With two big and challenging writing projects in the works (and behind schedule), I had decided recently that I’d avoid other side projects until those were done. Then Our Sunday Visitor approached with an invitation to prepare an article on the topic of Pope Francis and Catholic social teaching, and I knew I could not say no. It’s a great topic for a great publication!
The article opens:
Pope Francis’ intense interest in Catholic social teaching has been clear from the first moments of his pontificate. To begin to understand that, one only has to look as far as his name.
Just days after his March 13 election, the pope offered the reasons for choosing the name Francis in his first major papal audience, and they have everything to do with the social teachings of the Church. In an address to the 6,000 journalists who covered the conclave, Pope Francis explained that during the election in the Sistine Chapel, his friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes, seated beside him, encouraged him:
“And when the votes reached two-thirds … he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!”
In that handful of sentences, the pope mentions three central elements of Catholic social teaching: the poor, war and peace, and the environment. Let’s consider each.
The article (which appears in OSV‘s May 5 issue) is now available online to subscribers only. But OSV has kindly provided a .pdf of the article as it appears in the issue and given permission to attach it here. Click here to open it: Pope Francis and Catholic social teaching