Pastoral Instruction: Church, servant of the poor
Given the suffering generated by the serious economic, social and moral crisis that affects Spanish society
Author: Spanish Bishops | Source: www.conferenciaepiscopal.es
Pastoral Instruction: Church, servant of the poor
Given the suffering generated by the serious economic, social and moral crisis that affects Spanish society
The CV meeting of the Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference was closed last Friday, April 24, in Ávila with the approval of the Pastoral Instruction Church, servant of the poor.
In this document, the bishops want to share, with the faithful and those who wish to listen to their voice, their concern about the suffering generated by the serious economic, social and moral crisis that affects Spanish society and their hope for the testimony of so many members of the Church who have offered the best of their lives to serve those who most suffered the consequences of the crisis.
Structured in four parts, the Pastoral Instruction begins by analyzing the current social situation and the factors that are at its origin and explain it. Next, they enumerate the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church that illuminate the reality and offer their proposal from the faith.
1. In recent years, especially since the crisis broke out, we are witnessing the serious suffering that afflicts many of our people, motivated by poverty and social exclusion; a suffering that has affected people, families and the Church itself. A suffering that is not only due to economic factors, but also has its roots in moral and social factors.
It is fair, however, to recognize that this same suffering has generated a movement of generosity in people, families and social institutions that it is necessary to express and thank on behalf of everyone, especially the weakest. This generosity reminded us of the promise of God through the prophet Elijah when he affirms that he will not lack the oil or the flour to the poor widow who knew how to share with the prophet what little he had left to survive.
The Church invites all Christians, faithful and communities, to show solidarity with the needy and to persevere without fail in the task already undertaken to help and accompany them. Pope Francis tells us: "It is my great desire that the Christian people reflect during the Jubilee on corporal and spiritual works of mercy, it will be a way to awaken our conscience, often lethargic before the drama of poverty, and to enter still more in the heart of the Gospel, where the poor are the privileged ones of the divine mercy ".
The Christian communities, Institutes of Consecrated Life and other institutions, are writing among us a beautiful page of solidarity and charity. It is enough to remember how Caritas in 2013 served almost two million people in its programs, and currently has more than 71,000 volunteers.
2. As Pastors of the Church, we want to share with the faithful and with those who want to listen to our concerns about the difficult situation we are experiencing and that affects so many. Some hopeful data lead us to think that the crisis, little by little, is being overcome; but, until the improvement that the macroeconomic indicators point out is made effective in the lives of the neediest, we will not be able to confirm. We perceive, on the other hand, that in this period of crisis social inequalities have been increasing, weakening the foundations of a just society. This reality is signaling us the task: our objective must be "to overcome the structural causes of inequalities and poverty", as Pope Francis asks.
To help achieve this desirable goal, we modestly offer these reflections based on the Social Doctrine of the Church; in them, we try to provide reasons for commitment and hope and collaborate with our grain of sand to the inclusion of the needy in society. We try to "look at the poor with the gaze of God, who has manifested himself in Jesus." We thus support the special attention shown by Pope Francis to the social dimension of the Christian life. May the Lord let our word serve as a guiding light in the charitable, social and political commitment of Christians and that our encouragement increases in all a hopeful solidarity.
1. THE SOCIAL SITUATION THAT INTERPELATES US
1.1 New poor and new poverty.
Families hit by the crisis
3. We are facing an aging society as a result of our low birth rate and the scandalous number of abortions. The family, already affected like so many institutions by a deep cultural crisis, is currently immersed in serious economic difficulties that are aggravated by the lack of a policy of strong support for families. A large number of them have seen their purchasing power diminished, which has generated, in the absence of the social protection they need and deserve, an increase in inequalities and new forms of poverty. This situation that afflicts in a special way homes that have to take care of some disabled person or suffer the loss of employment of some of its members and even of all.
4. We find the situation of unemployment that affects young people especially painful: without work, without the possibility of becoming independent, without resources to create a family and forced many of them to emigrate to seek a future outside of their land. Also, unemployment is painful which affects people over 50 years, who have little hope of reincorporating into working life. St. John Paul II listed the dramatic consequences of prolonged unemployment: "Lack of work goes against the 'right to work', understood - in the global context of other fundamental rights - as a primary need, and not a privilege, of meet the vital needs of human existence through work activity (...) From a prolonged unemployment is born insecurity, lack of initiative, frustration, irresponsibility, distrust in society and themselves; thus, the capacity for personal development is atrophied, enthusiasm and love for good are lost, family crises, desperate personal situations arise and then, especially young people, fall easily into drugs, alcoholism and crime.
5. The situation of children living in poverty, suffering from basic deprivation, who lack a family and social environment apt to grow, educate and develop adequately, also hurts us. And we cannot forget the children, innocent and defenseless, who are denied the right to be born. As Pope Francis reminds us "while new rights are given to the person, sometimes even presumed, life is not always protected as the primary value and basic right of all men."
6. We are concerned about the situation of the elderly, in times of well-being forgotten by their families, but which have now become the relief of many of them; with their few pensions, they contribute to the sustenance of their children and, with their effort, take care of their grandchildren; but this overloads them and reduces their well-being, ostensibly worsening their living conditions. The grandparents, together with the young people and children, "are the hope of a people, children, and young people because they will advance that people, grandparents because they have the wisdom of history, they are the memory of a people. At a time when children and grandparents enter this culture of discarding and think of them as disposable material No, children and grandparents are the hope of a people. "
7. We are also saddened by the increase in the number of women affected by economic hardship because, not without reason, there is the talk of 'feminization of poverty'. Some of them are even victims of trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation, particularly foreign ones, deceived in their country of origin with false offers of work and exploited here in conditions similar to slavery.
Equally, the domestic violence that has women as their main victims hurts us greatly. It is necessary to increase measures of prevention and legal protection, but above all to promote better education and culture of life that leads to recognize and respect the equal dignity of women.
The poverty of the rural world and of the men and women of the sea
8. Many times we think about poverty in our cities but we attend less, for not having so much resonance in the media, to the poverty of the men and women of the countryside and the sea. The current articulation of the economy has displaced many people from the rural world, seriously affecting their depopulation and aging. Farmers and ranchers have seen an extraordinary increase in production costs, without being able to pass on the price of their products. The smallest towns are inhabited mainly by the elderly and single people. All this poses social problems of deep depth.
The poverty of the rural world can sometimes be fueled by the same subsidy policies, which become a true culture of subsidy and deprive people of their dignity. Some bishops have already denounced this situation: "Faced with the widespread mentality of the right to the gift and the subsidy, it is necessary to promote the esteem of work and sacrifice as a just means of personal and collective growth for the achievement of well-being".
Emigration, a new form of poverty
9. At present, migratory flows and their effects are reshaping Europe. Migration must be understood as the exercise of the right of every human being to seek better living conditions in a country different from their own. There is a broad consensus regarding the fact that we are in a new migratory cycle. Now is the time of settlement, of integration, of working towards the achievement of coexistence, especially with the new generations. The time has come to recognize the contribution that immigrants have made to our society. We must value the wealth of others, cultivating a welcoming attitude and an enriching exchange, in order to create a more fraternal and solidary coexistence. In the near future, our society will be, to a greater extent, multi-ethnic, intercultural and multi-religious.
Immigrants are the poor among the poor. Immigrants suffer more than anyone else the crisis they have not caused. In recent times, due to the concern of the economic moment, we are living, their rights have been cut. The poorest among us are undocumented foreigners, who are not provided with basic social services, thus forgetting those words of Saint John Paul II: "Belonging to the human family gives each person a kind of world citizenship, making it holder of rights and duties, given that men are united by a common origin and supreme destiny".
Also, programs that go beyond border protection are necessary, as well as commitment on the part of those responsible for the European Union, of whose territory we are one more border. We urge the authorities to be generous in welcoming and cooperating with the countries of origin to achieve more humane and fairer societies.
1.2.-Corruption, a moral evil
10. The processes of corruption that have been made public, derived from financial greed and personal greed, cause social alarm and arouse great concern among citizens. These practices alter the normal development of the economic activity, impeding fair competition and making services more expensive. The illicit enrichment that it supposes constitutes a serious affront for those who are suffering the narrowness derived from the crisis; these abuses seriously undermine solidarity and sow social distrust. It is an ethically reprehensible behavior and a serious sin.
11. Political corruption, as taught in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, "compromises the proper functioning of the State, negatively influencing the relationship between the rulers and the governed; it introduces a growing distrust regarding public institutions, causing a progressive disregard of citizens by politics and its representatives, with the consequent weakening of institutions. "
It is fair to recognize that most of our politicians exercise their public functions with dedication and honesty; that is why it is urgent to take the appropriate measures to put an end to these harmful practices of social harmony. The lack of energy in its eradication can open the doors to unwanted political and social disturbances.
As pastors of the pilgrim Church in Spain, we consider this situation as a serious deformation of the political system. There must be a real moral regeneration at a personal and social level and, as a consequence, a greater appreciation for the common good, that is true support for solidarity with the poorest and favors authentic social cohesion. This regeneration is born of moral and social virtues, is strengthened by faith in God and the transcendent vision of existence, and leads to an unwavering social commitment for love of neighbor.
12.- Finally, and determining the previous poverties, we refer to spiritual impoverishment.
As pastors of the Church we think that, above material poverty, there is another less visible, but deeper, that affects many in our time and that brings with it serious personal and social consequences. The religious indifference, the forgetfulness of God, the lightness with which its existence is questioned, the unconcern for the fundamental questions about the origin and transcendent destiny of the human being are not without influence in the personal mood and in the moral and social behavior of the individual. Paul VI affirmed this by quoting an important conciliar theologian: "Certainly, man can organize the earth without God, but, after all, without God, he cannot but organize it against the man".
The personality of man is enriched by the recognition of God. Faith in God gives clarity and firmness to our ethical assessments. The knowledge of the God of love moves us to love every man; knowing ourselves as beloved creatures of God leads us to fraternal charity and, in turn, fraternal love brings us closer to God and makes us similar to Him. It is Jesus Christ who has made known to us the fatherly face of God. To ignore Christ constitutes radical indigence. As Christians, we are deeply hurt by the poverty of not knowing Him. But those who really know Him, immediately recognize Him in all the poor, in all the disadvantaged, in the "beggars" of bread or love, in the existential peripheries. As the Second Vatican Council points out, "the mystery of man is only clarified in the mystery of the Incarnate Word".
13. We are aware that spiritual impoverishment also occurs in many baptized who lack a sufficient Christian formation and experience of the faith; this lack of base makes them easy victims of ideologies, as widespread as they are inconsistent, that sometimes lead them to a vision of things and of the world with their backs to God, to a weak agnosticism. They are clamoring for the benefit of a new evangelization.
When Christians have the joyful experience of the encounter with Jesus Christ, nourished by prayer, the Word of God and fruitful participation in the sacraments, they approach the Mother Church, eager to love her more and make her grow, they insist on its construction, they live a faith that is socially committed, and they learn to find and serve Christ in the poor.
14. The poor are also in need of our spiritual request. We note with sorrow that "the worst discrimination they suffer is the lack of spiritual attention, the immense majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith, they need God and we cannot stop offering their friendship, their blessing, their Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and the proposal of a path of growth and maturation in the faith. The preferential option for the poor must be translated principally into privileged and priority religious attention ".
2.- FACTORS THAT EXPLAIN THIS SOCIAL SITUATION
2.1.- Denial of the primacy of the human being
15. At the origin of the current economic crisis, there is a previous crisis: "The denial of the primacy of the human being". This denial is a consequence of denying the primacy of God in personal and social life. Saint John Paul II spoke of structures of sin. These structures are based on personal sin and are reinforced, spread and are the source of other sins, conditioning the behavior of individuals and peoples.
An economic order established exclusively on the desire for profit and the excessive desires of money, without considering the real needs of man, is afflicted with imbalances that recurrent crises make manifest. Man cannot be considered as a simple consumer, capable of feeding with his growing voracity the interests of a dehumanized economy. It has broader needs. Without forgetting that "the exclusive objective of the benefit, when it is obtained badly and without the common good as the ultimate goal, runs the risk of destroying wealth and creating poverty". Today the inexorable laws of profit and competitiveness prevail in our society. As a consequence, many people are excluded and marginalized: without work, without horizons, without exit. It seemed that all economic growth, favored by the market economy, achieved by itself greater social inclusion and equality among all. But this opinion has been denied many times by reality. Imposes the implantation of an economy with a human face.
16. It is urgent to recover an economy based on ethics and the common good over individual and selfish interests. Pope Francis illuminates the content of this primacy: "Affirming the dignity of the person means recognizing the value of human life, which is given to us freely and, therefore, cannot be exchanged or traded (...) to worry about the fragility, the fragility of the people and the people, to care for fragility means strength and tenderness, struggle and fertility, in the midst of a functionalist and private model that leads inexorably to the "culture of discarding". the fragility of people and of societies means protecting memory and hope, means taking charge of the present in its most marginal and distressing situation and being able to endow it with dignity ".
2.2.- The culture of the immediate and of the technique
17. Immediacy seems to have taken over public life, private life, social relations and institutions. As Pope Francis denounces, "in the predominant culture, the first place is occupied by the exterior, the immediate, the visible, the rapid, the superficial, the provisional, the real yields the place to the appearance". In the culture of the here and now, there is no space for solidarity with others, with those who are far away or with those who will come later. We even show understanding, not to say permissive, with decisions that do not respond to ethical criteria but are consistent with the pragmatic logic that seems to flood our day today. This pragmatism invites us not to assume projects that entail resignation unless the effort invested has a quick and sufficient compensation.
18. In the "knowledge society", technology seems to be the ultimate reason for everything that surrounds us. The current crisis is not understood as a phenomenon of a moral nature, but as a crisis of growth, of the correct application of the reforms, in short, as a problem of an exclusively technical nature.
Technical development seems to be the panacea to solve all our ills. But the technique is not the measure of all things, but the human being and his dignity. Indeed, without a strengthening of the moral conscience of our citizens, the automatic control of the market will always be insufficient, as has been demonstrated repeatedly. In this sense, it is difficult to justify educational bets that privilege the scientific and technical to the detriment of humanistic, moral and religious content that could contribute to the solution.
2.3.- A model focused on the economy
19. Much of the poverty that currently exists in our town has to do with the crisis we are experiencing and with the current social situation. This crisis is difficult to explain without adopting a global perspective that extends beyond our borders, but some characteristics of it are specific to our country. Among us, the causes of the current situation, according to experts, are, among others, the explosion of the housing bubble, excessive debt, and also the insufficient regulation and supervision that have led to widespread cuts in services, by taking on public and private indebtedness, so the losses have been socialized, although the benefits were not shared. What the crisis has shown us that, in our economy, in a time of recession, poverty increases, without recovering to the same extent in times of expansion.
The crisis has not been the same for everyone. In fact, for some, things have hardly changed. All official data show the increase in inequality and social exclusion, which undoubtedly represents a serious threat in the long term.
20. Aspects such as the fight against poverty, a shared ideal of social justice and solidarity - which should focus our project as a nation - are sacrificed in the interests of economic growth. Both the explanatory diagnosis of the crisis and the proposals for solutions coming from an economic policy have been presented to us in a framework of inevitable economic functioning, when, in reality, the irrational or immoral behavior of individuals or institutions has been the main cause of the current economic situation. Faced with this "malfunctioning", the only solution applied has been that of reforms and readjustments.
If the crisis has been unleashed among us quickly, it has been largely by giving priority to a certain form of economy based exclusively on the logic of growth, on the conviction that "more is equal to better". Without a doubt, it is the model itself that corresponds to review.
2.4.- The idolatry of the commercial logic
21. The unlimited extension of commercial logic ends up becoming an "idolatry" that has not only economic but also ethical and cultural consequences; instead of having faith in God, we prefer to worship an idol that we have made. It is the new version of the old golden calf, the fetishism of money, the dictatorship of an economy without a face and without a truly human objective. The reality has put before our eyes the economic logic in its idolatrous dimension. The ideology that defends the absolute autonomy of markets and financial activity establishes an invisible tyranny that unilaterally imposes its laws and its rules. "When this happens we are faced with a true idolatry in which money is worshiped and offered sacrifices, ultimately, it is the economic performance that gives foundation to our existence and dictates the goodness or badness of our actions and even political activity becomes a technocracy or pure management and not a company of principles, values , and ideas. "
22. It is said that the economy has its own logic that cannot be mixed with other people's issues, for example, ethics. In the face of affirmations such as this, it is necessary to react by recovering the ethical dimension of the economy, and by an ethic "friend" of the person, because "ethics leads to a God who expects a compromised response that is outside the categories of the market". "The demand of the economy to be autonomous, not subject to the interference of a moral nature, has led man to abuse economic instruments even in a destructive manner." Is not that to destroy and sacrifice the human being for the sake of perverse interests?
Economic activity, by itself, cannot solve all social problems; its right ordination to the common good is the responsibility of the political community, which must not shirk its responsibility in this matter. "Therefore, it should be borne in mind that separating economic management, which would only produce wealth, from political action, which would have the role of achieving justice through redistribution, is the cause of serious imbalances."
This task of restoring justice through redistribution is especially indicated at times like those we are experiencing. It is important for the harmony of social life. "The dignity of each human person and the common good are issues that should structure all economic policy, but sometimes they seem only appendices added from outside to complete a political discourse without prospects or programs of true integral development."
3.-PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL DOCTRINE THAT ILLUMINATE THE REALITY
The Church, the teacher of humanity, has been developing throughout the centuries a doctrinal corpus which principles guide us in the correct ordering of human relationships and society, and allow us to form a moral judgment on social realities. To evaluate the current situation we evoked some.
3.1.- The dignity of the person
23. The primacy in the social order has the person. The economy is at the service of the person and its integral development. Man is not an instrument at the service of production and profit. Behind the current crisis, what is hidden is a reductionist vision of the human being who considers it as a simple homo oeconomicus, capable of producing and consuming. We need a mode of development that puts the person in the center; since, if the economy is not at the service of man, it becomes a factor of injustice and exclusion. Man needs much more than satisfying his primary needs.
24. The document "The Church and the poor" reminded 20 years ago that our service to the liberation of the poor must be integral and, consequently, "what we must always avoid is to make partial and exclusivist use of the concept of liberation by reducing it only to the spiritual or to the material, to the individual or to the social, to the eternal or to the temporal ».
3.2.- The universal destiny of the goods
25. In a culture that excludes and forgets the poorest, to the point of considering them waste for this society of consumption and well-being, it is urgent to become aware of another basic principle of the Social Doctrine of the Church: the universal destiny of the goods. "The poor should not be considered a" bale ", but as a wealth even from the strictly economic point of view"
In Sacred Scripture it is repeatedly stated that the earth is God's creation, that he wishes all his children to enjoy it equally. Laws are enacted so that, periodically, in the Jubilee years, equality is restored and everyone has access to the goods and it is remembered that the land must have a social function. Sometimes it is seen how God raises his voice, through the prophets, against the accumulation of goods in a few hands. And Jesus applies to himself the mission of proclaiming a year of the Lord's grace, that is, the task of implanting justice by remaking equality.
The Fathers of the Church, inspired by the Bible, denounced the accumulation of goods by some while others lived in poverty. Saint John Chrysostom affirmed that "not to involve the poor in their own goods is to rob them and take their lives, what we possess is not our property but their own" and Saint Augustine said that when you and your brother do not, two things happen: "He lacks money and you lack justice". San Gregorio Magno concluded that "when we supply some necessary things to the destitute, we give back what is theirs, we do not generously give of ours: We satisfy a work of justice, rather than doing a work of mercy".
26. The Social Doctrine of the Church, rooted in this tradition, has clearly affirmed the universal destiny of goods: "God has destined the earth and what it contains for the use of all men and societies. To reach everyone equally under the aegis of justice and with the company of charity. “He also reminded that private property is not an absolute and untouchable right, but subordinated to the universal destiny of goods. As St., John Paul II so clearly expressed, all private property "taxes a social mortgage."
The universal destiny of goods must be extended today to the fruits of recent economic and technological progress, which should not constitute an exclusive monopoly of a few, but should be at the service of the primary needs of all human beings. This requires us to take special care of those who are marginalized or impeded in order to achieve adequate development.
3.3.- Solidarity, defense of rights and promotion of duties
27. We need to rethink the concept of solidarity to adequately respond to current problems. Two appointments will help us. The first is taken from St. John Paul II: "Solidarity is not, then, a superficial feeling for the ills of so many people, near or far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is, for the good of each and everyone, so that we are all truly responsible for all ». The second is from Pope Francis: "The word" solidarity "is a little worn out and sometimes it is misinterpreted, but it is much more than some sporadic acts of generosity. It supposes creating a new mentality that thinks in terms of community, of priority of the life of all on the appropriation of the goods on the part of some ».
28. We must remember that it is the political community - through the action of legislators, governments and courts - that has the responsibility to guarantee the realization of the rights of its citizens; its managers, in the first place, have the task of promoting the necessary conditions so that, with the collaboration of the whole society, economic and social rights can be fulfilled, such as the right to decent work, to adequate housing, health care, an education in equality and freedom. The implementation of an efficient and equitable tax system is essential to achieve this. In order to guarantee other fundamental rights, such as the defense of life from conception to natural death, it is necessary, in addition, the effective political will to establish the relevant legislation and, especially, the one related to the protection of childhood and motherhood.
29. The human being is not only a subject of rights, but it is also a subject of duties; to the right of one responds the correlative duty of another. In particular, economic and social rights cannot be realized if each and every one of us does not collaborate and accept the burdens that correspond to us; they require material goods to satisfy them, and these are the fruit of the diligent work of man.
We must warn that "unfortunately, even human rights can be used as justification for an exacerbated defense of individual rights or the rights of the richest people (...) We must always remember that the planet belongs to all humanity and for all humanity, and the mere fact of having been born in a place with fewer resources or less development does not justify that some people live with less dignity. We must repeat that "the most favored must renounce some of their rights to put more liberally their goods at the service of others."
3.4.- The common good
30. A moral requirement of charity is the search for the common good. This "is the good of that" all of us ", formed by individuals, families and intermediate groups that unite in a social community. (...) To desire the common good and strive for it is a demand for justice and charity. To work for the common good is to take care, on the one hand, and to use, on the other, that set of institutions that structure social, legal, civil, political and cultural life, which is configured as polis, as a city. You love your neighbor more effectively, the more you work for a common good that also responds to your real needs. Every Christian is called to this charity, according to his vocation and his possibilities to influence the polis. This is the institutional way -also political, we could say- of charity ». A charity that, in a globalized society, must seek the common good of the entire human family, that is, of all men and all societies and nations. "It is not only or mainly to make up for the shortcomings of justice, although sometimes it is necessary to do so, let alone cover up with an alleged charity the injustices of established order and based on deep roots of domination or exploitation. It is rather an active and active commitment, fruit of Christian love for other men, considered as brothers, in favor of a just and more fraternal world, with special attention to the needs of the poorest ".
3.5.-The principle of subsidiarity
31. This principle regulates the functions that correspond to the State and to the intermediate social bodies allowing them to develop their function without being annulled by the State or other instances of higher order. And, by distributing the complex network of relationships that make up the social fabric, subsidiarity makes us feel as active and responsible people who live and perform in the different communities and associations, family, educational, religious, cultural, recreational, sports , economic, professional or political. These institutions arise spontaneously as a result of the needs of man and his associative tendency and form the necessary civil society that we are all called to promote and strengthen.
The principle of subsidiarity establishes a counterpoint to the totalitarian tendencies of the States and allows a fair balance between the public and private spheres; the State demands the appreciation and support of the intermediate organizations and the promotion of their participation in social life. But it will never be a pretext to discharge their obligations on them, evading the responsibilities that belong to the State; this phenomenon is beginning to happen to the extent that public agencies try to ignore the problems by transferring basic social services to private institutions, such as, for example, social care for passers-by.
3.6.- The right to decent and stable work
32. The most effective policy to achieve integration and social cohesion is certainly the creation of employment. But, for work to serve the person, in addition to satisfying their basic needs, it must be a dignified and stable job. Benedict XVI launched an appeal for "a global coalition for decent work." The commitment to this kind of work is the social commitment that everyone can put their skills at the service of others. A decent job allows us to develop our own talents; it facilitates our meeting with others and gives us self-esteem and social recognition.
Economic policy must be at the service of decent work. It is essential the collaboration of all, especially of employers, trade unions and politicians, to generate this dignified and stable employment, and contribute to the development of people and society. It is an outstanding form of charity and social justice.
4. HOPEFUL PROPOSALS FROM FAITH
33. Before the arduous task that we have to face, we need to look up and go to God so that He will inspire us. We are convinced that openness to transcendence can form a new political and economic mentality that helps overcome the absolute dichotomy between the economy and the common social good. In the Word of God we find enough light to order social issues. The Gospel illuminates change and instills hope.
We offer some guidelines for the charitable, social and political commitment in the historical moment that we have to live. We hope that these proposals serve to awaken hope in hearts and to help build together spaces of solidarity, both in our society and, especially, within our ecclesial communities, which must be houses of mercy.
The Church has been since its inception a community that has lived love. In it, everyone has been loved and served, especially the poorest whom the Holy Fathers considered the 'treasure of the Church'. The monasteries have always helped the needy and have transmitted the culture and cultivation of the land free of charge. The first universities, like the first hospitals and health care centers, were born from the hand of the Church. The various religious congregations, the brotherhoods and, in general, all the ecclesial institutions have as their goal the exercise of charity. The Church is charity. It has been, it is and will always be, if it wants to be the Church of Christ who gave his life for all. Caritas, United Hands and other organizations of the Church especially linked to Institutes of Consecrated Life, enjoy a well-earned prestige for their closeness, attention and promotion of the poorest.
4.1.- Promote an attitude of continuous renewal and conversion
34. The solidarity of Jesus with men and, above all, with the poor of his time, led him to begin his mission by inviting conversion: "The time has come and the Kingdom of God is near. Be converted and believe in the Gospel »(Mk 1,15). We too, if we want to be good news for the poor today and make them present the Gospel of God's compassionate and merciful love, we have to put ourselves in the attitude of conversion, as Pope Francis proposes: "I hope that all communities try to put the necessary means to advance on the path of a conversion and missionary pastoral that cannot leave things as they are ». This calls to change affects us all, people and institutions, and at all levels of existence: personal, social and institutional.
The conversion, if it is authentic, brings with it a careful request for the poor since the encounter with Christ. The more we adhere to Christ, the more we conform ourselves to Him, so that we can see with his eyes, listen with his ears and feel with his heart, our charity will be more active and more effective. The more identified we are with the feelings of Jesus Christ, the brighter our love for our brothers will be. The conversion to Christ must go hand in hand with a voluntary return to those who need our help. On the other hand, by contemplating the hardships of the disadvantaged with the eyes of Christ, our charity is revived and our identification with Him grows.
35. Every Christian and every community are called to be God's instruments for the liberation and promotion of the poor, so that they can be fully integrated into society. This forces us to change, to go out to the peripheries to accompany the excluded, and to develop innovative initiatives that show that it is possible to organize economic activity according to alternative models to the selfish and individualistic.
"Without the preferential option for the poorest," the proclamation of the Gospel, even being the first charity, runs the risk of being misunderstood or of drowning in the sea of words that the present society of communication submits to us every day ". If the Gospel that we announce does not translate into good news for the poor, it loses authenticity and credibility, and the privileged service of the poor is at the heart of the Gospel.
But if the poor really occupy that privileged place in the mission of the Church, our pastoral programming can never be done outside of them; they must be, not only recipients of our service, but motive of our commitment, shapers of our being and our doing. We want a society that cares about all people, and that shows special interest for the weakest. A society that strives to end poverty, old and new. "The Son of God, in his incarnation, invited us to the revolution of tenderness" says Pope Francis.
4.2 Cultivate a solid spirituality that gives consistency and meaning to our social commitment
36. Charity "is a force that has its origin in God, eternal Love and absolute Truth", "of which Jesus Christ has become a witness with his earthly life and, above all, with his death and resurrection." As Saint John says, it is the experience of being loved by God that enables us to love our brothers and sisters. For this reason, charity has its roots in faith in God: "The experience of a triune God, who is inseparable unity and communion, allows us to overcome selfishness to find ourselves fully in the service of the other."
37. Our institutions of charity and social commitment, such as Caritas and Manos Unidas and other ecclesial associations are called to live a profound spirituality. For this reason, the document "The Church and the Poor" warned that "more than once, within the Church, we have fallen into the temptation of opposing active and contemplative life, commitment and prayer and, more concretely, we have considered the struggle for social justice and the spiritual life as two realities not only different -which are true in their immediate object-, but independent and even contrary, when they are not in any way, but rather complementary and linked to each other ». It is the personified Love of God, the Holy Spirit, "who transforms and purifies the hearts of the disciples, changing them from selfish and cowardly to generous and courageous; of narrow and calculating, in open and detached; He who with his fire kindled in the home of the Church the flame of love for the needy until he gave them life.” It is very important not to dissociate action and contemplation, fight for justice and spiritual life. We are called to be evangelizers with Spirit, evangelizers who pray and work. "It is always necessary to cultivate an interior space that gives meaning to the commitment".
In the charitable and social commitment we must be very attentive to the Spirit who encourages and encourages it: "The Spirit is also the force that transforms the heart of the ecclesial community so that it is in the world witness of the love of the Father, who wants to make humanity, in his Son, a single family ». And it is this same Spirit, who worked the incarnation of the Word in the bowels of Mary, the architect of the incarnation of God's love in the Church.
The Church can and should endorse the proclamation of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth, at the beginning of his public life. Commenting on the text of Isaiah says: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, / because he has anointed me / to announce to the poor the Good News, / has sent me to proclaim release to the captives / and sight to the blind, / to give freedom to the oppressed / and proclaim a year of the Lord's grace ". And then he added, at the beginning of his comment: "This Scripture, which you have just heard, has been fulfilled today."
38. The spirituality that animates those who work in the charitable and social field is not another spirituality. It has particular characteristics that are born of the Gospel and the reality in which it lives and acts, and which we must cultivate: a Trinitarian spirituality that has its roots in the bowels of our God, an incarnated spirituality and eyes and ears open to the poor, a spirituality of tenderness and grace, a transforming, paschal and Eucharistic spirituality.
The union with Christ that is realized in the sacrament of the Eucharist is at the same time union with all the brothers. Christ strengthens communion and urges reconciliation and commitment for justice. The experience of the mystery of the Eucharist, nourishment of truth, enables us and encourages us to carry out a bold and committed work for the transformation of the structures of this world.
4.3.- To lean on the transforming force of evangelization
39. Social problems have, as we have already pointed out, deeper causes than purely material ones. They have their origin "in the lack of fraternity between men and societies". They derive from the absence of a true "humanism that allows man to find himself, assuming the superior spiritual values of love, friendship, prayer and contemplation." That is why the proclamation of the Gospel, the ferment of freedom and fraternity, has always been accompanied by the human and social promotion of those to whom it is announced. The Gospel affects the whole man; it challenges him in all its structures: personal, economic and social. There are very strong links between evangelization and human promotion. Evangelization - the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom of God - has a clear social implication.
40. Pope Benedict XVI clearly explains the interrelationship between the functions of the Church: "The intimate nature of the Church is expressed in a triple task: proclamation of the Word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebration of the Sacraments (leiturgy) and service of charity (diakonia). They are tasks that involve each other and cannot be separated from each other. For the Church, charity is not a kind of social assistance activity that could also be left to others, but belongs to its nature and is an irrevocable manifestation of its own essence. The Church is the family of God in the world. In this family there should be no one who suffers for lack of what is necessary. But, at the same time, caritas-agapé overcomes the confines of the Church ». The social commitment in the Church is not something secondary or optional but something that is consubstantial and belongs to its own nature and mission. The God we believe in is the defender of the poor.
The Church calls us to social commitment. A social commitment that is transformative of people and the causes of poverty, which denounces injustice, which alleviates pain and suffering and is also capable of offering concrete proposals that help to put into practice the transforming message of the Gospel and assume the political implications of faith and charity.
4.4 To deepen the evangelizing dimension of charity and social action
41. The Church exists to evangelize, our mission is to make present the good news of the love of God manifested in Christ; we are called to be a sign in the middle of the world of that divine love. The charitable and social service expresses the love of God. He is an evangelizer, and shows the fraternity among men, the basis of civic coexistence and the driving force of true development.
If God is love, the language that best evangelizes is that of love. And the most effective way to carry out this task in the social sphere is, first of all, the testimony of our life, without forgetting the explicit announcement of Jesus Christ. "We speak of God when our commitment has its roots in the bowels of our God and is a source of fraternity; when it makes us look at each other and carry on each other; when it helps us discover the face of God in the face of every human being and leads us to promote its integral development; when it denounces injustice and is transforming people and structures; when in a culture of success and profitability he bets for the weak, the fragile, the last; when it is lived as a gift and helps overcome the logic of the market with the logic of gift and gratuity; when one lives in communion, when it helps to form a Samaritan Church and serves the poor and leads to the sharing of goods and services; when one makes a free life given, nourished and celebrated in the Eucharist; when it makes us witnesses of an experience of love of which we have been made protagonists, and opens paths, with works and words, to the experience of the encounter with God in Jesus Christ ».
42. We cannot forget that the Church exists, like Jesus, to evangelize the poor and raise the oppressed and that, to evangelize in the social field, is to work for justice and denounce injustice.
Our charity cannot be merely palliative; it must be preventive, curative and proactive. The voice of the Lord calls us to orient all our life and our action "from the transforming reality of the Kingdom of God". This implies that the love to those who see their lives violated, in any of its dimensions, "requires that we help the most urgent needs, at the same time that we collaborate with other organisms and institutions to organize fairer structures".
43. Accompaniment is another very valid way of presenting the Gospel. Not everyone able to proclaim Jesus Christ by promoting great social works, but we can do it at the meeting with the brother accompanying him on his difficulties, sharing hopes and dreams with him, in the way of comprehensive and liberating human growth together; by doing so, we present the good news of the Father's love.
44. The straight exercise of the public function represents an exquisite form of charity. It is necessary that the impulse of charity manifests effectively in the right way to govern, in promoting equitable tax policies, promote the reforms necessary for a fair distribution of assets in the effective supervision of banking institutions in the humanization of industrial work, in the regulation of migratory flows, in the safeguarding of the environment, in the universalization of health and education, social protection, pensions and disability assistance. That moves the depositaries of political power to work closely with other governments to solve those problems that, in a globalized economy, overcome the control of individual states. And to cooperate in the early establishment of a world political authority, recognized by all and endowed with effective power capable of guaranteeing to each one security, the fulfillment of justice and respect for rights and peace.
45. We also have the challenge of exercising a more prophetic charity. We cannot remain silent when people's rights are not recognized or respected, when human beings are allowed not to live with the dignity they deserve. We must raise the level of moral demand in our society and not resign ourselves to consider the immoral normal. Because economic and political activity have unavoidable ethical requirements, duties do not only affect private life. Social charity urges us to seek alternatives to the current way of producing, consuming and living, in order to establish a more humane economy in a more fraternal world.
4.5 Promote the integral development of the person and address the roots of poverty
46. Increasing poverty in this crisis has forced the institutions of the Church to an already overcome urgent response from first -Cast assistance for food, clothing, drug payment of rents and other consumes- we considered in our country. These charities have multiplied so much that sometimes they have subtracted time and availability to be able to attend to such important tasks as the accompaniment and promotion of the person. This second level of assistance, together with the eradication of the structural causes of poverty, constitutes the superior goals of our charitable action.
47. The accompaniment of people is basic in our charitable action. It is necessary to "be with" the poor - to make the journey with them - and not limit ourselves to "giving" the poor resources (food, clothing, etc.). The one who accompanies approaches the other, touches suffering, shares pain. "The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ." The proximity is authentic when we are affected by the pain of the other, when his helplessness and distress remove our insides and suffer with him. It is no longer just about attending and giving from the outside, but about participating in their problems and trying to solve them from within. Therefore, if we want to be companions on the path of the poor, we need God to touch our hearts; only then will we be able to share fatigue and pain, projects and hopes with the confidence that we do not go alone, but in the company of the good Shepherd.
48. Poverty is not the result of an inexorable fatalism, it has responsible causes. Behind it there are economic, financial, social, political mechanisms ...; national and international. "A lucid and effective confrontation against poverty requires inquiring about the causes and mechanisms that originate it and somehow consolidate it." We must do it moved by the conviction that poverty today is avoidable; we have the means to overcome it. The main obstacles to achieving this are not technical, but anthropological, ethical, economic and political. "While not radically solve the problems of the poor, denying the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and attacking the structural causes of inequity not the world's problems will be resolved and ultimately no problem. Inequality is root of social ills. "We must assume all our own responsibility, at the individual and social level, the developed nations and the developing nations.
49. We must work hard to achieve this ambitious goal of eliminating the structural causes of poverty. The objectives must be:
• Create jobs. Companies must be supported so that they fulfill one of their most valuable purposes: the creation and maintenance of employment. In difficult and hard times for all - such as those of economic crises - the workers cannot be left to their fate because they only have their arms to support themselves.
• That public administrations, as guarantors of rights, assume their responsibility to maintain the social welfare state, providing it with sufficient resources.
• That civil society plays an active and committed role in the achievement and defense of the common good.
• That a Social Pact against poverty be reached by uniting the efforts of public authorities and civil society.
• That the market fulfills its social responsibility in favor of the common good and does not intend to take advantage of this situation.
• That people orient our lives towards more austere life attitudes and more sustainable consumption models.
• That, to the extent of our possibilities, we also involve ourselves in the promotion of the poorest and develop, in coherence with our values, joint initiatives, working in "network", with companies and other institutions; supporting, also with the ecclesial resources, the ethical finances, microcredits and social economy companies.
• That the difficulty of the current economic moment does not prevent us from listening to the clamor of the poorest nations of the Earth and extend our solidarity and international cooperation to them and advance their integral development.
• Carefully nurture the formation of the sociopolitical conscience of Christians so that they are consistent with their faith and make effective their commitment to collaborate in the correct ordering of economic and social affairs.
4.6 Defend life and the family as fundamental social goods
50. The family has been the great social supporter in these years. How many have survived the crisis thanks to the moral, emotional and economic support of the family! This fact has to lead us to value life and family as fundamental social goods and overcome what St. John Paul II called the culture of death and disintegration. Pope Francis also exhorts us in this sense to remind us that there is no true promotion of the common good or true development of man when the fundamental pillars supporting a nation are ignored, its immaterial goods, such as life and family.
We have a demographically aging society that is impoverished in the moral order and increasingly limited to maintain certain social services: pensions, unemployment subsidies, dependency care, etc.
51. We are concerned about the inequalities suffered by women in the family, labor and social spheres. It is necessary to accept the legitimate claims of their rights, convinced that men and women have the same dignity. We must recognize that the specific contribution of women, with their sensitivity, their intuition and their own abilities, is indispensable and enriches us all.
It is urgent to create channels to "adequately accompany women who find themselves in very difficult situations because abortion is presented as a quick solution to their deep anguish. Who can stop understanding those situations of so much pain?" Our social institutions must be mobilized to assist, accompany and offer sufficient answers to women who find themselves in these difficult situations.
4.7 Meeting the challenge of an inclusive and communal economy
52. "No to the economy of exclusion", to this economy that forgets so many people, that is not interested in those that have less, that discards them turning them into "leftovers", into "waste". No to globalized indifference, which leads us to lose the capacity to feel and suffer with the other, to seek our own selfish interest, and to support the current economic system thinking that growth, when it is achieved, benefits everyone in a way automatic It is necessary to overcome the current development model and propose valid alternatives without falling into sterile populisms.
We cannot continue to trust that economic growth, by itself, will solve the problems; this will not happen if the economic behavior does not take into account the good of each and every one of the citizens, if it does not consider that everyone matters, that none of us is indifferent. The search for true development implies giving relevance to the poor, valuing them as important for society and for economic policies.
53. The reduction of inequalities - nationally and internationally - must be one of the priority objectives of a society that wants to put people, and also people, ahead of other interests. For this we need to be aware that an unjustly unequal world is not desirable and work to overcome this inequity, well aware that the solution cannot be left to the blind forces of the market.
It is necessary to give way to an economy of communion, to experiences of social economy that favor access to goods and a fairer distribution of resources; to carry out what Benedict XVI already asked of us: "Not only can the traditional principles of social ethics, such as transparency, honesty and responsibility, not be forgotten or weakened, but in commercial relations the principle of gratuity and logic of the gift, as an expression of fraternity, can and should have space in ordinary economic activity. This is a demand of man at the present time, but also of economic reason itself ».
4.8 Strengthen community animation
54. Charity is an essential, constitutive dimension of our Christian and ecclesial life, which belongs to each one in particular and to the whole community. This is what Benedict XVI says: «The love of our neighbor rooted in the love of God is first of all a task for each faithful, but it is also for the whole ecclesial community ... The Church as a community must also put into practice the love. Consequently, love also needs an organization, as a budget for orderly community service. “And he expands: "When the charitable activity is assumed by the Church as a community initiative, the spontaneity of the individual must also include programming, foresight, collaboration with other institutions."
The document "The Church and the poor", referring to the servant Church that embodies the merciful face of God manifested in Christ, affirmed that "in the Church of today we must acquire" a deeper awareness "of this mission received from the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the mercy of God. It is a duty of the whole community, and not just a few, let's say, specialized in this ministry
It is necessary that the Christian community be the true ecclesial subject of charity and that all of them feel involved in serving the poor; the entire community must be permanently monitored to respond to the challenges of marginalization and poverty.
55. Social action in the Church is not the work of people immune to fatigue and fatigue, but of normal, fragile people who also need care and support. They must provide each other with assistance and help in order to fulfill the noble task in which they are committed. In serving others they put their joy. The organizations have to take care with the request of their agents; the duty of charity also extends to them. They are instruments of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, signs and instruments of his saving presence. But they have their limitations, they need to help each other to know and do better, to grow in formation and in spirituality.
56. "I have seen the oppression of my people in Egypt and I have heard their complaints," the Lord said to Moses (Ex 3: 7). We Pastors of the People of God have also contemplated how suffering has been primed in the weakest of our society. We apologize for the moments when we have not been able to respond promptly to the cries of the most fragile and needy. You are not alone. We are with you; together in pain and in hope; together in the community effort to overcome this difficult situation. Together, brothers in Jesus Christ, we must build the common house in which we can all live in happy fraternity. We ask the Father to fill us with intelligence and success to build a more just society in which the wishes and needs of the most disadvantaged are satisfied.
The victims of this social situation are our favorite, as you are of the Lord. We want, with all Christians, to be a sign in the world of God's mercy. And we want to do it with the revolution of tenderness to which Pope Francis calls us. "All Christians are called to care for the most fragile of the Earth."
57. We cannot help but appreciate the generous effort that, amid these difficulties, the institutions of the Church, such as Caritas, Manos Unidas, Institutes of Consecrated Life, which carry out great work in the service of charity with children, are doing. Youngster, old, etc-; and many others. We have been able to verify with great satisfaction the enormous work carried out by volunteers, managers and hired in the attention to people and the management of resources. Behind them are the Christian communities, so many anonymous men and women who respond with their interest and concern, with their prayer and their contribution of partners and donors.
58. Despite the growing social and economic inequalities that we notice and the ever-increasing demands that the poor present to us, we ask all of you to continue in the effort to overcome the situation and keep hope alive.
The charity must be lived not only in everyday relationships -family, community, friendships or small groups- but also in macro-relations -social, economic and political-. We urgently need "that the rulers and the financial powers look up and broaden their perspectives, that they seek decent work, education and health care for all citizens." We must all be able to commit ourselves to build a new world, side by side with others; and we will do it, not out of obligation, like someone who bears a heavy burden that overwhelms and wears out, but as a personal option that fills us with joy and gives us the possibility to express and strengthen our Christian identity in the service of our brothers and sisters.
We remember frequently with Pope Francis that "time is greater than space". "This principle allows for long-term work without obsessing over immediate results. It helps to endure difficult and adverse situations with patience. [...] Priority to space leads to getting mad to have everything resolved in the present. [...] Give priority to time is to start processes rather than own spaces. That is why we do not stay in the immediate, in the limited social spaces in which we move, in what we achieve here and now. Let us give priority to processes that open new horizons and promote meaningful actions that make clear the presence already among us of the Kingdom of God that will be consummated in eternal life.
59. With Mary, we sing that God "knocks down the powerful from the throne and exalts the humble." It is the song of the Mother who carries within her the hope of all humanity. And it is the song of the believing community that feels how the Kingdom of God is already among us transforming history from within and illuminating a new world and a new society, based not on the strength of the powerful, but dignity and the inalienable rights of the poor. The song of Mary is our song, a song that is called to hope, a song that compels us to be an encouraging light, a life-giving breath for all, especially for those who are more deeply suffering the devastating effects of poverty and exclusion.
May Saint Mary, Virgin of Hope and Consoler of the afflicted, pray for us today and always. May she ensure that we never fail in our hearts the necessary and urgent solidarity with the poorest.
To our Mother of Heaven we unite the intercession of Saint Teresa of Jesus, under whose protection, in the V Centenary of her birth, we also place our service to the poorest.
Avila, April 24, 2015