NOT from the ecclesiastical grapevine or from the rumor mill of the Vatican, but from the very president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace came the leak that the Holy Father is releasing his third encyclical in June.
Last week the Italian media quoted Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the aforementioned Council, as saying, “I believe June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, will be the definitive date.” He was presumably referring to the publication of the document which, according to Vatican sources, may be an encyclical entitled “Caritas in veritatis.”
Participants of the recent congress on globalization at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome believe that Pope Benedict XVI’s third Encyclical may focus on the recent social changes, particularly on issues surrounding globalization. But this is still speculative.
What is certain though is since Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Church has never failed, in the words of Pope Leo XII (who authored Rerum Novarum), to speak “the words that are hers” with regards to social concerns which have become over just a century a very rich patrimony of Catholic social teachings.
Building from the blocks of earlier social encyclicals as in Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris, it was Pope John Paul II who landmarked to become a prophet of social doctrine with his Laborem Exercens, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, and Centesimus Annus. Admittedly, these social encyclicals orchestrated the fundamental stages of modern social philosophy.
The only rub, however, is, while the Catholic Church is so rich in social teachings, it is still fledgling in praxis. On the ground, Catholics may be tops in matters that are cultic and in mouthing “praise the Lord” but with little participation, if at all, in working for social change or in caring for the marginalized.