The 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical, Populorum Progressio, on March 26, has been bittersweet. So much has been done by Christian organisations, by people of goodwill, and by farseeing statesmen, and yet the world of which Pope Paul spoke still exhibits the deep wounds of injustice. Some states have become more prosperous, others are poorer: some are more just. others less. And we continue to enjoy the benefits of societies where affluent consumerism reigns, and whose guilt about the developing world, on which that affluence so often battens, stretches only as far as the comfortable side of self-sacrifice.
Pope Paul emphasises frequently in his message the call to a full, deep. rich humanism. This is man seen in the freedom of his economic, political and spiritual potentiallt is far from the arid, stunted humanism of the secularist, and far from the diluted humanism of the liberal for whom absence of constraint is the only ideal. It has never been better expressed than in the second question of the Penny Catechism: "God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world. and to be happy with him for ever in the next."
We commend the actions of several organisations to celebrate the anniversary of the encyclical by exhorting people to "live simply", and to commit themselves to making individual acts which exhibit a wish to live more simply — from using re-usable bags to buying fairtrade goods. Such actions, small though they may be, keep the concept of the deeper values of life in mind.
Pope Paul is quite clear that much of the demands of justice can only be met through governmental action — although such action is, in the end, an expression of our collective will. But the individual, in his own activities, does not escape the Pope's exhortation: "Let each one examine his conscience... is he prepared to support. at his own expense, undertakings designed to help the needy... to pay higher taxes to assist development... to pay more for imported goods, so that the producer may make a fairer profit? Is he prepared to leave his own country if necessary and if he is young, in order to help the emerging nations?" That all adds up to rather more than reusable bags, admirable though they may be.
And if you would like a little meditative exercise for Holy Week. consider what you would like this newspaper to be able to say on the 80th anniversary of Populorum Progressio in 2047, and what it actually will say. Is it too painful to decide what you might do to make the two versions coincide?