Address of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II
to Members of the Vatican Foundation “Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice”


Saturday, November 23, 1996

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. I am happy to extend my cordial greeting to all of you gathered here at the Vatican for the annual study conference organized by the “Centesimus annus – Pro Pontifice” Foundation on the theme “Solidarity in papal teaching“.

My thoughts go first of all to Cardinal Rosalio José Castillo Lara and to Mons. Lorenzo Antonetti, whom I thank for the kind expressions also addressed to me on behalf of each of you. I also greet Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli and all of you, dear members of the Foundation, who together with your family members wanted to visit me.

2. The purposes of your praiseworthy fellowship are inspired by the Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, which I published to remember what my venerable Predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, had written a century earlier in Rerum novarum, a document that has borne so many fruits in the Church and in the world.

I therefore congratulate you on your visit, which allows me to follow closely what you are doing in support of the Social Doctrine of the Church in the context of both its deepening and its diffusion and application.

This Doctrine, in fact, cannot be considered simply as a theory; it intends first of all to offer a foundation and motivation for a coherent application commitment (cf. Centesimus Annus, 57). In this regard, in the aforementioned Encyclical I observed: “Today more than ever the Church is aware that her social message will find credibility in the testimony of the works, before in her coherence and internal logic” (Ibid.).

It is from here that your reflection today, as it is aimed at transposing the rich teaching of the Church on solidarity into the concrete of the daily life of people and their human and professional commitments, takes its motive and purpose .

3. I am very pleased with your choice: it highlights the value of the evangelical witness that the generous application of the principles of the Church’s social doctrine has (cf. Ibid., 54). Solidarity does not consist in some isolated gesture or in “a feeling of vague compassion or superficial tenderness for the evils of many people” (Sollicitudo rei Socialis, 38), but is a virtue and, as such, manifests” the firm and persevering determination to commit oneself for the good of each and every one, because we are all truly responsible for all” (Ivi).

Solidarity must inform and transform, so to speak, the life and choices of each one from the inside, committing the person also as regards the use of the material goods that the Lord has granted him, and of which he is, more than owner, administrator for everyone’s benefit.

How could a truly human society ignore the value of solidarity or leave it only to private initiative? As formed by beings created by God as equal, society has the duty to promote solidarity within itself and also to give itself structures that make it operational, in respect of the legitimate autonomy of the various social subjects and the principle of subsidiarity. This also applies internationally, in the presence of the widespread phenomenon of the “globalization of the economy” (cf. Centesimus Annus, 58), .

4. In this context, the role of Christians is decisive. If they have truly made the social teaching of the Church and, in particular, solidarity, the criterion of their personal and social action, they will not fail to bear concrete witness to the values ​​that are based on charity and justice. In this they will only have to follow the example of their divine Master, who made himself “servant” of all “until death and death by the cross” (cf. Phil 2: 7-8). He himself assures them: “Every time you have done these things to one of my younger brothers, you have done it to me” (Mt 25, 40.)

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, may you always be faithful administrators and provident builders of solidarity according to the spirit of the Gospel. In this way you will continue to defend and promote, according to the spirit of Christ and the teaching of the Church, the dignity of man. Be industrious witnesses of your faith. You will thus contribute actively to the construction of the desired civilization of love, whose first rule is to promote respect for every human being.

I entrust this wish and your commitment to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy. May she guide your action in favor of so many needy brothers and sisters.

With these sentiments, I affectionately impart to you and your collaborators the Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to those dear to you.

© Copyright 1996 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana