By Philippa Hitchen
Catholic social teaching is, by its nature, “a work in progress” that must be constantly in dialogue with political and economic policy makers.
That was a key message to emerge from a press conference on Wednesday marking the 25th anniversary of the ‘Centesimus Annus’ foundation, set up by Pope John Paul II to promote greater understanding and engagement with the Church’s social teaching.
The foundation is currently preparing for an international conference in Rome, from May 24th to 26th on the theme of ‘New Policies and Life-Styles in the Digital Age’. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st will give a concluding address on the theme of ‘A common Christian agenda for the Common Good’.
One of the speakers at the press conference was the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who, as a former official of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council, was involved with the preparation of Pope John Paul’s 1991 encyclical ‘Centesimus Annus’.
He reflected on some of the global challenges that have emerged since the foundation was set up, including the growth of economic inequality and increased levels of corruption.
Archbishop Martin talked to Vatican News about the changing focus of the foundation over the past quarter of a century, saying he believes we “misread the situation at the end of the cold war”.
Need for deeper reflection on economic challenges
He said “we were too optimistic” about the possibilities for economic growth and “we didn’t realise how the fabric of society in many former communist countries was disintegrated”. Many of the current problems of corruption started to emerge at that time, he said, with the trade in arms, drugs and people trafficking.
Archbishop Martin spoke about the need for a “rigid reflection” on dialogue between social sciences and Catholic social teaching, underlining the responsibility of universities to form young people and indicate “pathways of application”.
Family life and the economy
In a large city like Dublin, he said problems of “new poverty” are evident, alongside problems linked with family breakdown.
He said he hoped the forthcoming World Meeting of Families in Dublin would explore questions relating to family life and the economy. While people tend to think of families in an ideological or abstract way, he said, we have to see how family life is connected across society to challenges of homelessness, refugees, or prison ministry.
World Meeting of Families
Asked about preparations for World Meeting of families, Archbishop Martin said: “Big events have big challenges, and there a s new one every day!”
Commenting on the papal visit to Ireland for the event, he said “The programme isn’t definitive yet, but the Pope is coming to Dublin for the WMF, that was always his intention. This pope has a different style of visits than his predecessors, and I think everything will work out well”.