VATICAN CITY – Catholic social teaching is, by its nature, “a work in progress” that must be constantly in dialogue with political and economic policy makers.
That was a key message to emerge from a press conference on 18 Apr 2018 marking the 25thanniversary of the Centesimus Annus foundation, set up by Pope John Paul II to promote greater understanding and engagement with the Church’s social teaching.
The foundation is currently preparing for an international conference in Rome, May 24 – 26, on the theme of ‘New Policies and Life-Styles in the Digital Age’ at the Palazzo Cancelleria and in the Vatican.
The event will focus on three themes, namely ‘The family facing job uncertainties and the digital cultural revolution’, ‘Towards a sustainable food chain: responsibility against the ‘throwaway culture’, and ‘Human Work, Inclusive Employment’.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will give a concluding address on the theme of ‘A common Christian agenda for the Common Good.’
One of the speakers at the press conference was the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who, as a former official of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council, was involved with the preparation of Pope John Paul’s 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. He reflected on some of the global challenges that have emerged since the foundation was set up, including the growth of economic inequality and increased levels of corruption.
Archbishop Martin talked to Vatican News about the changing focus of the foundation over the past quarter of a century, saying he believes we “misread the situation at the end of the cold war.”
He said “we were too optimistic” about the possibilities for economic growth and “we didn’t realise how the fabric of society in many former communist countries was disintegrated.” Many of the current problems of corruption started to emerge at that time, he said, with the trade in arms, drugs and people trafficking.
Archbishop Martin spoke about the need for a “rigid reflection” on dialogue between social sciences and Catholic social teaching, underlining the responsibility of universities to form young people and indicate “pathways of application.”
In a large city like Dublin, he said problems of “new poverty” are evident, alongside problems linked with family breakdown.
He said he hoped the forthcoming World Meeting of Families in Dublin would explore questions relating to family life and the economy. While people tend to think of families in an ideological or abstract way, he said, we have to see how family life is connected across society to challenges of homelessness, refugees, or prison ministry.
Asked about preparations for World Meeting of families, Archbishop Martin said: “Big events have big challenges, and there a s new one every day!”
Commenting on the papal visit to Ireland for the event, he said “The programme isn’t definitive yet, but the Pope is coming to Dublin for the WMF, that was always his intention. This pope has a different style of visits than his predecessors, and I think everything will work out well”.
For his part, Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, who chairs the Foundation’s Board of Directors, said that “like at the time of Rerum Novarum, we will try to identify ‘elements of novelty’ in order to rethink the socio-economic priorities we face today.”
The list of speakers includes members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Vatican Foundation Gravissimum Educationis, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the European Trade Union Confederation, and a number of economists, academics and business leaders. – Vatican News, AsiaNews