by Neilan D’souza
The theme of this month’s E-newsletter is based on the Apostolic Letter ‘Octogesima Adveniens’ addressed by Pope Paul VI to Cardinal Maurice Roy (on 14 May 1971), the then president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. In his letter, Pope Paul VI tries to highlight many social issues faced by the people at the time and tries to inspire renewed action for lay members to participate in social and political reform according to the Gospel.
Why was it then and still important now for the laity to participate in social and political reform? You may ask. It is simply because the pressing issues of the times are always faced by the common people and from time to time it has always been the common people who have sought ways to move those in power and bring about positive change. Likewise, Pope Paul VI points out in paragraph 4 of ‘Octogesima Adveniens’ that “It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country, to shed on it the light of the Gospel’s unalterable words and to draw principles of reflection, norms of judgment and directives for action from the social teaching of the Church.”
Pope Paul VI calls for “Awakening the People of God” in para 51 and importantly calls for Christian organisations to take responsibility for collective action as he quotes lines from ‘Lumen Gentium’ and ‘Apostolicam Actuositatem’ stating, “It is in this regard too that Christian organizations, under their different forms, have a responsibility for collective action. Without putting themselves in the place of the institutions of civil society, they have to express, in their own way and rising above their particular nature, the concrete demands of the Christian faith for a just, and consequently necessary, transformation of society.”
Building on these ideas put forward by Pope Paul VI, we the laity must engage in renewed action led by our Christian faith, atleast at the community or local level, because it has always been our duty as Christians and also as the principle teaching of CST’s to secure democratic foundations in society by ensuring human dignity and social justice. Therefore through this issue we invite you to be inspired by your faith and take steps towards renewed action.