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2019.06.28 Cardinal Peter Turkson Immagine per la presentazione alla Conferenza internazionale del lavoro a Ginevra. 2019.06.28 Cardinal Peter Turkson Immagine per la presentazione alla Conferenza internazionale del lavoro a Ginevra. 

Cardinal Turkson: the impact of “Caritas in veritate” after ten years

Ahead of a seminar on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in veritate”, Cardinal Peter Turkson looks at the impact of the document in the areas of ecology and integral human development.

By Vatican News

Ten years ago, Pope Benedict XVI published his third and final encyclical, Caritas in veritate, on “integral human development in charity and truth”. To mark the occasion, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has organized a seminar on the “theory and praxis of development”, which is taking place on Tuesday in the Vatican.

Ahead of the seminar, the Prefect for the Dicastery, Cardinal Peter Turkson, offered his reflections on the impact of Caritas in veritate, especially in the fields of “ecology” and “integral human development”.

Here is the full text of Cardinal Turkson’s presentation:

The Presentation of the Impact of Caritas in veritate!

Presently and in the light of the two urgent challenges facing the human family and its home, the earth, namely, the ecological challenge of global warming and climate change and the socio-economic challenge of gaping inequalities in an economic and development systems that extol maximization of profit over the wellbeing of the person, one may describe two principal areas in which the Encyclical Letter, Caritas in veritate, has made a big impact. These are the areas of “ecology” and “integral human development.”   

Firstly, Caritas in veritate and the evolution of the Concept of Integral Ecology:

Introduced first, as “natural ecology”, into the Church’s social teaching by St. Pope Paul VI (Populorum progressio), the concept of ecology was further applied to human life, as human ecology, and to the world of labour, as social ecology, in the magisterial teaching of  St. Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI further deepened and broadened the application of the concept to the social life of the human family and to peace; wherefore one identifies now “an integral ecology” in the social teaching of the Church, as consisting of natural ecology, human ecology, social ecology and an ecology of peace. Pope Benedict XVI dedicated an entire chapter (4) to the issue of the environment and human existence: “The Development of Peoples, Rights and Duties, The Environment,” because “the way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.”[1]

There is, therefore, an inseparable relationship between human life and the natural environment which supports it as “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”.[2] This bond between man and his world paved the way for the very famous teaching of Pope Benedict XVI that the Book of Nature is one and indivisible, and that it includes not only the environment, but also individuals, family and social ethics. As he goes on to teach, “our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person.[3] Thus, the “decisive issue” in the relationship between man and his world: between natural and human ecology, “is the moral tenor of society”.[4] Wherefore the redemption of man implies the redemption of creation which groans (Rom 8:22-24).

It is this final expansion of the concept of “ecology” by Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in veritate which prepares for references to an “integral ecology” and the inter-connectedness and the inter-relatedness of everything in the writings of Pope Francis.

Secondly, Caritas in veritate and the sense of Integral Human Development:

The recognition that the development of the human person needs to be truly human, complete and whole was first made by St. Pope John XXIII (Mater et Magistra). With that recognition, he introduced into the Church’s social teaching the new concept of “integral human development” which did inspire the Fathers of Vatican Council II to speak about the  “whole (integral) development” of the person and his “integral vocation”, to which culture must be subordinated (Gaudium et spes). After Vatican Council II and in the light of decolonization and the emergence of new national states in the developing world, St. Pope Paul VI defined the “integral human development” of people  as not consisting merely in material and economic growth. For Paul VI, “integral human development” refers to the solidary development of people, which is rooted in transcendental humanism, because it places at its centre the true meaning of human life and cultivates the social meaning of brotherhood between people. Thus overcoming mistrust and fear between people and nurturing the value of solidarity, integral human development engenders peace and becomes the “new name of peace.”

Thus between the Pope who opened Vatican Council II and the Pope who concluded it a new idea about the development of persons is born, which will be developed in the subsequent pontificates of St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to become the name of a Dicastery of the Roman Curia under Pope Francis, thus re-affirming human development as a central concern and mission of the Church (Sollicitudo rei socialis, 1).

Identifying “integral human development” with the realization of the dignity of people, St. Pope John Paul II taught that such development must be inclusive: “it should be obvious that development either becomes shared in common by every part of the world or it undergoes a process of regression even in zones marked by constant progress. This tells us a great deal about the nature of authentic development: either all the nations of the world participate, or it will not be true development.” (SRS, 17)

Forty years after Pope Paul VI’s Populorum progressio and against the background of  declarations against poverty and hunger, exploitation, issues of environment, globalization and planetary inter-dependence, new means of communication, increasing inability of politics and national governments  to deal with global powers, the financial crisis etc., Pope Benedict XVI  revisited the subject of “human development” in Populorum progressio and its rooting in a transcendental humanism and the brotherhood of the human family. For Pope Benedict “development” is always “human development”; therefore,  “social issues” are essentially “anthropological issues” (CIV, 75). They concern “the truth about the human person.” Such truth about the human person is related to the truth of Christ, God’s love for man, which is the “principal driving force behind authentic human development,” and which opens the lives of people to gift and makes it possible for them to hope for a “development of the whole man and of all men.” In this sense Pope Benedict XVI calls human development, a “vocation”: a drive within a person to act for the common good and not only for personal interest. It is a drive for solidarity, as an expression of the nature of man as a “relational being,” rooted in the very life of God and lived out in fraternity. Otherwise, “development” does not achieve its aim. In this sense, globalization should not be experienced as mere closeness and neighbourliness, fashioned by the elimination of distances of separation through modern means of communication. Globalization should make our inter-connectedness fraternal, making no room for exclusion and leaving no one on the periphery.

So globalization is not merely a social and an economic phenomenon, to serve the market and economy; it is a call for a new way of thinking about the human person as called to live a life of love and solidarity in service to others for their wellbeing, which is their development!

Herein lies a fundamental Christian directive and guiding principle for all development initiatives and activities which seek to be truly human and integral!


[1] Caritas in veritate, (2009) §51.

[2] Caritas in veritate, §50; cf. Message, World Day of Peace 2008, §7.

[3]  Caritas in veritatis, §51. Cf. too,  World Day of peace Message (2010).

[4] Idem. 

03 December 2019, 09:32