Cardinal Michael Czerny from Geermany has said that the Church’s evangelism on the poor has never been ideological propaganda.
He made the remarks on Friday during a conference organized for the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Propaganda Fide, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (now known as Dicastery for the Evangelization) by the International Institute for Missiological Research (IIMF) and by the Journal of Missiology and Religious Studies (ZMR).
“The preferential option for the poor is neither ideological nor does it correspond to a political vision of the Church, it is instead a choice born of the encounter with Christ”.
Cardinal Michael Czerny stated this point in a lecture he held on Friday in Mainz, Germany, on “Evangelization and Integral Human Development”. “The Church received from Jesus the mission to leaven social life with the leaven of the Gospel”, he said.
In his long keynote speech ardinal Czerny recalled that the Church’s social teaching developped as an organic understanding of the dramatic social challenges of the Industrial Revolution from the reflection and social commitment of many lay Catholics who started the so-called “Catholic Movement” in the 19th century.
From the ‘Rerum Novarum’ to the ‘Gaudium et Spes’
This commitment bore fruit in the social encyclicals of the Popes of the 19th and 20th centuries, namely the ‘Rerum Novarum on Capital and Labour’ of Leo XIII (1891), and the ‘Quadragesimo Anno on Reconstruction of the Social Order’ by Pius XI (1931), which were incorporated by the Second Vatican Council, and in particular in the 1965 Pastoral Constitution ‘Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World’.
At the heart of this milestone document – he explained – is the idea that that the Church “can and ought to be enriched by the development of human social life” and that the “preaching of the Gospel entails a resolute commitment to human advancement and the defence of human dignity”.
From ‘Evangelii Nuntiandi’ to ‘Fratelli Tutti’
Cardinal Czerny went on to explain how these ideas were further developed by the papal documents that ensued: Pope Paul VI’s ‘Evangelii nuntiandi’ (1965) and ‘Populorum Progressio on the Development of Peoples’’ (1967) point out that true development is inseparable from the “higher values of love, friendship, prayer and contemplation”.
In ‘Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987), Pope St. John Paul II deepens this concept of development saying that the increase in wealth and of the production of material goods does not mean real growth if it implies that people and nations ignore the suffering of the weakest or, worse, leave them the “costs” of their increased in prosperity.
Benedict XVI in ‘Caritas in Veritate on Integral Human Developmen in Charity ìand Truth’’ (2009) calls for greater cooperation between the market, states and civil society in order to ensure a redistribution of wealth and to strengthen the “logic of gift”.
The Prefect continued his lecture with an in-depth analysis of Pope Francis’ social Magisterium and his reiterated criticism of today’s “technocratic paradigm” and “throw-away society”.
He focused in particular on his Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World’ (2013), and his two Encyclicals ‘Laudato Sì: On Care for Our Common Home’ (2015) and ‘Fratelli Tutti on Fraternity and Social Friendship’ (2020).
Concluding, Cardinal Czerny summarized his lecture with the words of the Early Church Father John Chrysostom: “If you do not find God in the stranger, in the refugee, in the poor, you will not find him in the Eucharist either”.