The Basis of our commitment to JPIC

apostolate1. HOW AND WHY JPIC AROSE IN THE CHURCH

Before considering the organization of JPIC, one needs to understand that Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation are, first of all, biblical values. Secondly, they are an ecclesial structure that seeks to promote in the Church, in each Christian, and in all ecclesial organisms, a commitment to these values.

 1.1. Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation: Biblical Values

Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation are above all values of the Kingdom of God. As such, God Himself is involved in and committed to the task of making the world a place that is just and reconciled, providing a dignified life to all creatures. Saint Francis was aware of God’s mission as Creator, Liberator and Redeemer. Through His most holy will, through the Son and through the Holy Spirit, God has created all things and has made them in His image and likeness. “We thank you for as through Your Son You created us, so through Your holy love with which You loved us You brought about His birth as true God and true man by the glorious, ever-virgin, most blessed, holy Mary and You willed to redeem us captives through His cross and blood and death” (ER XXIII, 3).

 Throughout biblical history, in the story of the Exodus (cf. Ex 3, 7-12; Dt 26, 5-11), in the celebration of the covenant between God and the people (Ex 19, 3-6), in the actions and message of the prophets (cf. Is 52,7-10; 55,1-3), in the return from exile (cf. Is 9, 1-6; 45, 20-25), God appears close to His people. He reveals Himself as the one who saves, who frees, who is just and merciful (cf. Ps 103), who protects the poor, the widow and the orphan (cf. Ps 72), who leads the people into a future of hope, peace and reconciliation (cf. Is 2, 1-5). The prophets stand out as the ones who reveal God’s plan.         

In Jesus Christ, God reveals His desire to recreate humanity and all creation (cf. Col 1, 15-20). In the mystery of the Incarnation, the minority of God shines forth, His condition as servant of humanity (cf. Phil 2, 6-8), His proximity to the poor and the little ones, His decision to be God-with-us. In His programmatic discourse found in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus presents Himself as the one who has been consecrated by the Spirit to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the oppressed and to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to announce a year of favor from the Lord (cf. Lk 4,16-19). These are signs of the Kingdom. In fact, the mission of Jesus is centered in the proclamation of and witness to the Kingdom of God.

The core of the Good News proclaimed by Jesus is salvation as a gift of God. It is salvation from all oppression, especially from sin and evil. Kingdom and salvation are two key words in the teaching of Jesus. He proclaims the Kingdom of God untiringly in His preaching, “a completely new teaching in a spirit of authority” (Mk 1,27), and through many signs. “…And among these signs there is the one to which he attaches great importance: the humble and the poor are evangelized, become His disciples and gather together in His name in the great community of those who believe in Him” (EN, 12).    

 Among the values of the Kingdom of God, justice and peace receive a central place. In the Beatitudes, the Magna Carta of the Kingdom of God, Jesus declares that those are blessed who hunger and thirst for justice, and for those who are persecuted for this reason, “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5, 6.10). Equally blessed are the “peacemakers; they shall be called children of God” (Mt 5,9). In another passage, Jesus clearly indicates what is important in Christian life: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Mt 6,33). Jesus Himself sought first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and showed hunger and thirst for justice and was persecuted because of it. He Himself was the source, the giver and the cause of peace.

 The salvation offered by Jesus involves all aspects of people’s lives. He saves and frees us in a holistic way. Like the Good Shepherd, He wants to share His life with us and put Himself at the service of life. He cures people physically and spiritually, forgives sins, reintegrates people into the community, practices table fellowship with sinners and those who are socially marginalized, encourages sharing, approaches lepers and touches them, helps people to get on their feet, motivates them to be of service, denounces the contradictions of the powerful and of the religious and political authorities, values and gives dignity to women and children. He invites everyone to conversion, to have faith and trust in God the Father, and to have compassion for the poor. He also invites them to hear the Word and to put it into practice, showing love to all, including enemies.

 The justice practiced and proclaimed by Jesus is linked to mercy. The peace He offered is not of this world, and is the fruit of profound reconciliation. To propose justice and peace, to put them into practice with renewed efficacy, He chose the path of love to the point of giving His own life. In this way Jesus revealed that the God of the Kingdom is a God of love who offers Himself to save, justify and reconcile the world. The resurrection is confirmation of the saving power of the cross, of self-giving, of service, of fidelity to the loving will of God. The risen Christ is the paradigm of the new humanity. Whoever meets and welcomes Him, and believes that He can change lives, experiences new life, receives His Spirit, becomes a child of God, enters into a new covenant, and becomes part of a new community. This community is composed of brothers and sisters who have been redeemed, who are open to people of all races, cultures and ethnicities.

 All of creation is included in the gift of freedom offered by the Christ event: “…the whole created world eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God….the world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rm 8,19-21). If all things in heaven and earth were created in Christ, the firstborn of all creation, and if in Him they continue in being, then in His death and resurrection Jesus Christ reconciles all things: the entire universe, everything in the heavens and on earth (cf. Col 1, 15-20).

 1.2. The Institution Justice and Peace, Fruit of the Second Vatican Council

 It is no exaggeration to say that prior to Vatican II spirituality was generally inward looking, other worldly, and little influenced by biblical scholarship. It exhibited the following characteristics:

  • The world was seen as suspect, and salvation was something that happened in the next life.
  • Christian practice consisted of celebration of the sacraments, the liturgy and other religious observances.
  • At most, practice promoted local works of charity for the poor, done in a paternalistic way.

 Thus the great majority of Christians were not concerned with the social and political problems tied to questions of justice, peace and care for creation.

 Certainly, even before Vatican II, changes were underway in the area of spirituality. Encouraged by the teaching found in documents like Rerum Novarum, many in the Church were increasingly concerned with finding solutions to social and political problems. But it was with Vatican II, especially Gaudium et Spes, that a clear commitment to social and political action became directly associated with the mission received from Christ: “Christ did not bequeath to the Church a mission in the political, economic or social order; the purpose he assigned to it was a religious one. But this religious mission can be the source of commitment, direction and vigor to establish and consolidate the human community according to the law of God” (GS 42).

 Among the many contributions of the Council to the Church, one of the most important and one that has already conditioned and directed many others, is its attitude towards the world, history and social issues. With impetus from biblical scholarship the Council succeeded in getting the Church to turn her gaze towards the world and towards history. In Gaudium et Spes there is a positive evaluation of the world as something that has been created by God, redeemed by Christ and called to fullness. There is an appreciation for historical reality, the place where God reveals Himself as the Redeemer of humankind. The Council directed the whole Church and every Christian to serve the world by building the Kingdom. This orientation is described in the famous opening statement of Gaudium et Spes: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, are the joys and the hopes the griefs and the anxieties of the followers of Christ” (GS 1). Through the Incarnation, the Kingdom of God and salvation become associated with the transformation of history. In history the Kingdom of God, led by the Spirit and with the Church at its service, continues to grow and to open itself to the following possibilities:

  • Listening to the world: reading the signs of the times in the midst of the world, participating in its joys and concerns. This has caused many in the Church to move towards the margins of society.
  • Embracing the desires, values, cries and successes of the world: freedom, equality, participation, pluralism, democracy, and concern for justice.
  • Offering a gospel practice based on living witness, service, collaboration and solidarity.
  • Encouraging a concern to transform the world according to the values of the Kingdom.

 A number of theological developments have sprung from the teaching of the Council. One deals with the promotion of justice as an integral part of the Gospel (Synod of Bishops, 1971). Another is the recognition of the strong gospel and theological relationship that exists between evangelization and human development: ”It is impossible to accept that the work of evangelization could or should ignore the extremely grave questions so much under discussion today which refer to justice, liberation, development and peace in the world. If that were to happen it would mean ignoring the teaching of the Gospel concerning love of our neighbor who is suffering or in need” (EN 31). We need only recall the synods, social encyclicals, and episcopal statements that have taken seriously the directive repeated so many times by John Paul II: “Man in the full truth of his existence, of his personal being and also of his community and social being…this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission” (RH,14).

 The Council instilled in the Church a concern for the world. Consequently, Paul VI established the Pontifical JUSTICE AND PEACE Commission in 1967, as recommended in Gaudium et Spes: “Taking into account the immensity of the hardships which still afflict a large section of humanity, and with a view to fostering everywhere the justice and love of Christ for the poor, the Council suggests that it would be most opportune to create some organization of the universal Church whose task it would be to arouse the Catholic community to promote the progress of areas which are in want and foster social justice between nations” (GS 90).

 On 20 April 1967, Paul VI addressed the recently appointed Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace:

 “You represent for us the realization of the last vote of the Council (GS 90). Today, as in the past, once the construction of a Church or bell tower is finished, a rooster is placed on top as a symbol of vigilance, for the faith and for the entire program of Christian life. In similar fashion, this Committee has been placed on top of the spiritual building of the Council, and its mission is none other than that of keeping the eyes of the Church open, its heart sensitive and its hand prepared for the work of charity which it is called upon to realize in the world…”

 After a ten-year experimental period, Paul VI gave the Commission its definitive status with the Motu Proprio Justitiam et Pacem of 10 December 1976. When the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of 28 June 1988 reorganized the Roman Curia, Pope John Paul II changed its title from Commission to Pontifical Council.

 2. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE: OBJECTIVES AND ACTIVITIES

 2.1. Objectives and Mandate

 Pastor Bonus, the Apostolic Constitution of 1988, defined the objectives and mandate of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the following terms:

 “The Council will promote justice and peace in the world, in the light of the Gospel and of the social teaching of the Church (art. 142).

§ 1. It will deepen the social doctrine of the Church and attempt to make it widely known and applied, both by individuals and communities, especially as regards relations between workers and employers. These relations should be increasingly marked by the spirit of the Gospel.
§ 2. It will assemble and evaluate research on issues related to justice and peace, the development of peoples and violations of human rights. When appropriate, it will inform Episcopal bodies of its conclusions. It will foster relations with all organizations that are sincerely committed to the promotion of the values of justice and peace in the world, whether they are Catholic or not.
§ 3. It will heighten awareness of the need to promote peace, above all on the occasion of the World Day of Peace (art. 143).

2.2. Activities

 JUSTICE. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is concerned with all that touches upon social justice, including the world of work, international justice issues, and problems associated with development, especially its social dimension. It also promotes ethical reflection on the evolution of economic and financial systems, including their impact on the environment, and the responsible use of the earth’s resources.

PEACE. The Pontifical Council reflects on a broad range of questions related to war, disarmament and the arms trade, international security, and violence in its various and ever-changing forms (terrorism, exaggerated nationalism etc.). It also considers the question of political systems and the role of Catholics in the political arena. It is responsible for the promotion of the World Day of Peace.

HUMAN RIGHTS. This question has assumed increasing importance in the mission of the Church and consequently in the work of the Pontifical Council. Catholic Social Teaching has highlighted the dignity of people as the basis for promotion and defense of their inalienable rights.

AND ECOLOGY? We can see that in the beginning there was little concern for ecology. In 1967, however, the same could be said for society in general. The first United Nations Conference on ecology was held in Stockholm in 1972. The book The Limits to Growth[1] was published in the same year, and raised a world-wide alarm. Yet the ecology theme was not very evident in the pontificate of Paul VI. It was in the time of John Paul II that the Church developed a greater sensitivity to the issue. In fact, John Paul II dealt extensively with ecology in his teaching, and this ecclesial concern accompanied the growing concern shown by society. It was very strong in the 1980s and reached a high point in 1992 at the Rio Summit on Ecology and Development. Important moments in the Christian world include the first European Ecumenical Assembly in Basil (1989) (its theme was “Peace with Justice,” and it issued an inspiring final statement entitled “Peace with Justice for the Whole of Creation”); and the World Ecumenical Assembly in Seoul (1990) entitled “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.” These two assemblies were promoted principally by the World Council of Churches, which linked ecological problems with those of justice and peace. They helped to popularize the expression “the integrity of creation,” which has since been incorporated into the JPIC organisms of Religious Congregations.

 2.3. Justice and Peace in the Religious Congregations

 Once the Commission for JUSTICE AND PEACE was established, the Episcopal Conferences set about creating Commissions in their respective countries. This task has been accomplished in the majority of countries, and in many dioceses around the world as well. Religious Orders and Congregations also established Justice and Peace commissions, later renamed commissions for “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.” Their mission is patterned on that of the Pontifical Council. They seek:

 To enlighten the People of God, as well as the members of the Congregation, about issues of national and international justice, development, human rights, peace and the integrity of creation.

  • To raise awareness among members of the Congregation of the need to rethink their style of life and mission in a world characterized by great injustice, violence and poverty, in order to make their actions consistent with their beliefs.
  • To foster a commitment on the part of religious, Christians, and all citizens in the area of socio-political and civic activities.
  • To promote actions in favor of justice, peace and human rights, that would concretize the contribution of the Congregation in these areas.

 3. THE SPIRITUALITY OF JUSTICE AND PEACE

Paul VI said that the mission of Justice and Peace is that of “keeping the eyes of the Church open, its heart sensitive and its hand prepared for the work of charity which it is called upon to realize in the world.” This phrase helps us understand the spirituality of JPIC.

 3.1. Eyes open

Yes, and our ears as well, so we might be truly present to the world. We are called to be attentive to what is happening around us, to hear the cries of the world in which we live and to see life with the eyes of God. We are called to take note of the action of the Spirit in our world, and listen to the calls we receive from the world around us so as to collaborate with this action of the Spirit.

 We are called to be like our God, who is attentive and present to all of life and creation. Our God is found principally in the Incarnate Word, Jesus, the Son (cf. Heb 1,1-4). We must find Him in and through the nativity and the manger (cf. Gal 4,4; Rom 1,3; Lk 2,6-7), in and through the bread that is shared, in and through the cross (cf. Jn 6; Lk 22,14.20; Jn 13). And we are all aware of those with whom Jesus generally walked: the poor, the marginalized, those whom the system did not want to survive, to possess things or to be empowered. This is the kénosis of Jesus, his self-emptying, which we hear about in the letter to the Philippians.

  3.2. A sensitive heart  

 Our Father Founder says of himself that he was ‘ so soft-hearted and compassionate the (he) couldn’t bear seeing misfortune or misery without doing something to help’ ( Aut.No 10)The work of seeing, becoming acquainted with and getting to know the reality and the suffering of the poor is not something indifferent, done from a distance or a desk. Claret further says that ‘I would take bread out of my own mouth to give it to the poor. In fact I would abstain from putting it into my mouth in order to have something to give to those who are asking for it. ( Aut.No 10) For the knowledge of suffering to move us to work for its elimination, it must have an effect upon us, it must reach down to the depths of our being, to the heart, and move us to compassion. We truly know only that which we endure or, better still, that which is shared suffering. For the Christian the only genuine knowledge is that which moves us to compassion.

 In order to maintain sensitivity of heart and to keep compassion alive it is necessary to be in contact with the people who suffer and their problems. Our social status, our dwelling and our life style can condition to a great extent our view of reality, even to the point of preventing our seeing it and causing us to deserve the reproach of Jesus to his disciples: Do you still not understand, still not realize? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes and do not see, ears and do not hear? (Mk 8,17b-18).

 We Claretians have a clear understanding from our Father Founder and our Constitutions (CC) about the pivotal role we need to play as evangelizers committed to the defense and the development of life to its fullest.(MFL 2.a) and how we are called to exercise compassion. It is this respect that, as the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (we)have also received a calling like that of the Apostles and have been granted the gift to follow Christ in a communion of life and to go out into the whole world to proclaim the Good News to every creature. Therefore the following of Christ as set forth in the gospel is our supreme rule. And so we listen to the Lord’s words, eager to learn from him as he calls his disciples to be perfect as their Father is perfect, as he gives them the new commandment of fraternal love, as he urges them to pray, as he gives them rules for apostolic life and as he proclaims that the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the single-hearted, the peacemakers, those who suffer persecution for the cause of right and endure slander for his sake, are all sharers in his own blessedness. We answer this divine call by adopting Jesus’ way of life, a way which the Virgin Mary, too, embraced in faith. And so in the Church we have to manifest Christ’s virginity, poverty and obedience in proclaiming the Good News. Through our profession of the evangelical counsels by public vows we dedicate ourselves to God and are consecrated by him, and thus form in the Church an Institute which is truly and fully apostolic. (Constitutions 4-5)

 3.3. A hand ready for the work of charity which the Church is called to realize in the world

‘Men on Fire with Love of God’ aptly captures the spirit that informs guides and impels our vocational, formation, community living, apostolate and mission. Charity is the love of God which we are called to make present in the world. Welcoming and experiencing God who is love prompts us to place the love of God and of people at the center of our Christian lives. As noted in the First Letter of John, love of neighbor is a sign of the love of God. This charity or love, understood as a relationship of fraternity and solidarity among people, strives to make the “other” or “others” greater, to help them posses life more fully and ever more abundantly. It has different manifestations, depending on the kind of relationship that exists between people, and they can be classified in the following way:

  • There is a charity that expresses itself in closer, interpersonal relationships. These are relationships where the “other” has a visible face: in the family, among friends and neighbors, in the community, among the poor (where charity is expressed as social assistance).
  • There is also a charity that expresses itself in social, structural or political relationships, so-called “political charity.”[2] It is an active commitment, fruit of Christian love for all men and women who are considered brothers and sisters. Its goal is a world that is more just and more fraternal, where special attention is given to the needs of the poorest.

 JPIC is committed to promoting all expressions of charity. It has a special calling, however, to promote political charity, which seeks to eliminate the causes of poverty and violence. Its ready hand should foster the integral development of those sectors of society that are weakest and most marginalized, and work to transform the existing “structures of sin” (cf. Sollecitudo Rei Socialis, Encyclical of John Paul II, 1987, 36, 36b, 36c, 36f, 37c, 37d, 38f, 39g, 40d, 46e) which impoverish the lives of so many people.

 We wish above all to announce the Kingdom of God and with it, Jesus, the Mediator of the Kingdom, the beloved Son of the Abba, and our Brother. We want our announcement to come from the heart. We want to be founded on a wise knowledge of the Scriptures in their historical context and of Christian Tradition. We want it to disclose the way Jesus remains alive in those who carry on his actions and pronounce his words in solidarity with the poor, with sinners, with the sick and the marginalized. Our word and preaching of the God of Life and Love will be a consoling and hope-filled announcement, especially for his wounded people. Our service of the Word will be prophetic whenever it is backed by actions that tend to heal the ills that afflict our brothers and sisters. Everywhere in the world, our words and actions will denounce the unjust economic order that values profit above persons and causes so much poverty, dehumanization and death. It will likewise be a denunciation of all that can wound human rights, peace and justice, or destroy nature. In Prophetic Mission (Nos. 42-44)

Exclusion is one of the main consequences of today’s process of globalization, creating shortages and new types of poverty that surely lead towards a progressive disregard for life. Solidarity with the poor, the excluded and those whose right to life is threatened and a commitment to their liberation are essential aspects of our faith in Christ and the prophetic dimension of our missionary life. Therefore, we choose as our priority solidarity with the poor, the excluded and those whose right to life is threatened so that this impacts our personal and community lifestyle, in our apostolic mission and our institutions. That They May Have Life (Nos. 38-40)

Notes

[1] D.H. MEADOWS et al., The Limits to Growth, Universe Books, 1972.

[2] PIUS XI, “Allocution to the directors of the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students” 18 December 1927 (Discorsi di Pio XI, t.1, D. Bertetto Ed. Torino 1960, p. 743). Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 210-212.

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