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1965: Vatican II Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (‘Joys and Hopes’)

7 December All day

Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, December 7, 1965

A Sun rising over a landscape of trees, grass and long grass

The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.              
                                                                                                                     Gaudium et Spes, 1.

The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965. Read an introduction to Gaudium et Spes here.

This important document emphasised a theology of Christian mission, describing the church as “leaven in the world” (Gaudium et Spes, 40). The church was called to play an active part in shaping the wider world, offering the gift of Christ in dialogue with all people in a collaborative model. All Christians, by virtue of their baptism, were invited and empowered to proclaim the Gospel by their lives and their living. This call to holiness was not reserved only for some but open to all, with the strong formation of Christian conscience considered a primary consideration and need.

Gaudium et Spes calls Christians to an integrated life that sees the match of word and deed in their dealings in both public and private spheres. The document stands against a form of religion that creates any artificial split between worship and mission. It names the best way to fulfil the obligations of justice and love as people contributing to the common good; this leads to better living conditions for all people, especially those most in need (Gaudium et Spes 25, 30, 43, 75). The dignity and value of the human person is central (26, 27).

On the other hand, the right of having a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one’s family belongs to everyone. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church held this opinion, teaching that all are obliged to come to the relief of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods.

If one is in extreme necessity, they have the right to procure for themselves what they need out of the riches of others. Since there are so many people prostrate with hunger in the world, this sacred council urges all, both individuals and governments, to remember the aphorism of the Fathers, “Feed the person dying of hunger, because if you have not fed them, you have killed them,” and really to share and employ their earthly goods, according to the ability of each, especially by supporting individuals or peoples with the aid by which they may be able to help and develop themselves.

Gaudium et Spes, 69

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