Populorum Progressio—Fiftieth Anniversary
The Cambridge University Press journal Horizons: The Journal of the College Theology Society has its roots in the progressive re-visioning of Roman Catholic theology after Vatican II, frequently understood as aggiornamento, and is committed to scholarship that is grounded in the Catholic incarnational/sacramental tradition. Horizons also fosters diverse scholarship across the fields of religious studies and theology, and is dedicated to a broad ecumenical perspective, a wide range of theological methods, and an intensive engagement of faith with culture.
Our inaugural virtual issue illustrates our foci as we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, a masterpiece of reading the signs of the times, of faith engaging with culture for the common good. Pope Paul declared:
The progressive development of peoples is an object of deep interest and concern to the Church. This is particularly true in the case of those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance; of those who are seeking a larger share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are consciously striving for fuller growth. [i]
Fifty years later, all people of good will must still be challenged by Pope Paul’s emphasis on the “seriousness and urgency” of the questions of social interconnectedness: “The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance” (§3). The world has not made enough progress confronting the structural inequalities examined by Pope Paul in Populorum Progressio.
According to the World Bank Group, “10.7 percent of the global population” lives “below the international poverty line of US $1.90 per person per day.” [ii] Pope Francis, finely attuned to the suffering of the poor of the world who cry out for justice and following in the footsteps of Pope Paul, teaches that “there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded”; he observes that the power brokers and decision makers “are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population.” [iii]
The articles in this virtual issue explore various dimensions of critical problems impinging on realizing the goal of a high level of integral human development for all persons and peoples: economics; the role of the relationship between the individual and the community in truth and reconciliation commissions; the challenges of a growing world population among finite natural resources; religion, poverty, and human rights; and the status of women in developing societies. The editors invite you to explore these articles as we confront the current obstacles to achieving the “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.” [iv]
Thanks are due to Horizons’ associate editor Christopher Denny, St. John’s University, Queens, for bringing the fiftieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio to the attention of the editorial team. The editors also thank Denny’s graduate research assistant, Kaitlyn Stasinski, for her research.
[i] Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio §1; http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_26031967_populorum.html.
[ii] The World Bank Group, Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2016), 3. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/25078/9781464809583.pdf
[iii] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home §49; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
[iv] Pope Paul VI, Gaudium Spes §26, www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudiem-et-spes.html.