Bishop Braxton Hears Pope Francis on 50th Anniversary of Encyclical

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for the invitation and your welcome. I thank you for your presence and for your activity in human promotion and the common good. I thank Cardinal Turkson for his words of greeting and for having started, not without effort, the new Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development. It has been a model to follow, in peace, creativity, consultations, truly a model of ecclesial construction: thank you, Eminence.

You are gathered in this International Congress because the birth of the new Dicastery coincides significantly with the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s Encyclical Populorum Progressio. In that encyclical, he specified in detail the meaning of “integral development (cf. n. 21), and he proposed that synthetic and fortunate formula: “development of every man and of the whole man” (n. 14).

What does integral development mean today and in the near future, namely, the development of every man and of the whole man? In the wake of Paul VI, perhaps in fact in the verb integrate – so dear to me – we can identify a fundamental orientation for the new Dicastery. Let us see together some aspects.

It is about integrating different peoples of the earth. The duty of solidarity obliges us to seek just ways of sharing, so that there is not that dramatic inequality between those that have too much and those that have nothing, between those that discard and those that are discarded. Only the way of integration between peoples enables humanity to have a future of peace and hope.

It is about offering practical models of social integration. Everyone has a contribution to make to the whole of society, all have a peculiarity that might help to live together, no one is excluded from contributing something to the good of all. This is at the same time a right and a duty. It is the principle of subsidiarity that guarantees the necessity of everyone’s contribution, be it as individuals or as groups, if we wish to create a human coexistence open to all.

Moreover, it is about integrating in development all those elements that truly render it so. The different systems: economy, finance, work, culture, family life, religion, each one is in its specificity an indispensable moment of this growth. None of them can be absolutized and none of them can be excluded from a conception of integral human development that takes account <of the fact> that human life is like an orchestra that sounds well if the different instruments are in accord and follow a score shared by all.

It is also about integrating the individual and communal dimension. It is undeniable that we are children of a culture, at least in the West, that has exalted the individual to the point of making him an island, almost as if one can be happy on one’s own. On the other hand, ideological visions and political powers are not lacking that have squeezed the person out, they have standarized him and deprived him of that freedom without which man no longer feels himself man. Interested also in such standarization are economic powers that wish to exploit globalization, instead of fostering greater sharing among men, simply to impose a global market of which they themselves dictate the rules and draw the profits. The I and the community are not concurrent between them, but the I can only mature in the presence of genuine inter-personal relations and the community is generator when they are all and individually its components. This is even truer for the family, which is the first cell of society and in which one learns to live together.

Finally, it is about integrating body and soul. Already Paul VI wrote that development is not reduced to simple economic growth (cf. n. 14); development does not consist in having ever more goods available, for material wellbeing alone. To integrate body and soul also means that no endeavor of development can truly achieve its purpose if it does not respect the place in which God is present in us and speaks to our heart.

God made himself known fully in Jesus Christ: in Him, God and man are not divided and separated between them. God became man to make of human life, be it personal or social, a concrete way of salvation. Thus God’s manifestation in Christ – including His gestures of healing, liberation, reconciliation that we are called to propose again today to the many wounded on the side of the road – indicates the path and the way of the service that the Church intends to offer the world: in its light one can understand what “integral” development means, which does no wrong to God or to man, because it assumes all the consistency of both.

In this connection, in fact, the concept of person, born and matured in Christianity, helps to pursue a fully human development. Because the word ‘person’ always means relation, not individualism; it affirms inclusion and not exclusion, the unique and inviolable identity and not exploitation, freedom and not constriction.

The Church does not tire of offering this wisdom and her work to the world, in the awareness that integral development is the way of the good that the human family is called to follow. I invite you to carry this action forward with patience and constancy, in the confidence that the Lord accompanies you. May He bless you and our Lady protect you.

[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester] Zenit
(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)