When 189 governments from the north and the south, as representatives of their citizens, signed up to the Millennium Declaration at the United Nations Millennium General Assembly of September 2000, there was a sense of urgency.
Urgency to ‘free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected’.
Such urgency was not new. “We must make haste. Too many people are suffering. While some make progress, others stand still or move backwards; and the gap between them is widening.” These are the words of Pope Paul VI.
Much of what featured in the Millennium Declaration had been predicted in 1967 by Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical Popolorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples). Here are some key quotes:
“Today we see men trying to secure a sure food supply, cures for diseases, and steady employment. We see them trying to eliminate every ill, to remove every obstacle, which offends man's dignity. They are continually striving to exercise greater personal responsibility; to do more, learn more, and have more so that they might increase their personal worth. And yet, at the same time, a large number of them live amid conditions which frustrate these legitimate desires.
“Unless the existing machinery is modified, the disparity between rich and poor nations will increase rather than diminish; the rich nations are progressing with rapid strides while the poor nations move forward at a slow pace.
“This duty concerns first and foremost the wealthier nations. Their obligations stem from the human and supernatural brotherhood of man, and present a three-fold obligation: 1) mutual solidarity; the aid that the richer nations must give to developing nations; 2) social justice; the rectification of trade relations between strong and weak nations; 3) universal charity; the effort to build a more humane world community, where all can give and receive, and where the progress of some is not bought at the expense of others.
“Efforts are being made to help the developing nations financially and technologically… Yet all these efforts will prove to be in vain and useless, if their results are nullified to a large extent by the unstable trade relations between rich and poor nations. The latter will have no grounds for hope or trust if they fear that what is being given them with one hand is being taken away with the other.
“When we fight poverty and oppose the unfair conditions of the present, we are not just promoting human well being; we are also furthering man's spiritual and moral development, and hence we are benefiting the whole human race. For peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men.”
This is Progress is an abridged version of Populorum Progressio, prepared by
Father R. V. Bogan of Wonersh Seminary.
The official text of the encyclical letter is in Latin, but the letter was originally written by Pope Paul and his advisers in French. By consulting both the Latin and the French, Father Bogan has produced a creative translation of remarkable power.
This edition follows the text as first published in 1967, with some small adjustments to update language or terminology.
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