Cardinal Poupard on "Populorum Progressio"

"Lack of Education Is As Serious As Lack of Food"

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ROME, NOV. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a speech delivered by Cardinal Paul Poupard, retired president of the Pontifical Councils of Culture and Interreligious Dialogue, titled "'Populorum Progressio': Education for Development."



The speech was given Oct. 29 at the Patristic Augustinianum Institute during an event organized by the Society of Jesus' Commission for Social Communications, which presented the "Give 1, Get 1" initiative of the One Laptop per Child Project.

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1. At the invitation of the Secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Society of Jesus, Father Thomas Rochford, I am pleased to be here to speak about the encyclical letter "Populorum Progressio," whose fortieth anniversary we are celebrating this year. Previously Father Rochford has approached me regarding the Nexus Mundi Foundation, which I know some of you are familiar with. Today, instead, we are here to hear about another project: Nicholas Negroponte's project One Child One Laptop. To all of you my cordial salutations.

Paul VI's encyclical on the development of peoples contained two great affirmations, one in the introduction, "the social question ties all men together", and the other in the conclusion "Development is the New Name for Peace". Between them Papa Montini articulated a solemn call to "urge all men to pool their ideas and their activities for man's complete development and the development of all mankind" (§ 5). Our reflection on this encyclical -- taken largely from my recent publication "Populorum progressio tra ricordi e speranze" -- aims to continue its message within today's conference, resurrecting the spirit of hope and confidence for the integral development of each individual in an atmosphere of fraternal concern, the central thrust of the encyclical.

2. I was a young collaborator in the Secretariat of State of Pope Paul VI when he himself asked me to present his encyclical letter "Populorum Progressio" at the Press Room of the Holy See. It was my first press conference, and so you can imagine what an emotional occasion it was for me! And not only for me, there was great expectation among the bishops, the clergy, religious men and women, and lay people, and also further afield among men and women of goodwill who saw this occasion as the next great moment in the pastoral care of the Catholic Church for the contemporary world. Indeed, some journalists measured the arc of time in terms of the Second Vatican Council document "Gaudium et Spes," John XXIII's "Pacem in Terris" and now this new encyclical of Paul VI, whose publication date was adjusted to Tuesday of Easter Week, due to the great amount of interest. In fact, the document did have other precursors in Leo XIII's encyclical "Rerum Novarum," Pius XI's encyclical "Quadragesimo Anno," Pius XII's radio messages to the world, and John XXIII's "Mater et Magistra." And let us not forget too that since then we have had "Laborem Exercens," and "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis." But by far the most dramatic document, for its timing, insight, and sense of occasion, was Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio."

3. When the encyclical was conceived, we were living through times of great ferment. The third world had made its voice heard through their bishops at the Second Vatican Council, right at the heart of the Church, which had opened itself to the world, wishing to be as leaven in the bread, to nourish and sustain the world in transformation, a world which was increasingly multicultural and multiracial, a world inebriated by its technological progress and facing the nuclear threat, a world in which east and west, north and south were in ever closer contact. A world that had become socialised.

The 1960s would see Kennedy and Khrushcev, Chairman Mao and President Johnson, and then that cultural, social and political movement in the Springtime of Prague and the student revolutions across the world, notably in California, Paris and Turin. A cultural revolution which expelled age-old institutions and educational models, opening the door to new challenges and opportunities; an ambience in which customs, mindsets, and ways of life would change, the very fabric of culture transformed as people sought a society less authoritarian and free. Religious, political and civil authority changed its nature, and the bizarre slogan became the new gospel "interdit d'interdire", "no banning allowed". While the intentions of the student movement were to replace the old institutions with a more humane society, what actually happened was the creation of a void which would be filled by economic promoters eager to make material gain; publicity and marketing became the new truth, particularly with the rise of television, and man became closed in on himself, or as my friend the poet Pierre Emmanuel put it, we became "ontologically distracted." It was a world living for the here and now. The Second World War had been forgotten, economic prosperity had brought great distractions; Europeans had forgotten the meaning of hunger, fear, and, what is worse, had closed their eyes, minds and hearts to the downtrodden, the poor and the weak.

4. It was with courage that Paul VI spoke to men and women ensnared in this endless series of distractions -- "divertissements" as Pascal put it. The Pope spoke not out of opportunity, but out of necessity. The populations of the world had become in one way nearer, but at the same time less familiar with each other. He sought to recover the meaning and duty of fraternity. He appealed not just for economic progress, but for a fraternal progress. And he did so with an urgency, for it was no longer the case of just the poor man, Lazarus holding out his hand not to receive any crumbs. Now it is was not just Lazarus, but entire multitudes of peoples who were hungry, illiterate, and on the verge of war. And the response needed was to be built not on the basis of an ideal, but in the concrete reality of what it means to be truly human, underlining what it means to recognise the poor as brothers, to be solidaritous, to seek development for the poor for the sake of all.

5. Historians will have an easy task in examining the preparations of the encyclical, for there are volumes of notes and dossiers in the Vatican archives[1]. But the spirit of love that drove the preparations, an essential characteristic of Pope Paul VI himself, is already clear for all to see. When I presented the document I had this to say...

"It is a letter, not a tract, nor a course, nor an erudite article; but a letter, and so it is inspired by Christian love. So it aims to resolve and energise, bringing the attention of the Church and the world's public opinion to the issues discussed therein, to offer human and scientific solutions, able to define the thought of the Church in this field and to help the world think along these lines of thought."

As with our current Pontiff, Benedict, love was a theme of the Pope from Brescia. In his first message to the human family, titled "Qui fausto Die", no sooner had he announced the continuation of the Council than he signalled another principal aim of his PontifIcate, and I quote,

"The unequivocal order of love of neighbour, the proof of the love of God, demands from all men a more equitable solution of the social problems; it demands provisions and cures for developing countries, where often the standard of life is not worthy of the human person; it imposes a global study to improve the conditions of life. This new era, which has been opened to humanity through the conquests of space, will be blessed by the Lord if men learn how to recognise each other as brothers not competitors, to build a world order in holy reverence of God, respecting his Law, in the sweet light of charity and mutual collaboration."

From its beginning to its end, "Populorum Progressio" is aimed at action inspired by love. There is also an adoption of the threefold method dear to Catholic Action: "voir -- juger -- agir." Having noticed the "immediate misery" (n.9), the "growing unbalance" (n.8), "the scandal of clamourous inequality" (n.9), Paul VI offered a new standard for growth: the transcendent humanism which the person achieves by being inserted into Christ is the ultimate goal of development, and the "integral development of the individual necessarily entails a joint effort for the development of the human race as a whole" (n. 43). Hence the call for action, to mutual solidarity, to work for social justice, a promotion of universal charity, dialogue between nations, equity in trade relations, the creation of a fund for relief of impoverished peoples, and a renewed sense of hope for the future.

6. In "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," John Paul II underlined some nodes of our encyclical, especially its theme, development, which needs to be seen not only as a term of social and economic sciences, but primarily in its ethical, cultural and spiritual dimensions; and he noted how it opened the "social question" to a wider scale, not just geographically or globally, but in its human dimension as a moral question, with the duty of solidarity -- dutiful today as it was 40 years ago tying development to universal interdependence. This meant there was a reappraisal of the meaning of development, which is now seen in its fraternal and universal dimension for the whole of each and every person; it cannot be built on National or individual egoisms or restricted to mere material gain. Economic issues can no longer be considered without the full dimension of the human person, for the economy exists for man, through man and in man. No one, no people, no culture, no aspect of the human person can be excluded from it. In speaking with such realism and offering a message of hope founded on Revelation -- Paul VI's was a call for a programme of economic stability, moral dignity, education, and universal collaboration between nations, reminding the men and women of the world of the serious and urgent duty of promoting an international social justice.

7. While Paul VI's words were prophetic, it is sad to see how little the situation changed. Despite industrial and economic growth, humanity still suffers. War, poverty, both material and spiritual, and misery remain. Yet Paul VI's views on development as the pathway to peace, have become recognised as a valid and fundamental therapy. His is a form of development worthy of the name, bringing it to each and every person, and in every aspect of their humanity.

Within this new vision of development -- and here I conclude for today's conference -- Pope Paul VI gave priority of place to education. Let us hear his words as I quote from number 35:

"We can even say that economic growth is dependent on social progress, the goal to which it aspires; and that basic education is the first objective for any nation seeking to develop itself. Lack of education is as serious as lack of food; the illiterate is a starved spirit. When someone learns how to read and write, he is equipped to do a job and to shoulder a profession, to develop self confidence and realize that he can progress along with others" ("Populorum Progressio," 35).

And again at number 76, under the magisterial title Development is the new name for peace he warns of the urgency of this need:

"Extreme disparity between nations in economic, social and educational levels provokes jealousy and discord, often putting peace in jeopardy." ("Populorum Progressio," 76).

To that prophetic voice of Paul VI we still have a duty to listen and to respond. Let us do so with urgency and with care, lest we be accused with the words I heard drastically at the time of the publication of "Populorum Progressio" from the mouth of someone from the developing world. I remember his piercing accusation only too well. He said, "You have kept Christ for yourself, and left us only with the cross".

Thank you for your time.

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[1] The document itself mentions the Holy Father's collaborators in reading the signs of the times and, with the pastoral gaze of a shepherd, expert in humanity thanks to the perspective of Revelation, setting out priorities for a strategic response. They were Jacques Maritain, Colin Clark, Von N ell-Breuning, Mons Larrain, Fr De Lubac, and Maurice Zundel. I will never forget Fr Lebret Indeed, Earlier this month I was able to give a talk in the distinctive Abbaye Saint Jacut de la Mer which was the home of Pere Lebret It was his work that helped to shape the future encyclical, particularly his 1963 dossier titled: "Sur Ie developpement economique, social, moral- Materiel d'etude pour une encyclique sur les principes moraux du developpement humain." For justice's sake I might also mention Francois Perroux, a regular visitor to Papa Montini. His thought and work notably influenced the encyclical. Indeed he was so upset at not being mentioned in the footnotes that he came to remonstrate with me: a fact which caused some consternation up in the Third Loggia due to his deafness and tendency to speak very, very loudly.