Social Justice Work Should Keep Focus on the Person, Says Irish Prelate

Dublin’s Coadjutor Addresses Canadian Conference

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CAP-DE-LA-MADELEINE, Quebec, NOV. 5, 2003 ( The principal focus of the bishop in working for justice for the poor and those with AIDS must be anthropological, says a prelate and former Vatican representative at the United Nations.

«It is about the human person, male and female, created in God’s image and likeness,» Coadjutor Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, told the Canadian bishops’ conference at their annual meeting last week.

«It is about humanity created as a family; it is about the integrity of the creation given to humankind as its home,» he said.

Archbishop Martin was formerly the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva. His presentation was part of the Canadian bishops’ review of the mandate of their Commission for Social Affairs. The conference took a close look at their duty of promoting social justice.

His talk touched on social justice issues such as intellectual property ownership, the fight against HIV/AIDS, the fundamental option for the poor, migration, the fight against poverty, the scourge of war, and care of the environment.

In reference to globalization and its effect on the poor, Archbishop Martin echoed John Paul II’s words in «Centesimus Annus,» saying, «If economic life is absolutized, if the production and consumption of goods become the center of social life and society’s only value, not subject to any other value, economic freedom loses its necessary relationship the human person, and ends up by alienating and oppressing.»

Elsewhere, the Irish prelate observed: «The fight against HIV/AIDS is showing us that, as in the case of so many other diseases of our time, it is not just a question of providing medical commodities, but also involves behavioral change to more healthy and responsible life styles.»

«It also involves change on behalf of the entire community that should recognize the person infected with HIV/AIDS as a human being entitled to participate fully in society and realize the God-given capacities he or she possesses,» he said.

Archbishop Martin also spoke about what it means to be a «prophet of justice,» as seen in John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation «Pastores Gregis.»

Quoting from the papal document, Archbishop Martin said, «The bishop is called the defender and father of the poor and the defender of human rights.»

The bishop «is the one who proclaims the moral teaching of the Church and who proclaims the social teaching of the Church,» he added. «He is the one who proclaims hope, who proclaims peace. He is the one who denounces vengeance and fosters forgiveness and love.»

A bishop can promote the anthropological vision of social justice in many dimensions, according to Archbishop Martin.

«The bishop’s work for justice involves not just a catalogue of denunciations of injustices,» he said. «Neither is it just an agenda of focused programs and interventions. It is not simply the enunciation of theological principles. It is all of these.»

«The key point in today’s world,» he continued, «is establishing a dialogue between theological reflection and the fruits of human sciences and social investigation in order to place the human person, created in God’s image, at the center of the social reflection and action of the Church.»

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