Tenth anniversary of Caritas in Veritate

This year is the 10th anniversary of the encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). It was the third and last promulgated by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. It empowers the faithful, in the light of the social teaching, to respond to the challenges in society with charity in the light of the love of Christ.

Caritas in Veritate concerns itself with promoting the development of humanity as a whole in charity and truth, and in the light of social teaching—especially as laid out in Pope St. Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical, Populorum progressio (On the Development of Peoples)—to fully respond in contemporary society, charity work and such issues as the economy, globalisation and environmental protection. The encyclical emphases that “truth preserves and expresses charity’s power to liberate in the ever-changing events of history” (5).

To help promote truth in society, Caritas in Veritate, as with other social teachings, focusses on social situations to analyse, consider and respond, as well as identify contemporary social issues through their historical context.

Thus, the encyclical points to the economic model behind the financial crisis which merely targets growth, allowing only some to benefit, and reiterates the principle of unity and complementarity. It also points out that Christians must practice charity and nurture this in the light of truth.

Social teaching clearly expresses the expectations for charity and justice. However, Christians face the challenge of how to unite people in living the values of the faith in a society filled with other, conflicting values, polarisation of thinking and even confrontation. The relationship between charity and truth may help us to strike a balance in the current social milieu.

Public opinion sometimes places justice and charity in opposing positions and argues that only one out of the two can be chosen. However, we are reminded that charity and justice complement each other. Justice, is the minimum measure of charity and is the foundation of true peace. We must practice charity in truth because truth is the foundation of charity. In addition, truth frees charity from the constraints of emotionalism and of fideism.

As Christians work for charity in truth, desiring the common good and striving towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. Everyone is called live this out in a manner corresponding to their vocation and according to the degree of influence they wield in society. (cf. Caritas in Veritate 7)

September 27 is the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of charities. This 17th century priest committed himself to serve the poor. His spirit is carried on by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Blessed Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam, the founder of the society, exemplified the balance between the truth and charity. He said, “Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on the wounds of the traveller who has been attacked. It is justice’s role to prevent the attacks” (Manual of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, p. 166). 

In fact, the charity work done by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and other lay associations emphasise both of these dimensions.

Let us pray for the charity work of the Church. May God grant us wisdom so that, in the light of truth, we can continue to respond in charity to the needs of society. SE

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