Pope John Paul II paints a somber picture of the state of global development in The Social Concerns of the Church. He cites the originality of Pope Paul VI’s The Development of Peoples and emphasizes the moral/ ethical dimension of development. After surveying the difficult state of the poor countries, the Pope lays strong blame on the confrontation between the two global blocs, liberal capitalism of the West, and Marxist collectivism of the East. He refers to the obstacles hindering development as the “structures of sin” and calls for conversion toward solidarity and the option for the poor. While he does speak of the responsibilities of the poor countries, by far his strongest challenge is to the affluent world.
Twenty years after The Development of Peoples, Pope John Paul II celebrates that encyclical of Paul VI with a strong statement updating the Church’s teaching on international development. The document reflects the severity of global economies at the end of the 1980s, with debt, unemployment, and recession seriously affecting the lives of millions not only in the developing countries but also in the more affluent countries. It echoes several of the justice-related themes addressed by the Pope in his worldwide travels.
Just a few years after Laborem Exercens, on December 30, 1987, John Paul II issued the second of his social encyclicals, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis. Unlike most of the social encyclicals, which were published on an anniversary of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, was issued to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio. In fact, John Paul II states that he desires “to pay homage to this historic document of Paul VI” (§3) and “to extend the impact of that message by bringing it to bear…upon the present historical moment…” Not surprisingly the Holy Father devotes the first part ofSollicitudo to a discussion of Paul VI’s encyclical. He points out that Populorum...