At 40, Center of Concern focuses on synod’s ‘Justice in the World’

A 10-minute video on the Center of Concern’s website looks back 40 years to the release of “Justice in the World,” the document produced at the 1971 Synod of Bishops.

The document addressed key concerns of Catholic bishops from around the world about the world economy and the need to ensure that justice prevailed for the poorest people.

The video features commentary about the document from Jesuit Father Jim Hug, the center’s president, and Dominican Sister Maria Riley, senior adviser to the center’s Global Women’s Project.

It comes as the Center of Concern observes its own 40th anniversary.

Such a center to study issues relating to international development, justice and peace from a Christian perspective was first envisioned by Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, then superior general of the Society of Jesus, and then-Bishop Joseph Bernardin (later cardinal), general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference at the time. They announced the establishment of the center May 4, 1971 at a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General U Thant.

In the video, Father Hug called the synod’s document “insightful and prophetic” because the concerns raised then about the increased concentration of wealth and the growing consumption of resources by countries of the global North are even more pronounced today. He quoted from the document:

It is impossible to see what right the richer nations have to keep up their claim to increase their own material demands, if the consequence is either that others remain in misery or that the danger of destroying the very physical foundations of life on earth is precipitated.

“We face that challenge today,” he observed.

Sister Maria explained in the video how the bishops recognized that while the traditional powers of the world had withdrawn from their former colonies in Africa, Asia and South America, they still harbored concerns about a new form of neo-colonialism emerging. She said the dangers the bishops envisioned 40 years ago have come true today through economic globalization and the lingering world financial crisis “which holds the developing countries of the South hostage” because of the debt they have accumulated on international bank loans.

“The bishops call for a new kind of development,” she said, “one that accepts modernization insofar as it really does address the needs of countries of the South and the well-being of the people rather than on profit maximization and wealth accumulation.”

The video offers a good introduction to the 40-year-old document and helps frame the church’s stance on the importance of global justice in the 21st century.

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