In the final section of Centesimus Annus, John Paul II places the tradition of Catholic social teaching within the purview of the Church’s task to evangelize the world. “As such,” he explains, “it proclaims God and his mystery of salvation in Christ to every human being, and for that very reason reveals man to himself” (See paragraph fifty-four).
Catholic Social Teaching is not theory but “a basis and motivation for action” (See paragraph fifty-seven). The history of Christian social practice dates back to the Acts of the Apostles and continues to the present day. John Paul II succinctly summarizes this tradition.
Inspired by this message, some of the first Christians distributed their goods to the poor, bearing witness to the fact that, despite different social origins, it was possible for people to live together in peace and harmony. Through the power of the Gospel, down the centuries monks tilled the land, men and women Religious founded hospitals and shelters for the poor, Confraternities as well as individual men and women of all states of life devoted themselves to the needy and to those on the margins of society, convinced as they were that Christ’s words ‘as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment. (See paragraph fifty-seven).
The Church’s evangelization gains credibility to the extent that the people of God live out the social message of the Gospel.
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Religious Studies