Lecture on Populorum Progressio in Glasgow on Saturday 18 March 2017, by Donal Dorr
A brief word about the background to this document. Two great social encyclicals were issued by Pope John XXIII: Mater et Magistra in 1961, the year before the Second Vatican Council began, and Pacem in Terris in 1963, issued during the Council. Together they called for a theology and spirituality which put a new stress on justice, human welfare and progress. Vatican II moved even more radically in this direction. It liberated us from a dualistic and escapist spirituality and put far more focus on the continuity between this world and the next. Pope Paul VI brought this to a new level by four major interventions. The first was his 1965 speech to the UN where he called strongly for respect for human rights. The second came just fifty years ago in 1967 with his great encyclical Populorum Progressio – "On the Development of Peoples." This encyclical did for the international community what Pope Leo XIII did for Western industrial society in 1891 through Rerum Novarum, the first of the great social encyclicals. Whereas the emphasis on Pope Leo was on justice between individuals or classes within industrialised countries, the focus of Pope Paul was rather on relationship between nations at a global level. The third major intervention by Paul VI on justice issues came in 1971 in a document called Octogesima Adveniens which filled out what he had said in his encyclical by insisting that the new international economic order which he had called for had to be brought about by political action. The fourth important intervention by Paul VI was his 1975 document Evangelisation in the Modern World in which he presented a unified vision of liberation which integrated work for justice with the more overtly spiritual dimensions of our Christian faith. Read the full article
About the author
Dr. Donal Dorr is a missionary priest and theologian. During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s he worked for extended periods as a missionary in several African countries and, more briefly, in Brazil. In the 1980s he was the holder of a Research Fellowship in the Theology of Development, and a consultor to the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. The main focus of his work at home and abroad has been on empowering grassroots activists in working for justice and care for the environment, in training activists and religious leaders in leadership skills, and in running spirituality workshops for people who are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. An expanded edition of his book, Option for the Poor and for the Earth: Catholic Social Teaching, was published by Orbis Books in 2016. His previous books include Spirituality and Justice, The Social Justice Agenda, Integral Spirituality, Conversion and Holiness: The Teaching of John Wesley, and The Spirituality of Leadership.