Conceptual Key
Compendium explaining the theological significance of the most important terms used in the Social Doctrine of the Church with its respective biblical reference.

Author: Staff | Source: Pontifical Council Cor Unum


It is the love in the Christian sense ("apape-caritas") that constitutes the very essence of God revealed by Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 4.8). This is to deliver one's life (Jn 15.13). The perfect form of charity is the gift of Christ on the cross (Ga 2.20). The Cross is the "figure" and the symbol of love: in it Jesus fulfills the double commandment of love for God and neighbor, retaken of the Old Law (Torah) (cf. Mc 12, 28SS; Dt 6.5; Lv 19.17). On the Cross, in fact, Jesus wholly loves God the Father, entrusted in his hands (Lk 23.44), and the neighbor, forgiving his enemies (Lk 23.26). True love or charity is to love with gratuitousness, also those who do not deserve it, the sinner, the wicked, the traitor and the enemy (cf. Lc 6.32: Rm 5.11). This divine love, unique and transcendent, is not "utopian" to human beings. It becomes reality when the gift of the risen Lord is poured out into the hearts of men through the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. acts 2; Rm 5.5) and makes it possible to forsake the love of Christ. Such is the experience of saints and martyrs (cf. acts 7,59-60). Charity is therefore a theological virtue, that is, supernatural and pneumatologyc. Saint Paul considers it the greatest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and describes it thus: "charity is patient, it is helpful; charity is not envious, it is not boastful, it is not derogatory; it is decorous; it does not seek its interest; not irritated; it does not take into account the evil; it does not rejoice in injustice; it's happy with the truth. All the excuse. Everything believes it. Everything is waiting. Everything supports it. Charity never ends. “(cf. 1 Co 13, 4-8). Charity can be considered the work of the faith (cf. Ga 5.6). Owning love is a sign of a new life that beats death: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. The one who does not love remains in death "(1 Jn 3.14). 


The whole Christian tradition has revered her as the "queen of virtues." She consists, for S. Augustine, in the love of the things that must be loved ("dilectio rerum amandarum") and gives precedence the common things to those own ("caritas communion propriis non propria communibus anteponit"). Charity is "ordained": it makes love to God for herself; inspires a righteous love of herself (remembering the own filial dignity); stimulates to love the neighbor in God and the enemy because of God ("caritas est amicum diligere in deo et inimicum diligere propter Deum", S. Gregorio Magno). Charity loves according to the inordinate measure of God ("mode sine mode", S. Bernardo). For Saint Thomas only charity truly deserves the name of grace because it is the only one that "makes God pleasing" ("nomen gratiae meretur ex hoc quod gratum Deo facit"). She possesses the power to transform the lover into the beloved, because it raises a kind of "ecstasy", a coming out of them to adhere to the beloved ("caritatis proprium est transforme amantem in amatum, quia Ipsa est quae extasim facit").


Charity is the bond of communion of the Church, and finds in the Eucharist its sacrament. Through charity the Spirit gathers the faithful under one body: the same Spirit unifies the body with its presence, with its strength and with the internal connection of the members, produces charity among the faithful and pushes to live it. Therefore, if a member has a suffering, all members suffer with it; or if a member is honored, they enjoy together all members (cf. 1 Co 12.26; LG 7.3). Charity can be neither confused nor much less replaced by the notion, not peculiarly, Christian of solidarity. This consists of the human and social order of universal fraternity. Instead, charity is the relationship of communion itself of Christian fraternity. She has a universal propulsion (even embracing enemies), but is especially enriched by reciprocity in the ecclesial community: "For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: that we love one another" (1 Jn 3,11-12); "So as long as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to our brethren in faith," (Ga 6.10). 


Next to the Evangelization and Intercession (Liturgy), the testimony of charity represents the main Christian way of carrying out the Mission that Christ has entrusted... 


Development (integral): 

It is about all the human activity deployed to improve the condition of man, in each dimension: physical, social, moral, cultural and spiritual. The real development to which the States should endeavour implies a series of social measures aimed at ensuring a dignified tenor of life, civil peace, social justice, the right to instruction and, above all, freedom of thought and religion. Rule of the real progress, the integral development possesses therefore as criterion the good of the person. "Man is worth more for what he is than for what he has. Moreover, what men do to achieve more justice, greater fraternity, and a more humane approach to social problems is worth more than technical progress. For such progress can offer, as if we were saying, the material for human promotion, but they alone cannot carry it out"(GS 35). In the Populorum Progressio, Paul VI, describing the integral development as a process of greater humanization, cited thus the steps to fulfill: "To achieve ascending from misery to the possession of the necessary, the victory over the social plagues, the acquisition of the culture ... The increase in considering the dignity of others, the orientation towards the spirit of poverty, the cooperation to the common good, the will of peace. Even more human: the recognition, by man, of the supreme values and of God, the source and end of all of them. More human, finally, and above all, the faith, gift of God, embraced by the goodwill of men, and unity in the charity of Christ, which all call us to participate, as children, in the life of the living God, Father of all men "(PP. 21). This equal to the promotion of a "whole humanism", that is "the development of all man and all men" (PP 42). "A closed humanism, insensitive to the values of the spirit and to God himself, who is his source, might seem to triumph. It is undoubtedly that man can organize the earth without God: but without God, after all, he cannot organize it but against man. An exclusive humanism is an inhuman humanism. Then there is no true humanism if it does not tend towards the absolute by the recognition of a vocation, which offers the idea of human life. Far from being the ultimate norm of the values, the man does not realize himself but when it ascends on itself, according to the just sentence of Pascal: “The man surpasses infinitely the man” "(PP 42), the true development of the humanity leads therefore to the meeting of the Fraternity of the peoples (PP 43-75) and one can then say that it is the new name of the peace (pp 76-80).


Social doctrine: 

It is the whole of the ecclesial magisterium on the nature and moral ordering of society. Although it sinks its roots in the social teaching of the Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, it is born as such, with the encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) of the Pope Leo XIII. The Leonino text gave rise to a notable development with Pius XI (Quadragesimo anno), John XXIII (Pacem in terris); Paul VI (Populorum progressio; Octogesima adveniens) and especially with John Paul II (Laborem exercens, Sollicitudo rei socialis; Centesimus annus). 


Abundance of social teaching is also found in the speeches and radio messages of Pius XII, in the constitution conciliar Gaudium et spes, in the interventions of the Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to the UN and in the documents of the CDF (especially Libertatis conscientiae and Libertatis nuntius). Cardinal points of social doctrine are: legitimate personal property in the context of the universal destination of the goods of the earth; the primacy of the common good ("that is, the set of conditions of the social life which make it possible to the associations and to each one of its members the fullest and easiest achievement of the own perfection" GS 26); Universal fraternity and the unity of the human family, as the foundation for the promotion of peace and friendship among peoples, of dialogue and solidarity; social justice; respect for human dignity ratified in the inalienable rights of the person, subsidiarity; the just autonomy in the interdependence between people, nations and States. Therefore, the Christian view obviously rejects all forms of totalitarianism, collectivism, nationalism, wild capitalism, but also the idolatry of relativistic democracy, which puts the value of conscience before the vote of the majority: "If there is no ultimate truth guiding and guiding political action, then ideas and convictions can instrumentalize easily for power purposes. A democracy without values, easily becomes an open or false totalitarianism, as the history shows", CA 46 = VS 101). 



Is the second "theological virtue" next to faith and charity. This is not only trust and a wait in the saving intervention of God, as is often found in the OT (cf. P.E. Sal 40.2), but a gift of the Holy Spirit that through his grace orients the intentional faculty of the human spirit in a divine way. It is the certain, blessed energetic and desirous expectation of future glory. The certainty of hope derives from the faith it provides as a advance of the separate realities (cf. Hb 11.1); joy comes from the fact that hope is an ecstasy of the spirit towards the fullness of salvation, of which the firsts are already possessed (cf. P.E. 2 Co 5.4-10); the energy or operosity of hope depends on its nexus with charity; hope is an active tension, which wants to anticipate and hasten the arrival of the definitive kingdom by "sowing in the Holy Spirit" with an existence of love (cf. Ga 6.7-8). The very existence of hope is a persevering extend forward of desire (cf. Rm 8.25). The three virtues are like three sisters: the two elders, Faith and Charity carry the hand to the sister, Hope, but this one drags to the other two where she wants (Péguy). 



It is the main duty of the Church, which goes back to the commandment of the Lord (Mt 28.19; Mc 16, 15SS) and the praxis of the Apostles (cf. acts 2-3; 1 Co 9.16...). Is the communication of the announcement, of the good news of Christ's victory over sin and about death (kerygma or euanghelion). The Second Vatican Council (LG 17; AG); Paul VI (Evangelii nuntiandi); John Paul II (Redemptoris missio) highlighted the priority role of evangelization in the work of the Church. Through it, the Church gives the possibility of personally and historically adhering to the mystery of the salvation of mankind, which Jesus Christ has once and for all fulfilled in his Passover. Of the announcement indeed sprouts the faith in the Spirit, which leads to a living relationship with Christ, and through him, with the Father (cf. Rm 10, 16SS).



Is the human person's response to divine revelation communicated through evangelization. It consists in accepting Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected as a principle of salvation, of redemption and of justification. (cf. Rm and Ga, passim). It raises the invocation of the name of Jesus and a whole living in Christ, which implies a supernatural knowledge of God: "Only God knows God entirely" (cf. CIC 152). "The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of faith and Christian life. Only God can give it to know by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit "(CIC 261). " ´No one can say, Jesus is the Lord! But with the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12.3). ´God has sent to our hearts the Spirit of his Son who cries out: Abbà, Father! ´ (Ga 4.6). This knowledge of faith is not possible but in the Holy Spirit. To come into contact with Christ, it is necessary first to be attracted by the Holy Spirit. He is the one who precedes and awakens in us the faith. Through Baptism, the first sacrament of faith, Life, which has its source in the Father and is offered to us in the Son, we are intimately and personally communicated by the Holy Spirit in the Church "(CIC 683). Faith is also the beginning of eternal life in us (St. Thomas), as it infuses the knowledge of the invisible realities (cf. Hb 11.2) and above all, it anticipates the filial communion eschatological with God in the Spirit of Christ. 



It is the ontological relationship existing between those who have a common generation (fraternity/adelphotês) that raises a peculiar relationship of friendship (fraternity). There is a double fraternity, human and Christian. Perceiving the nexus between these two realities, different but not separate, is entirely enlightening to understand the relationship between ecclesiology and social doctrine, between "nature" and grace, between Church and civil society. Christian doctrine proclaims universal fraternity among all men, regardless of their religion, race, nation, language, etc., by virtue of the common origin in God the Creator Father: the "law of human solidarity and charity, without excluding the rich variety of people, cultures and peoples, assures us that all men are truly brothers "(CIC 361).”Thus, those who believe in divine charity give them the certainty that to open all men the ways of love and strive to establish universal fraternity are not useless things. The efforts, conceived in order to realize universal fraternity, are not vain "(GS 38). All that is done on this earth, in view of fraternity among men, will manifest itself in the glory of Christ in his coming (GS 39). Universal fraternity among men constitutes the mission of the laity in the world (AA 14). GS 91 advocates that the faithful and each church "better adjust the world to the superior dignity of man, tend to a more deeply entrenched universal fraternity and, under the impulse of love, with generous and united effort, respond to the urgent demands of our age”. Only a conscience of this fraternity can guarantee the true peace among the nations (GS 78). But this fraternity, inscribed in the very nature of the human being, is, so to speak, hidden, or rather, obfuscated by sin (and by the structures of sin) existing in the world. Human beings, underestimating the divine fatherhood, do not recognize either the ontological union that unites them and their consciences do not fully perceive the solidarity affection that should sprout. Humanity, today as always, is at a crossroads between fraternity and hate (GS 9). Using an evangelical image (cf. Mt 5, 14SS) we say that universal and creature fraternity among men is that "house" that exists, but lies in darkness. It takes a superior "light"-divine-for the beauty of the house to appear. This light is precisely the Church: the fraternitas christiana. It consists of a different order and lies, not so much in the natural grace of creation, as in the gift of the Spirit of the Son (GS 32); she is born of the free and unheard design of God, to enter into the history of men (AG 3). Such fraternity is nourished by the divine fatherhood revealed by Christ and communicated in his Holy Spirit (UR 7). The Gospel of the Christian fraternity therefore represents, with regard to human fraternity, the role of ferment (AG 8); she is a beacon, a sign of that which should extend eschatologically to all (GS 92; AG 7). "The Church, by virtue of the mission that has to enlighten the whole orb with the evangelical message and to bring together in a single spirit all the men of any nation, race or culture, it becomes a sign of the fraternity that allows and consolidates the sincere dialogue" (GS 92). The Christian fraternity is lived in charity the universal fraternity instead is based on the social solidarity.



It is the character of that which is born, in an unconditional and free way, of an overabundant initiative. It is free the love of God (creation, choice), fully revealed in Christ (Redemption) and also of Christians (cf. charity). There is also a possible perversion of gratuitousness. 


-In the Biblical and Christian tradition the first act of gratitud on the part of God is the creation itself. The creatio ex nihilois due only to the desire to communicate generously the goodness itself (cf. 2 M 7.28; Rm 4.17; Council Laterano IV, DS 800). The creative act happens with a sovereignly free decision ("Liberrimo council", according to the expression of Vatican Council I, DS 3025). The gratitud of creation is the encounter between the fullness of the goodness of God omnipotent and the radical contingency of the creature. Another manifestation of total gratitud, according to the Scriptures, is the whole history of Israel: its choice, its redemption from slavery, the gift of the Torah and the entrance into the Promised Land. The book of Deuteronomy does not tire of stressing the disproportion between the gift granted by Yhwh and the human beneficiary (cf. Dt 7.7; 6.11; 9.5). In the NT it shines with even more force the gratitud of the divine initiative. Free is the revelation of God and his mysteries (cf. Mt 11,26-27; Lc 11.32), as well as the election of the Apostles first (cf. MC 3.13; Jn 15.16), and then the Passover of Jesus (cf. Rm 1.1). It is God who first loved us (1 Jn 4.19), delivering his Son (rm 8.32), whose love is to die for us, wicked and sinful (RM 5, 6-8). That's the Gospel of the gratitud of the salvation and justification (cf. Rm 3.24; 2 Tm 1.9). All the chosen witnesses are entrusted with the treasure of the Gospel, of which no one can ever be called worthy (cf. 2 Co 4, 1.7). Rather: The two "pillars" of the history of the Church, Peter and Paul, are personally marked by the experience of the free mercy of Christ (cf. P.E. Jn 21, 15ss E 1 Co 15.10; UUS 91). The faithful and gratuitous testimony is transformed into a natural concern for the Apostles (cf. Mt 10.8; 1 Co 9.18; 11.7). 


-To the experience of God's free love (cf. LC 6.35) and preferentially by sinners (cf. LC 15; 19.1-10) must respond to the human gratitude of the knowledge benefited from an unmerited gift (cf. the forgiven sinner LC 7,36-50). Such recognition is disseminated to the conversion and reparation of the ill-made (cf. Zechariah, Lc 19.8). The most serious sin is precisely the lack of perception of the free gift received (cf. the ruthless servant, Mt 18,23-35). On the contrary, if the OT had already intuited the beauty of gratuity: (cf. If 7,33-34: "The grace (cháris) of your gift reaches every living, not even the dead rehuses your grace. Do not lag to those who weep and with the afflicted show yourself afflicted "), so much more the NT will advocate unconditional love:" If you love those who loved you, what merit do you have (cháris)? For sinners also love those who love them. If you do well to those who do to you what merit do you have? Sinners do the same! If you lend those you expect to receive, what merit do you have? Sinners also lend to sinners to receive the corresponding. Rather, love your enemies; do good and lend without waiting for anything in return (mêden apelpízontes); and your reward shall be great, and you shall be children of the Most High, for he is good with the ungrateful and the perverse "(Lk 6,32-35). Specifically this is manifested in the forgiving as as wow has been forgiven and benefiting all, without distinction, without any meaning of person (cf. St 2, 1SS). It is part of the free evangelical also to "waste" the most precious things for the Lord, as did the woman of Bethany (cf. MC 14.4) and as in the uninterrupted tradition of the Church the consecrated people do (cf. VC 104).


-Love for truth requires that the dark side of gratuity be mentioned as well. Corruptio optimi pessima. Just as gratuity evokes freedom, initiative and overabundance in good, so gratitude of evil, hatred, cruelty, sadism are a tragic response to the perverse turn of the greatest love. There is in this an unmistakable sign of the existence of the demon ("I have been hated without reason [Dôrêan]", Jn 12.25). 



Is the community, the communion (koinonia), at the same time spiritual and visible, of those who welcome with faith the evangelization; share the same hope in the Kingdom and participate to charity. It becomes part of the Church through Baptism, which seals the conversion. The principle of intimate communion with God-known and loved as a Father-is the Holy Spirit: filial Spirit of Jesus Christ. The visible principle of unity of the faithful of a particular Church is the Bishop; on the other hand, on the universal level of communion of all the faithful, the foundation of unity is the Roman Pontiff. This is the successor of Peter and head of the Christian community of Rome who "presides in charity" (Saint Ignatius of Antioch). The sacramental principle of the unity of the Church is the Eucharist: a memorial celebration of the Paschal Mystery, where the baptized, united to their rightful shepherds, join Christ and among them, through the signs of the consecrated bread and wine. The Creed professes the Church One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The Spirit of Love, donated by Christ to his Church, transforms it necessarily into one (cf. UR 4.3) and holy (cf. LG 39.1). Thus the Spirit of truth makes it Catholic and Apostolic, keeping it faithful to the tradition (Parádosis) of the Apostles and their mission to spread, to all men and in all time, all the fullness (Plêrôma) of Truth and Holiness found in Jesus Christ. This prerogative of indefectibility is granted to the concrete Church guided by the Pope and by the Bishops in communion with Him, where the only Church of Christ remains (cf. LG 8.2). However, it must be purified and constantly converted to make the glory of his Lord shine, always better, to restore full unity with the separated brethren and to acquire greater credibility in his ad gentes mission (cf. AG 6; In 77; RM 50; UUS 23; 98).



It is the moral and social virtue that is fulfilled that which is righteous and gives to each one what it belongs to him. In the Bible justice (tsedaka-dikaiosyne), as Yhwh attribute, is always source of salvation. The Lord expresses his justice by ridding the oppressed and protecting the weak, becoming "the widow's and the orphan's lawyer." The Israelites are called to do the same, complying with the law of the Lord (Torah) and observing their commandments that represent the right (Mishpat). It consists of division and hospitality, wage equity and judicial justice, and even absence of rancor and benevolence towards the enemy (cf. Dt 6.25; is 23.4-5; Lv 19, 13SS). The Prophets (especially is) emphasized that only in the school of Yhwh you learn justice: "With all my soul I yearn for you in the night, and with all my spirit in the morning I seek you. For when you judge the earth, they teach justice the habitants of the orb "(Is 26.9)."But in this it is praised who will praise: in having brains and knowing me, for I am Yahveh, that I do mercy, right and justice on earth, because in that I am pleased" (Jr 9.23). "Wash, clean yourselves, take away your wrongdoings from before my sight, desist from doing evil, learn to do good, seek the righteous, give your rights to the oppressed, do justice to the orphan, advocate for the widow" (Is 1,16-17). And only the works of justice are the true cult that pleases God (cf. Is 58,1-8; Ez 18.5-9). He who welcomes the training of the Lord is thus described: "Who walks in justice and speaks righteously; the one who refuses fraudulent profits, which shakes the palm of the hand to not accept bribery, which covers his ears to not hear about blood, and closes his eyes to see evil. He will dwell in the heights, rise to take refuge in the strength of the stones, his bread will be given to him and he will have the safe water "(is 33,15-16). But the promise of true fulfillment of justice, precursor of peace, concerns a messianic future: when "Here is what, to do justice shall reign a king" (Is 32.1) and "at last will be poured from above upon us spirit. The steppe will be made an orchard, and the orchard will be considered as a jungle. It rests in the steppe the fairness, and the justice Hill dwell in the vergel; the product of justice will be peace, the fruit of fairness, perpetual security. And he will inhabit my village in a shelter of peace, in safe abodes and in quiet inns. The jungle will be dejected and the city sunken "(Is 32, 1.15-19). The mission of the Messiah consists, in fact, mainly in bringing law and justice: "Here is my servant whom I hold, my chosen one in whom my soul is pleased. I have put my spirit upon him: he will dictates law to the nations. Do not shout or raise the tone, and will not make his voice heard in the street. Broken reed will not depart, and dull wick won't turn off. He will loyally do justice: he shall not faint or break until the land is implanted and his instruction will be attended by the islands. Thus says the God Yahveh, who creates the heavens and extends them, who makes the earth sign and extends it, which gives encouragement to the people in it, and spirit to those who walk by it. I, Yahveh, have called you in justice, and I put you this way, I formed you, and I have destined you to be the alliance of the people and the light of the people, to open the blind eyes, to remove the prisoner from jail, from prison to those who live in darkness "(Is 42,1-7).


Jesus is aware that he inaugurates messianic justice (cf. Lc 4,16-21). In the sermon on the mountain, he preaches a new justice (Mt 5-7) that spiritually fulfills and radically the Torah. She is acting in the conversion of the human heart transformed into filial with respect to God, and therefore free from fear, concupiscence, hypocrisy and rancor, made able to trust in God and of gratuity and charity towards neighbor. In the NT God's justice is identified with Christ himself, "To whom God made for us wisdom, justice, sanctification, and redemption" (1 Co 1.30). The mercy of Christ has led him to condemn in himself the sin to save sinners (cf. 2 Co 5, 17SS). The renewed condition of the sinner justified by faith and the gift of grace enables him to live in the service of justice (Rm 6.13). 



In the Bible the semantic field that encompasses this word is considerably broad. It can designate "freedom of" (autonomy or socioeconomic independence, unlike slavery; cf. P.E. is 21.2); the "freedom of" (the capacity of choice, the free discretion which concerns above all a life more or less according to the divine desire; cf. P.E. Dt 30,15-20; Si 15,14-20); or "freedom to" (like that of the young husband dispensed from the military service to devote himself to the woman and the house; cf. Dt 24.5). The liberty is anyhow always teo-centric: Is God the author and guarantor of the liberty. As a Creator puts man in a state of freedom and responsibility (Gn 2,16-17), as a Redeemer (Go´el), he pounds his people from the oppression of Egyptian slavery or Babylonian exile (cf. e.g. Ex 3.8; Is 14.3). The liberating position of Yhwh towards his people was to provoke by the Israelites a liberating attitude towards the oppressed ones (cf. P.E. Jr 34.17). But the Prophets herald a more radical liberation, the elimination of death (cf. is 25.8) and redemption for the dejected hearts (is 61,1-3). In the NT Jesus Christ is the bearer of true freedom (cf. Lc 4.1-4). He himself manifests his supreme freedom through the authority (exousia) and frankness (parrhêsia) of his teaching (cf. Mc 1.22; 8.32), but above all, according to the Fourth Gospel, in the free surrender to the death for the love of the Father and the men (cf. Jn 10.18). Jesus has the unique power to donate his life. In this is his liberty and majesty (cf. Mt 26.53; Jn 18.36). Such a prerogative christological deepens its roots in the filial intimacy of Jesus with the Father, in the love in which he remains and from which he bears witness (cf. Jn 15.9-13). The faithful will also be able to partake of the divine freedom of love without conditions, in total gratuity (cf. Lc 6, 32SS), after having been loved and forgiven first (1 Jn 4.10), liberated from sin and from fear of death (cf. Hb 2,14-15), filled by the spirit of freedom (cf. 2 Tm 1.7). 


The Church with its social doctrine teaches the value and the need for socio-political and economic freedom, but its message cannot be reduced to this type of liberation. "Freedom, brought by Christ in the Holy Spirit, has given us back the capacity, of which sin had deprived us, of loving God above all and of remaining in communion with him. We are free of the disordered love of ourselves, which is the source of the contempt of the neighbor and of the relations of dominion among the men "(CDF, Libertatis conscientiae 53). 



The AT proposes many texts in which the good works that God asks of the men are listed. Many of the works of justice are contained in the codices of holiness of the Torah (cf. Ex 19-23; Lv 17ss e Dt 12ss). 


A good summary is found in the splendid "Testament of Tobit" (cf. Tb 4, 5-19): it is exhorted to remember the Lord, to practice alms, to guard chastity, to love the brothers in humility, to give just and timely retribution, to live in sobriety and in the gene erosive towards the hungry and the naked, in the piety towards the deceased, in the constant search of the growth in the wisdom, in the continuous blessing and invocation of the Lord. It is at the heart of this admirable text where the golden rule appears: "Do not do to anyone what you do not want to be done to you" (Tb 4.15). 


The ecclesial doctrine, inspired almost to the letter in this teaching, will elaborate the doctrine of the seven works of mercy, spiritual and corporal. They are works of spiritual mercy: to instruct the ignorant, to advise the doubtful, to console the afflicted, to comfort the desolate, to forgive the enemies, to suffer with patience the annoying. They are works of bodily mercy: to feed the hungry, to give shelter to those who do not, to dress naked, to visit the sick and the prisoners, to bury the dead, to give alms to the poor (cf. CIC 2447).


The NT offers a double teaching on "works". On the one hand these are desired by God and from him they will receive the reward as deserving; on the other, the works of the law are not a guarantee of salvation, which depends solely on the divine grace revealed in Jesus Christ and fostered by faith. We will expose these two doctrinal bastions by attempting a synthesis to seek their unity.


1. The good works (kala erga) are worthy and desired by God. 

Jesus teaches his disciples to perform good deeds so that men can recognize in them the glory of God the Father (cf. Mt 5.16). For this, should be done in the purest gratuitousness, without seeking the glory of men (Mt 6.1), but only to please the Father who sees in the secret and will reward in the hereafter. With regard to this, the perspective of the "reward" (misthós) is not excluded from Jesus. Thus the tradition will interpret the evangelical invitation to hoard treasures in the sky with the alms (cf. Mt 6,19-20) and to "enrich themselves in order to God" (Lk 12.21), as an exhortation to practise good works of generosity in view of the celestial prize (1Tm 6.18). Jesus himself with his life has fulfilled a series of good works (Jn 10.32). He praises as "good work" the anointing received in the house of Bethany (Mc 14.6) and warns that the judgment will consider the works of mercy (cf. Mt 25, 32SS). The primitive community considers the good works-almost identified with the alms-as a sign of righteous conscience and of orientation to the salvation (cf. the disciple Tabita, Acts 9.36; and the Centurion Cornelius, Acts 10, 1.4). The same epistolary Paulino recommends to pursue "peace and mutual edification" (Rm 14.19). "Consider one another for the stimulation of charity and good works" (Hb 10.24). He also recalls that "faith acts for charity" (Ga 5.6). The practice of good works attests to the reliability of a person (1Tm 5.10) and is stimulated by the teaching of Sacred Scripture (2 Tm 3.16). The NT teaches that the Lord will judge each one according to his works (cf. P.E. Rm 2.6; 1 Co 3.13; AP 2, 2.19) and prospects the eternal reward as a "break" for fulfilled works (cf. AP 14.3; Hb 4.10). 


2. The works are incapable of giving salvation. 

It is known the contrast placed by Saint Paul between faith and works. Innumerable texts strongly enunciate the disproportion between the gratuitousness of the gift of God in Jesus Christ and the capacity of the human works, understood as an effort of fulfillment of the justice of the law. RM and Ga possess this leit-motiv: "Because we believe that man is justified by faith, without the works of the law" (Rm 3.28). "I want to hear from you a single thing: do you received the Spirit by the works of the law or by faith in preaching?" (Ga 3.2). "He saved us, not by the works of righteousness we would have done, but according to his mercy, through the bath of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Tt 3.5). For Paul the law teaches and prescribes the good works dear to God, but without giving the capacity to the human heart, wounded by sin, to fulfill them. Therefore she "condemns" man to the consciousness of selfishness and thus fulfils pedagogue: reveals the truth of the objective moral good and of the subjective evil intrinsic to the human heart (cf. Rm 7; Ga 3, 19SS). Only the grace of the Spirit bestowed by faith in the dead and resurrected Christ will enable the works of faith to be fulfilled. 


3. The works are the fruit and the sign of grace. 

Once accepted the Pauline doctrine of the priority of grace for the justification, it is necessary to argue that faith and grace fulfill the works and the law, without abolishing them and without opposing them (DS 1559). So good works are like the fruit of a heart renewed and uninhabited by the filial grace of the Spirit of Christ. Conversion transforms the human heart and makes it capable of giving those fruits of goodness that God expects (cf. Lc 6,44-45) and that spring from the Spirit (cf. Ga 5.22). 


Probably the fullest compendium of "synergy" between grace and works is found in these verses: "For ye have been saved by grace through faith; and this does not come from you, but it is a gift from God; nor does it come from the works (ouk ex ergôn), so that no one boast. In fact, workmanship (poiêma) of his we are: created in Christ Jesus in order to the good works (epi ergois agathois) which predisposed God to practice "(Ef 2.8-10).


Here shines at the same time the total gratuity of the salvation as a gift of grace and the indispensable fidelity due to this grace through a fruitful life in good deeds. In this perspective, Paul and Santiago can be reconciled. St exhorted: "What good, my brethren, may someone say," I have faith, "if you have no works ... Thus also the faith, if it does not have works, is really dead "(St 2, 14.17). Examples of Abraham and Raab show that already in the OT at the faith in the Lord implied in intrinsic mode the practical obedience of the works: "The faith cooperated (synergei) with the works" (St 2.22). The works externally demonstrate the inner truth of the faith: "I will prove to you by the works my faith" (St 2.18). So "man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (St 2.24). With the augustinian terminology we can say that the "first justification/first resurrection" (quoted in Rm 3.28: the passage from the death of sin to filial life) depends exclusively on the confident faith in the divine initiative (gratia praeveniens), while the "second justification/resurrection "(quoted in St 2.18: concerning salvation and eschatological retribution) is attributed to the faith that acts through charity (gratia cooperatens). 



"In its essential meaning, sin is a denial of what God is-as a creator-in relation to man and that which God wants, from the beginning and forever, to man. By creating man and woman in their image and likeness, God wanted for them the fullness of good, or the supernatural happiness that springs from participation in his life itself. Committing sin, man rejects this gift and simultaneously wants to be himself ‘as Gods, connoisseurs of good and evil´ (Gn 3.5), ie, deciding good and evil independently of God, his creator... Sin provokes the rupture of the unity originating from that which man enjoyed in the original state of justice: the union with God as the source of the inner unity of his own ´I´, in the reciprocal relationship between man and woman (communion of person), and finally, in relation to the outside world, with nature"(MD 9). Sin commonly designates the free and voluntary transgression of the order established by God (cf. 1 Jn 3.4). "Original" sin leads to the existential ignorance of the fatherhood of God, which leads to self-centeredness and submission to concupiscence. This has existential characteristics such as vulnerability, fear, loneliness, selfishness. Sin enters the world suffering, misery, death. The man in sin lives in the "flesh", abandoned to him, and forced to defend strongly the fragile life he possesses. Thus begins the submission to the concupiscence (cf. Ef 2.1-3), which reaches by propagation to all (DS 1512-1513). Sin has weakened and wounded human nature, but it has not destroyed it. Human dignity has been preserved in the free will that tends to good and persists also after sin, even if this is "attenuatum et inclinatum" (cf. Trento, DS 1521, 1525,1555). But sin, as the death of the soul, incapacitates to fulfill the good and imposes the slavery of the devil (cf. CIC 407). With the parents (cf. P.E. Origins, Ireneo) we can say that sin, without eliminating the "image" (Eikôn) of God in man, has denatured the "likeness" (Homoiôsis). Thanks to conversion and justification, man is given the possibility of "sin no more" (cf. 1 Jn 3, 6.9), that is, of not being more subjected to the tyranny of selfish passions. The Spirit thus restores the "likeness" of man to God. 


The recent magisterium underlines that together with personal sin there are also structures of sin. These "are founded on personal sin and, therefore, are always linked to concrete acts of people, who introduce them, and make it difficult to eliminate them. And so these same structures are reinforced, disseminated and are the sources of other sins, conditioning the conduct of men. ´Sin´ and ´structures of sin´ are categories that do not often apply to the situation of the contemporary world. However, we cannot easily reach a deep understanding of the reality that we have before our eyes, without naming the root of the evils that afflict us "(RP 16 = SRS 36). If the priestly mission of the Church is to forgive the sins, its prophetic mandate leads it to denounce the structure of sin, and its social mission impels it to create new structures of common good (HM, 25).



Is it the act with which he condones sin through charity, reaching so reconciliation. Forgiveness should involve these elements: understanding, atonement, and forgetfulness. Understanding recognizes that the sinner has been deceived and lost. I could not give a true forgiveness without the previous judgment of mercy, which distinguishes the sinner from sin (cf. Jn 8, 10SS) and sympathizes with the situation of sinfulness as an existential "death" (cf. Lc 15, 24.32). God forgives, because he knows the heart of man and his fallibility. By this he expects with untamed hope the conversion of the sinner (cf. Sb 11.23): thus the Father of the prodigal Son (Lc 15, 20b) becomes. Jesus on the cross prays: "Father forgive them, because they do not know what they do" (Lk 23.34). The atonement consumes the malignancy in love and can even transform the suffering suffered in intercession by the sinner. "He has been wounded by our rebelliousness, grounded by our faults. He endured the punishment that peace brings us, and with his cardinals we have been cured. All of us as sheep missed, every one marched by his way, and Yahveh discharged on him the guilt of all of us... More he prayed to Yahveh break him with ailments. If he gives himself in atonement, he sees offspring, he will lengthen his days, and whatever he pleases to Lord will be fulfilled by his hand. For the toils of his soul, he will see light, shall be satiated. For his knowledge he will justify my servant to many and the faults of them bear. That is why I will give him his part among the great and with powerful he will distribute his spoils, because helpless he gave himself to death and with the rebels was counted, when he carried the sin of many, and interceded for the rebels "(Is 53,5-6.10-12). Jesus, true servant of Yhwh and Lamb of God (cf. Jn 1.29), through his intercession of love has atoned for all our sins (cf. 1 Jn 2.2). Oblivion indicates that the heart of the one who has forgiven must be totally free from any resentment, boredom or rancor. The Lord was "cast in the back" the sins of men (is 38.17); he definitively casts the debt that weighs on sinners (cf. Mt 18.27; Col 2.14). Humanely this means having a natural disposition to forgive the faults suffered (cf. Mt 18,21-22). Forgiveness is not the fruit of effort or human endeavor, but is the work of charity, "that does not take into account evil" (1 Co 13.5). Therefore, this is possible only by the work of the Holy Spirit that forms the merciful love of Christ (Ef 4.32). 


The Church received from Christ the same divine power to forgive sins (cf. Mc 2.10). Above all, it does so through Baptism (cf. Mt 28.20), but especially with the Sacrament of Penance (cf. Jn 20.23). The Eucharist is also the festive celebration of the redeemed and the memorial of the remission of sins in the blood of Christ (cf. Mt 26.28).



Although the term person does not appear as such in the Scriptures, the notion is of Judeo-Christian matrix and encloses the essentials of biblical anthropology: it is about man as being indivisible corporeal and spiritual (corpore et anima unus, GS 14); created in the image of God, that is, endowed with intelligence, free will, and ability to relate to others and to God. The character of a person makes the man unique and unrepeatable and fills him with dignity. In fact he is the only "earth creature that God has loved for himself" (GS 24). Being God's personal love and even tri-personal, the teomorfa nature of the person makes her not be able to "perform" fully but through a sincere gift of self "(ib.). The oneness of the human person has its foundation in the oneness of the only begotten Son of God, the true and perfect image of God (cf. Col 1.15). 



Material poverty is the condition of deprivation of property, of success, of security. The OT obviously does not consider such an enviable situation, since the one prosperity is regarded as a visible sign of divine blessing (cf. Dt 15.4). The law of the Lord assured the poor (stranger, orphan, widow) the right to be judged with impartiality (cf. LV 19.10), to profit from the clusters of the crops (LV 23.22), to enjoy loans without interest (LV 25.36), to preserve a vital minimum (LV 24.12); in a word, of the generosity of the Israelites (Dt 15.11). The prophets emphasize and accentuate the demands of justice and fraternity contained in the Torah. Thus, the help of the needy is equivalent to the real fast (Is 58,6-7) and compassion to the true cult (Os 6.6). Jesus is in all the true heir of the Old Testament tradition. He emphasizes that donating to the poor lends himself to God (cf. Pr 19.17; Mt 19.21); that spiritual poverty is the righteous attitude to salvation (cf. the anawîm, of So 2.3; Mt 5.3). But both accentuations are, so to speak, connoted cristologically in the sense that Jesus himself is the true and perfect poor; he who has no place to rest his head (cf. LK 9.58); who has become poor to enrich ourselves with his filial humility (cf. 2 Co 8.9), giving all himself in mercy (Flp 2, 6SS). After Christ-byr excellence the Poor of Lord (cf. Mt 11.29)- is his mother, Mary, to whom in the NT presents as the emblem of the human poverty benefited by the divine richness: the Magnificat exalts the leaning of God on the "humility of its servant" and sings its justic that changes the fortunes: "To the hungry filled with goods and dismissed the rich with nothing" (Lk 1, 48.53). 


The victory over indigence. The ideal description of the first Christian community says: "The multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul. No one called their property, but everything was in common between them... There was not among them any needy, because all those who possessed field or houses sold them, brought the amount of the sale, and put it at the feet of the apostles, and was distributed to each according to their need "(Acts 4,32-35). It wants to document the possibility of defeating material poverty through spiritual poverty and communion. True Christian sharing depends on these conditions: the consciousness of not being able to serve at the same time God and Mamona, being the attachment to the money "root of all evils" (Mt 6.24; 1 Tm 6.10); a new lifestyle marked by sobriety (nêpsis) that knows that everything is the gift of God (cf. 1 Co 4.7), and that "we have not brought anything into the world and nothing will be able to take from it. As long as we have food and dress, we'll be happy with that "(1 Mt 6.7-8); the consciousness of being "members of one another" (Rm 12.5), and therefore of having a reciprocal debt of charity and fraternal divide (cf. RM 13.8); the certainty eschatological that what is done to the poor is done to Christ himself (cf. Mt 25, 32SS). 


The vow of poverty. Poverty is also with obedience and chastity, one of the three vows professed by those who embrace consecrated life. Testifies above all "God as true wealth of the human heart" and answers prophetically the society of consumption and opulence that cries out atrociously with the misery of so many populations. The life of the religious will therefore tend to "preferential love for the poor, and manifest itself in a special way in sharing the living conditions of the most disinherited" (VC 90).



It is about the evolution and the growth of the knowledge, the techniques and the capacities of man. Criterion of real progress is it integral development of the person. The progress of science and technology, which had no account of the primacy of the human person and his dignity, would contradict the true development: "Both basic scientific research and applied research constitute a significant expression of the man's dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when they are put to the service of man and promote their integral development for the benefit of all; however, they alone cannot indicate the meaning of existence and human progress. Science and technology are ordained to man, who has given them origin and growth; they have therefore in the person and in their moral values the sense of their purpose and the consciousness of their limits"(CIC 2293). It will be noted that it is necessary to protect itself from a naïve optimism about human progress, as a pessimism about the destructive capacities that modern technology has made available to the human race (armaments, genetics manipulations, prenatal diagnosis...); more than ever, there is a healthy critique of progress that will lead man to his just placement of "Master Vicar of God" on earth (cf. Gn 1,26-28; 2.25). The lordship enjoyed by the legitimate man the operosity and the technical-scientific inventiveness; his vicarious with respect to God safeguards him from the idolatrous temptation of omnipotence. The earth and nature have been entrusted to man by the Creator, to dominate them, cultivate them and gain profit, but they are not a repository of potentialities that must be exploited in a foolish way. 


The healthy progress has its right means between the technicality (which absolutizes the human power and reduces in gross matter to the subhuman world) and the environmentalism (which absolutizes the nature and answers the superiority of the man). 


We note, in short, that the very idea of progress owes much to the theological conception of time, taken from the biblical notion of the history of salvation. But progress is an immanent reality, even though eschatological hope is of transcendent and meta-historical order. "But the expectation of a new land must not weaken, but rather stir up the concern to cultivate this land, where the body of the new human family grows, which can already offer a certain outline of the new century. Therefore, although we must carefully distinguish progress from the growth of the Kingdom of Christ, however, the first, to the extent that it can contribute to better ordering of human society, is very interested in the Kingdom of God "(GS 39 = CIC 1049). 



In the Bible is the fellow citizen, the neighbor, the one who specifically shares the existence. In the precept of Lv 19.17 it is equivalent to a member of the Hebraic people. Although there is a widening of love for others. There are also duties of justice and human solidarity towards the outsider (cf. ex 22.10) and even towards the enemy (cf. ex 23.4). Prophetic and wisdomic reading develops the consciousness of belonging to a single human genus (cf. Sb 11.23; Mal 2.10). But it is with the NT that the full universalization of love to others is fulfilled. Jesus, not only does his ancient commandment, but binds him directly to the greatest precept of God's love (cf. Mc 12,28-31). He not only ratifies the golden rule of not doing to others what one does not want them to do (cf. Tb 4.15; Rm 13.8-10), but it changes it to the positive, asking others what it wants for itself (cf. Mt 7.12). The recipients of this commandment are not only the fellow citizens, but all men indistinctly (anthrôpoi). The parable of the Good Samaritan is the most emblematic text of this universalism (Lc 10,29-37). True love for others is to approach him and help the needy, leaving aside any other religious or ethnic considerations. Indeed, the stranger who has become a neighbor of humanity, who dies, is no other than the Lord Jesus himself. He has been the first to demonstrate that one cannot love the invisible God without loving the brother (cf. 1 Jn 4.20).



In the at the material prosperity represents a divine blessing (cf. P.E. Dt 28.12). There is the consciousness that everything, wealth and poverty, comes from the Lord (Si 11.14). Wealth is good when it is the fruit of the fear of God (Sal 25,12-13) and destined to exercise beneficence (Sal 112.5). Otherwise, abundance hinders the heart, making it foolish and proud (Sal 49.13; Ez 28.5). Biblical wisdom leads to asking God to possess the righteous: what is enough to be thankful to the Lord and not to resort to robbery (Pr 30,8-9). But true prosperity is in wisdom, in the love of God and in the observance of his Torah, which is worth more than "a thousand pieces of gold and silver" (cf. P.E. Sal 119.72; Sb 7.11). Christian teaching is in continuity with the First Testament. Jesus often stigmatizes the danger of the riches that impede entering the Kingdom (cf. Mt 19.23), who stun the heart, close it to the hope of providence, blind it to the true wealth that is obtained through alms and charity and make it numb suffering neighbor (cf. Lc 12,15-34; 16, 19SS). In the Third Gospel lies a theology of the redemption of material wealth through charity: the faithful is called to "enrich himself in order of God" (Lk 12.21); to become friends with the money used with a liberality without prejudice (LK 16.9). The perspective is always that of "eternal life in the coming world" (Lk 18.30). It is understood that in Christianity the perspective is not demonized, but must be integrated in the search for true and eternal wealth, which the lamb has inherited (cf. 1 Tm 6,17-19; Ap 5.12). The more you believe in the eternal reward, the more you live with sobriety, justice and true peace on this earth. 



This is the recovery of a bond of friendship or alliance that had been lost because of the sin or betrayal of one of the parties. Specifically, restoring a broken relationship usually happens by asking and giving the forgiveness. In the NT (above all in Pauline theology) reconciliation implies three levels: with God, with himself, with others and with the world. The first reconciliation concerns the relationship between humanity and God. It takes the initiative of peacemaking and performs it through Jesus Christ, in which God condemns sin and justifies sinners (2 Co 5,18-21). Reconciliation is therefore tantamount to justification and peace with God (cf. Rm 5, 1s). From the moment Christ dies on the Cross, God no longer sees humanity as sinful and disobedient, but only the man Jesus who in the name of all mankind fulfills the act of obedience and perfect love. His yes has covered and swallowed all the non-sinners (cf. 1 co 15.54; 2 Co 1.20). The personal dimension of reconciliation consists in the fact of making received, after the forgiveness of sins, not "a spirit of slaves to relapse into fear", but "a spirit of adoptive children that makes us exclaim Abba, Father! The spirit itself joins our spirit to testify that we are children of God "(Rm 8,15-16); "For the Lord did not give us a spirit of shyness, but of fortitude" (2 Tm 1.7). The true reconciliation of man with himself is given in the discovery of his own filial identity with respect to God. Adoption, salvation and reconciliation fit. But reconciliation also has a "horizontal" and cosmic dimension. Through Jesus ended the ancient order that established the enmity between Jews and Gentiles. The sacrifice of Christ abates every "wall of separation"; the love extended over the cross nullifies any division between humans (cf. Ef 2.14; Ga 3.28). The peace obtained through the "blood of his cross" (Col 1.20) extends to the whole universe. In this new "eone", which the Church anticipates as mundus reconciliatus (Augustine), one can enter "being reconciled with God", welcoming the Gospel which is the "word of reconciliation" (2 Co 5.20, evangelization). Jesus indicates the reconciliation with the adversary as a priority condition to appear before the Altar of God (Mt 5.24). It seals the recovery of communion through forgiveness and therefore it is as such, a pleasing sacrifice to the Father (cf. Mt 9.13; Os 6.6).



Is the term with which the action and the fruit of the work are designated release of reconciliation fulfilled by God through Jesus Christ and communicated through the Holy Spirit. "Salvation in Christ, attested and heralded by the Church, is God's self-communication: ´is love, which not only creates good, but instead engages in the very life of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Indeed, he who loves wishes to give himself ´"(RM 7). Christ himself, as he is personally an alliance between God and humanity, can be called "salvation" (cf. Lc 2.30; 1 Co 1.30). With Vatican Council II we can define salvation as "the intimate union with God and the unity of all mankind" (LG 1). Salvation was tied to the divine justice, which waged the oppressed and introduced them into their covenant. In the NT Jesus presents himself as the scatological Savior, come to rid mankind of all forms of evil (cf. Lc 4,18-21; Acts 10.38). The numerous miracles and physical cures he performs are signs of his saving power that involves both the spirit and the body (cf. Mc 2.1-12). Salvation will consist, in effect, in the deliverance of sin and death. Jesus Christ has defeated the first with his cross and the second with his resurrection.  Salvation is achieved through conversion, aroused by the Evangelization. Salvation is, at the same time, immanent and eschatological. As a reality this indicates the life of filial communion with God and fraternal with others, in peace, joy and love: it is the Kingdom that begins on earth (cf. Rm 14.17). As an ultraterrestrial dimension, it indicates the fullness of the Kingdom: communion in glory, eternal inheritance, the joy of paradise, the glorious resurrection of the body (cf., P.E., Mt 19.29; 25.34; Rm 8,23-24). 


The Catholic Church has all the means for salvation (cf. LG 8, UR 3): all revelation through the Word of God (the Scriptures read with the living tradition); the Sacraments; the concrete bonds of communion of ecclesial life. 



It is the moral and social virtue which, born from the consciousness of interdependence and co-responsibility between men and nations, is carried out in the "firm and persevering determination of striving for the common good; that is to say, for the sake of each and every one, that we may all be truly responsible for all "(SRS 38). Does solidarity imply, in itself, the demand for justice. Natural foundation of solidarity is it universal fraternity and the common origin of the human race in God Creator; the Christians perceive the divine vocation of each man and in the redemption acted by Christ, the motive of exerting solidarity as a form of charity: "The principle of solidarity, also designated by the name of ´friendship´ or of ´social charity´, is a direct requirement from the human and Christian fraternity." "The law of human solidarity and charity" has a natural foundation" in the community of origin and in the equality of the reasonable nature, proper of all men" and one supernatural, in the "sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross ... in favor of sinful humanity" (CIC 1939). Should there also be solidarity among nations that looks to "end ´the perverse mechanisms´ that hinder "development of less advanced countries" (CIC 2437-2438).



Suffering and pain are a dimension of earthly existence that radically interrogates the heart of man. What's the point of suffering? From this question the most varied responses have been determined. The most traditional way to talk about pain is to refer to its cause: sin (cf. Gn 3,16-19). But the AT himself perceives that one cannot put "sic et simpliciter" a causal link between sin and suffering of the person. 

There is the drama of innocent suffering. The figure of Job represents the most daring answer of the classics and cautious Teodiceas, for which pain is the righteous punishment of guilt. The book of the AT is interrupted with the affirmation of the necessary silence before a indecipherable mystery (cf. Jb 38-42). The NT respects this reserve: "Jesus does not explain the suffering, but fills it with his presence" (Claudel). Christ spent his life benefiting and healing all those who suffer (cf. acts 10.38), in the body and in the spirit. In the face of suffering it is like the one who wishes to alleviate it (cf. Lc 4.1-4). He, too, as Job, does not attribute physical pain to personal guilt. The only positive value of suffering is to offer man the opportunity to become (cf. Lc 13.1-5) and God to fulfill his works (cf. Jn 9.3). In the Apostolic Letter Salvifici Dolores, John Paul II has investigated the Christian meaning of human pain. He sees in Jesus Christ the victory of love over suffering: "In his suffering sins are erased precisely because he alone, as an only begotten Son, could carry them upon himself, to assume them with that love towards the Father who surpasses the evil of all sin; in a certain sense annihilates this evil in the spiritual realm of the relations between God and humanity, and fills this space with good" (SD 17). Christians can partake of the sufferings of Christ (19-24), since "The Cross of Christ has not only fulfilled redemption, through suffering, but the same human suffering has been redeemed" (SD 19). At Calvary, the Son of God became "Man of Sorrows" (cf. Is 53) and, in the cry of extreme abandonment (Mt 27.46), was tested in all to be able to share the fate of the last of the men who suffer (cf. Hb 2.18). In such a way, Jesus has taken the last position, that no one will ever take it off (Charles de Foucauld). From that moment suffering has been, so to speak.

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