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Octogesima Adveniens (A Call to Action)


Pope Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini 26 September
1897 6 August 1978), reigned from 21 June 1963 to his death in 1978. Succeeding
Pope John XXIII, he continued the Second Vatican Council which he closed in 1965,
implementing its numerous reforms, and fostered improved ecumenical relations
with Eastern Orthodox and Protestants, which resulted in many historic meetings
and agreements.

[Introduction] (Kairon)
A Call to Action is an open, apostolic letter from Pope Paul VI to Cardinal Maurice
Roy, president of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, to commemorate
the eightieth anniversary of the publication of Pope Leo XIIIs The Condition of Labor.
It breaks new ground by developing a theory of the role of individual Christians and
local churches in responding to situations of injustices.
Pope Paul VI begins this letter by urging greater efforts for justice and noting the
duties of local churches to respond to specific situations. The Pope then discusses a
wide variety of new social problems which stem from urbanization. These issues
include women, youth, and the new poor. Paul VI next treats modern aspirations
and ideas, especially liberalism and Marxism. He stresses the need to ensure
equality and the right of all to participate in society. He concludes this letter by
encouraging all Christians to reflect on their contemporary situations, apply Gospel
principles, and take political action when appropriate.


A changing world
Pope Paul, like Pope John XXIII ten years earlier, was confronting a radically
changing world torn by conflicting ideology and emerging social movements. In
particular, Pope Paul points to flagrant inequalities (# 2):
while some regions are heavily industrialised, others are still at the agricultural
stage; while some countries enjoy prosperity, others are struggling against
starvation; while some peoples have a high standard of culture, others are still
engaged in eliminating illiteracy. From all sides there rises a yearning for more
justice and a desire for a better guaranteed peace in mutual respect among
individuals and peoples. (# 4)

The Popes message is that Christians must seek just solutions to these challenges
in the light of the Gospels, which have remained as relevant today as when they
were written. It is up to Christian communities to discern the options and
commitments which are called for in order to bring about the social, political and
economic changes seen in many cases to be urgently needed

The encyclical focused on specific issues that must become primary because of
their urgency, extent, and complexity:
URBANIZATION as rural poor move to cities to seek a better life, weakening
agrarian life and worsening overcrowding and inequality in the cities (# 1011)
YOUTH, finding their own aspirations and responding to insecurity about the
future (# 13)
THE ROLE OF WOMEN, who are seeking for a way to establish relationships of
equality in rights and of respect for their dignity (# 13)
WORKERS RIGHTS, particularly the right to work and to receive just wages (#
VICTIMS OF CHANGE workers displaced by technology and lack of education,
people with disabilities, mental illness or age-related conditions, and others on
societys fringes (# 15)
IMMIGRANTS, who struggle for acceptance in a new society in spite of their real
participation in the economic effort of the country (# 18)
THE INFLUENCE OF THE MEDIA, whose power and influence were increasing
THE ENVIRONMENT: humanity is suddenly becoming aware that by an illconsidered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it (# 21).
These problems lead to different or new forms of exploitation and oppression, and
if man lets himself rush ahead without foreseeing in good time the emergence of
new social problems, they will become too grave for a peaceful solution to be hoped


Within human growth, two aspirations seem universal and become more important
over time: equality and participation. However, legislation often fails to keep up
with such aspirations.

Pope Paul discusses two conflicting ideologies of the time:

Socialism may seem to have much in common with Christian belief. It is easy to
idealise it as a will for justice, solidarity and equality (# 31), but, Pope Paul says, it
would be illusory and dangerous to accept Marxist analysis while failing to note
the kind of totalitarian and violent society to which this process leads
By contrast, liberal ideology purports to defend the individual against the power
of organisations and the totalitarian tendencies of political powers. But at the root
of liberalism is the idea that individual liberty makes a person completely
independent and without obligation.

In light of all the problems of the world and the necessity for the local community to
help develop its own action, the encyclical ends with a challenge to Christians for
their involvement, but also noting that no single answer will be the same to
engage the problems at hand.

Each Christian has a personal responsibility for building up the temporal order
(#48). (Kairon)
The Lord working with us is a great reason for Christian hope (#48). (Abie)
A plurality of options for action exists (#49). (Jeamaine)
Christians have the task of inspiring and innovating in working for justice (#50).