"Evangelization and integral human development -- the development of every person and of the whole person -- are intimately linked," the Holy Father said today as he explained the true meaning of social liberation brought by the Gospel.
"Pursuing the saving purpose which is proper to her, the Church not only communicates divine life to people but in some way casts the reflected light of that life over the entire earth, most of all by its healing and elevating impact on the dignity of the person," John Paul II said, when he met with a second group of Nigerian bishops in their quinquennial "ad limina" visit to Rome.
"Thus through her individual members and her whole community, the Church believes she can contribute greatly towards making the family of man and its history more human," the Pope stressed.
"Precisely because people have been endowed with this extraordinary dignity they should not be reduced to living in subhuman social, economic, cultural or political conditions," the Bishop of Rome emphasized.
"This is the theological basis of the struggle for the defense of justice and social peace, for the promotion, liberation and integral human development of all people and of every individual," he explained.
"This connection between evangelization and human development explains the Church´s presence in the social sphere, in the arena of public and social life," the Pope added. "Following the example of her Lord, she exercises her prophetic role on behalf of all people, especially the poor, the suffering, the defenseless."
Thus the Church "becomes the voice of the voiceless, insisting that the dignity of the human person should always be at the center of local, national and international programs," the Holy Father added.
As a result, the Church "challenges the consciences of heads of state and those responsible for the public domain to guarantee ever more the liberation and development of their peoples," the Pontiff clarified.
"Proclamation of the Good News, therefore, involves the promotion of initiatives that contribute to the development and ennoblement of people in their spiritual and material existence," he continued.
"It also denounces and combats all that degrades or destroys the human person," he said.
Quoting from No. 41 of his 1987 encyclical "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," he added that "condemnation of evils and injustices is also part of that ministry of evangelization in the social field which is an aspect of the Church´s prophetic role. But it should be made clear that proclamation is always more important than condemnation."