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With pandemic still causing thousands of deaths, pope turns to Catholic “social doctrine”

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Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA
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Francis lists 7 main principles, saying that we can get to the roots of our problems so as to bring Jesus’ healing into our world again.

Pope Francis thinks principles drawn from the Gospel through the Tradition of the Church can help to bring Jesus’ ministry of healing into our world, which is in need of healing from the pandemic and so many other social ills.

The pope said this August 5 as he took up again his Wednesday public (general) audiences, after the July break. This audience was live-streamed from the apostolic palace, as large gatherings are still prohibited.

Francis announced he was beginning a new topic series, saying, “We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious illnesses.”

The Holy Father reflected on the many accounts in the Gospel that describe Jesus healing. He said that this healing is brought about in us and in others through the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

In the Christian tradition, faith, hope and charity are much more than feelings or attitudes. They are virtues infused in us by the grace of the Holy Spirit (cf. CCC, 1812-1813): gifts that heal us and make us healers, gifts that open us to new horizons, even as we navigate the difficult waters of our time.

A renewed contact with the Gospel of faith, hope, and charity, he suggested, will enable us to get to the roots of the various “physical, spiritual and social infirmities and the destructive practices that separate us from each other, threatening the human family and our planet.”

Social doctrine

Known as Catholic social doctrine, these principles offer general guidelines for social and political leaders, as well as individual citizens, to foster authentic human development at a personal and social level, and to respond to situations such as COVID-19.

The teachings are spelled out in The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The Holy Father listed seven main principles:

  • the principle of the dignity of the person
  • the principle of the common good
  • the principle of the preferential option for the poor
  • the principle of the universal destination of goods
  • the principle of solidarity
  • of subsidiarity
  • the principle of the care for our common home.

The pope clarified that the Church gives healing through the sacraments, and is a global leader in providing health care, but this doesn’t make her an expert in pandemic prevention or treatment. Nor does the Church spell out specific political or social systems. All of this falls to the leaders of the various fields that tackle these issues. However, he said:

Over the centuries, and in the light of the Gospel, the Church has developed several social principles that are fundamental (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 160-208), principles that can help us move forward, to prepare the future we need. … All these principles express, in different ways, the virtues of faith, hope and love.

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