Blessed John Paul II Seen as Social Doctrine Prophet

Prayer Vigil Marks Anniversary of «Laborem Exercens»

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ROME, MAY 12, 2011 ( Blessed John Paul II’s first social encyclical was released in 1981, the third year of his pontificate. A prayer vigil in Rome this week marked the 30th anniversary of the work.

«Laborem Exercens» was dated Sept. 14, 1981, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

The Tuesday event in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem was an initiative of the Communion and Liberation Movement with two Italian labor groups.

Auxiliary Bishop Paolo Schiavon of Rome presided over the vigil.

Monsignor Walter Insero, communications director for the Vicariate of Rome, recalled how John Paul II considered himself «not a worker priest, but yes, a worker seminarian,» in reference to his work in a stone quarry and chemical factory during his years as a student.

Bishop Schiavon proposed that this personal experience of manual labor is a key factor in explaining the Pope’s social doctrine.

«John Paul II was called a prophet of the Church’s social doctrine because he showed how the teaching proposed by the Church stems from God’s yes to man, from the plan of love that God has for man, a plan that was entrusted especially to the Church,» the bishop reflected.

The prelate observed how Christ is involved in man’s work and economic life, «because in these places man is instructed, he discovers the truth about himself and others, he encounters Christ.»

Bishop Schiavon noted the emphasis in «Laborem Exercens» on work as «an element of global, natural and supernatural development of the person and, therefore, the moment of his interior sanctification, the moment of the construction of a better world.»

The 71-year-old auxiliary bishop said the Polish Pontiff’s social encyclical had an important novelty in that it «shifted attention from the traditional problems: work, workers, just salary, labor relations, earning and enterprise to the great question of the ecology of work.»

The Holy Father called for a culture of work that synthesized man’s personal, economic and social dimensions.

«Let us recall for a moment John Paul II’s observation in ‘Laborem Exercens,'» the bishop proposed, «[that] work is for man and not man for work — an invitation to think in terms of the social ecology of work.»

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