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The Social Doctrine is one of the best-kept secrets of the Church

on Saturday, 01 October 2011. Posted in Social Doctrine

Bishop François LapierreBishop Lapierre during his homily at Holy Name of Mary church in Marieville on September 1, 2010

On Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010, during our week of study on Social Credit in Rougemont, Most Rev. Francois Lapierre, bishop of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec – our own bishop – presided over the Mass in the neighbouring town of Marieville, which was concelebrated by the seven African bishops and a score of priests. Here are excerpts from his homily:

I greet you all, fellow bishops, it is a great joy for me to see you gathered here. I know very well that you are here within the context of your meeting in Rougemont. I would also like to thank our friends, the Pilgrims of St. Michael, who made this meeting possible, and thus allow us to be together this morning and celebrate the Eucharist that reminds us of the unity of the Body of the Church...

I did not come here this morning to speak about a problem that you know better than me, that is to say this problem of the deep division between various parts of the world, the rich North and the poor South, where there is an accumulation of wealth on one side, and the expansion of poverty on the other. All of this is obviously contrary to the great project of the Lord, the great project of God that is the Kingdom of Heaven...

We are facing today enormous challenges, but we are not left alone to face them: the Lord is with us. This is what today’s Eucharist reminds us of, and we will celebrate it so that your exchanges during this week may bear much fruit and help for peace, justice, and the renewal of the world in which we live. Amen.

A few weeks later, Bishop Lapierre wrote the following words in the October, 2010 issue of the monthly diocesan bulletin L‘Envoi, in a text entitled “The mission today”:

Recently, seven African bishops from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville and Burkina Faso, visited our diocese. I conversed with them and heard through them the cry of the poor of their countries. These bishops were here because they were searching for alternative methods for the development of their countries. They have a clear view that the financial organization of our planet only worsens the poverty in which large sectors of their populations are living.

While listening to them speak, I was thinking about the encyclical letter Centesimus Annus of Pope John Paul II in which he affirms: “The ‘new evangelization,’ which the modern world urgently needs and which I have emphasized many times, must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church’s social doctrine.” (Paragraph 5.)...

I am quoting this line of Pope John Paul II for many reasons. First of all, we must recognize that the Social Doctrine is one of the best-kept secrets of the Church. When do we speak of it? Is it part of catechesis or the liturgy? I must confess that I am often afraid of approaching this question. However, it is an essential dimension of the proclamation of the Gospel for today’s world.

The social teaching of the Church affirms the priority of work over capital. This is a major statement that brings into question the very foundation of the economic system in which we live. The Church is not an expert in economics but it is her duty to affirm the ethical principles that come from her tradition.

The social teaching of the Church finds its inspiration in the prophets. We could think about when the prophet Elias fulminates against King Ahab, who had Naboth killed in order to seize his vineyard. (1st Book of Kings, Chapter 1.) St. Ambrose wrote a powerful commentary on this striking Bible passage.

In Chapter 16 of the Gospel of St. Luke that we have recently read during our Sunday liturgies ends with the remarkable parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man. Jesus tries to waken the conscience of his contemporaries, to help them to discover how important the stakes involving human life are.

As we can see, the mission is vast and concerns questions that are most relevant for today’s life in society. The African bishops who visited us, live perhaps, without knowing it, a new evangelization; they came to remind us of issues that are at the heart of the Gospel.

Bishop Francois Lapierre, P.M.E.

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