“CHARITY is at the heart of Church’s social doctrine.”

This was Pope Benedict XVI’s reminder in his new Encyclical Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”) delivered last July 7 in Vatican City.

The document stressed the need for real human development, insisting on progress in the moral and spiritual realms.

“Charity with this close link of truth is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity,” the Pope said.

According to the Holy Father, charity had long been emptied and misconstrued, its meaning often misinterpreted, disconnected from ethical living, and undervaluated. With these alarming issues obscuring the true meaning of charity, he prescribed “truth” as a cure for these problems.

“A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any place for God in the world,” he said.

Being the Pope’s first “social” encyclical, the document revisited and took off from Paul VI’s message in his 1967 Populorum Progressio, an encyclical on integral human development. Populorum Progressio is also regarded as Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum of the present age,” and was first updated by John Paul II’s encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.

The encyclical also emphasized two criteria that governed moral action: justice and the common good.

“Charity goes beyond justice, and that desiring and striving for the common good is a prerequisite of justice and charity,” he said.

In this modern world, he said infusing “love” in “truth” was a great challenge for the Church.

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Today’s interdependence among people and nations, divided by ethical interaction of consciences and minds, served as the Church’s obstacle, he added.

“Only charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, gives the possibility of pursuing development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value,” he said.

Caritas in Veritate is the third encyclical of Benedict XVI following, Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) and Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). Lester G. Babiera

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