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods.

Today, furthermore, given the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed,76 this love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of the existence of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the "rich man" who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus lying at his gate (cf.  [link] Lk 16:19-31).77

Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities. Likewise the leaders of nations and the heads of international bodies, while they are obliged always to keep in mind the true human dimension as a priority in their development plans, should not forget to give precedence to the phenomenon of growing poverty. Unfortunately, instead of becoming fewer the poor are becoming more numerous, not only in less developed countries but-and this seems no less scandalous - in the more developed ones too.

It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all.78 The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property, in fact, is under a "social mortgage,"79 which means that it has an intrinsically social function, based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods. Likewise, in this concern for the poor, one must not overlook that special form of poverty which consists in being deprived of fundamental human rights, in particular the right to religious freedom and also the right to freedom of economic initiative.

43. The motivating concern for the poor - who are, in the very meaningful term, "the Lord's poor"80 - must be translated at all levels into concrete actions, until it decisively attains a series of necessary reforms. Each local situation will show what reforms are most urgent and how they can be achieved. But those demanded by the situation of international imbalance, as already described, must not be forgotten.

In this respect I wish to mention specifically: the reform of the international trade system, which is mortgaged to protectionism and increasing bilateralism; the reform of the world monetary and financial system, today recognized as inadequate; the question of technological exchanges and their proper use; the need for a review of the structure of the existing international organizations, in the framework of an international juridical order.

The international trade system today frequently discriminates against the products of the young industries of the developing countries and discourages the producers of raw materials. There exists, too, a kind of international division of labor, whereby the low-cost products of certain countries which lack effective labor laws or which are too weak to apply them are sold in other parts of the world at considerable profit for the companies engaged in this form of production, which knows no frontiers.

The world monetary and financial system is marked by an excessive fluctuation of exchange rates and interest rates, to the detriment of the balance of payments and the debt situation of the poorer countries.

Forms of technology and their transfer constitute today one of the major problems of international exchange and of the grave damage deriving therefrom. There are quite frequent cases of developing countries being denied needed forms of technology or sent useless ones.

In the opinion of many, the international organizations seem to be at a stage of their existence when their operating methods, operating costs and effectiveness need careful review and possible correction. Obviously, such a delicate process cannot be put into effect without the collaboration of all. This presupposes the overcoming of political rivalries and the renouncing of all desire to manipulate these organizations, which exist solely for the common good.

The existing institutions and organizations have worked well for the benefit of peoples. Nevertheless, humanity today is in a new and more difficult phase of its genuine development. It needs a greater degree of international ordering, at the service of the societies, economies and cultures of the whole world.

44. Development demands above all a spirit of initiative on the part of the countries which need it.81 Each of them must act in accordance with its own responsibilities, not expecting everything from the more favored countries, and acting in collaboration with others in the same situation. Each must discover and use to the best advantage its own area of freedom. Each must make itself capable of initiatives responding to its own needs as a society. Each must likewise realize its true needs, as well as the rights and duties which oblige it to respond to them. The development of peoples begins and is most appropriately accomplished in the dedication of each people to its own development, in collaboration with others.

It is important then that as far as possible the developing nations themselves should favor the self-affirmation of each citizen, through access to a wider culture and a free flow of information. Whatever promotes literacy and the basic education which completes and deepens it is a direct contribution to true development, as the Encyclical Populorum Progressio proposed.82 These goals are still far from being reached in so many parts of the world.

In order to take this path, the nations themselves will have to identify their own priorities and clearly recognize their own needs, according to the particular conditions of their people, their geographical setting and their cultural traditions.

Some nations will have to increase food production, in order to have always available what is needed for subsistence and daily life. In the modern world - where starvation claims so many victims, especially among the very young - there are examples of not particularly developed nations which have nevertheless achieved the goal of food self-sufficiency and have even become food exporters.

Other nations need to reform certain unjust structures, and in particular their political institutions, in order to replace corrupt, dictatorial and authoritarian forms of government by democratic and participatory ones. This is a process which we hope will spread and grow stronger. For the "health" of a political community - as expressed in the free and responsible participation of all citizens in public affairs, in the rule of law and in respect for the promotion of human rights - is the necessary condition and sure guarantee of the development of "the whole individual and of all people."

45. None of what has been said can be achieved without the collaboration of all - especially the international community - in the framework of a solidarity which includes everyone, beginning with the most neglected. But the developing nations themselves have the duty to practice solidarity among themselves and with the neediest countries of the world.

It is desirable, for example, that nations of the some geographical area should establish forms of cooperation which will make them less dependent on more powerful producers; they should open their frontiers to the products of the area; they should examine how their products might complement one another; they should combine in order to set up those services which each one separately is incapable of providing; they should extend cooperation to the monetary and financial sector.

Interdependence is already a reality in many of these countries. To acknowledge it, in such a way as to make it more operative, represents an alternative to excessive dependence on richer and more powerful nations, as part of the hoped - for development, without opposing anyone, but discovering and making best use of the country's own potential. The developing countries belonging to one geographical area, especially those included in the term "South," can and ought to set up new regional organizations inspired by criteria of equality, freedom and participation in the comity of nations - as is already happening with promising results.

An essential condition for global solidarity is autonomy and free self-determination, also within associations such as those indicated. But at the same time solidarity demands a readiness to accept the sacrifices necessary for the good of the whole world community.

69. Cf. ibid., n. 13; loc. cit., pp. 263f., 296f.

70. Cf. ibid., n. 13: loc. cit., p. 263.

71. Cf. Address at the Opening of the Third General Conference of the Latin-American Bishops (January 28, 1979): AAS 71 (1979), pp. 189-196.

72. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, Libertatis Conscientia (March 22, 1986), n. 72: AAS 79 (1987), p. 586; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (May 14, 971), n. 4: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 403f.

73. Cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, Part II, Ch. V, Section 2: "Building Up the International Community," nn. 83-90.

74. Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra (May 15, 1961): AAS 53 (1961), p. 440; Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (April 11, 1963), Part IV: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 291-296; Paul VI Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (May 14, 1971), nn 2-4: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 402-404.

75. Cf. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, nn. 3, 9: loc. cit., pp. 258, 261.

76. Ibid., n. 3: loc. cit., p. 258.

77. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 47: loc. cit., p. 280; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, Libertatis Conscientia (March 22, 1986), n. 68: AAS 79 (1987), pp. 583f.

78. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 69; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 22: loc. cit., p. 268; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, Libertatis Conscientia (March 22, 1986), n. 90: AAS 79 (1987), p. 594; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. IIa IIae, q. 66, art. 2.

79. Cf. Address at the Opening of the Third General Conference of the Latin-American Bishops (January 28, 1979): AAS 71 (1979), pp. 189-196; Ad Limina Address to a group of Polish Bishops, (December 17, 1987), n. 6: L'Osservatore Romano, December 18, 1987.

80. Because the Lord wished to identify himself with them ( [link] Mt 25:31-46) and takes special care of them (cf.  [link] Ps 12[11]:6;  [link] Lk 1:52f.).

81. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 55: loc. cit., p. 284: "These are the men and women that need to be helped, that need to be convinced to take into their own hands their development, gradually acquiring the means"; cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 86.

82. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, n. 35: loc. cit., p. 274: "Basic education is the first objective of a plan of development."

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