New Office for Justice, Development Proposed at Council

A proposal has been submitted to ecumenical council officials asking Pope Paul VI to establish an international secretariat charged with the promotion of world justice and development.

The proposal was submitted by one of its chief promoters, an American lay council auditor, James Norris, to the council’s secretary general, Archbishop Pericle Felici. The idea for the secretariat had its origins in council discussions on world poverty and hunger during the second and third sessions.

One of those talks was given by Norris, who is president of the International Catholic Migration Commission and assistant to the director of Catholic Relief Services — National Catholic Welfare Conference.

The international body, to be established directly by the Pope and to be located in Rome, would exist to exercise “educational, inspirational and moral force and influence, to bring about world justice and development for the conquest of world poverty,” according to Norris’ proposal. “It would not have day-to-day concern with concrete operations and projects such as those carried on by existing agencies of the Church at national, regional or world levels.”

Discussions during the council, the document states, have provided “theological deepening and fresh pastoral insights to cope with the new global dimensions of Christian responsibility.” This, coupled with deep interest in the proposal by “competent authorities of the Church,” indicates support would be widespread.

Specific recommendations include that the secretariat have a cardinal as president and a small staff including an executive secretary, and that its relations with other Church bodies follow “established guidelines.” It would have the advice of a “strategy committee composed of highly competent authorities, technicians and well-known leaders in the field of economics, aid and development, both clergy and lay.”

Attention, the proposal states, should also be given to the “ecumenical implications of its work and to appropriate liaison with non-Christian groups.” These would be carried on through the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, the Secretariat for Non-Christians and any other such bodies which might be established.

Special attention would be paid to enlisting the aid of the lay apostolate, theologians, Biblical scholars, moralists and other serious thinkers and of encouraging study programs in universities and centers of study.

One of the main areas of approach would be through educational programs in Catholic organizations, aimed at producing awareness of “the facts of hunger, disease and illiteracy among more than half the human family, and the comparative wealth of the minority.” Emphasis would be placed on the “mind of the Church” as developed from the council, particularly regarding the “new world neighborhood and interdependence arising from technological and social change.”

The secretariat would be at the service of “action programs” such as the Church’s charitable organizations in various countries, missionary societies, lay volunteer programs and the like.

New programs would be encouraged. “Through the secretariat the support of the Holy Father would be manifested and the concern of the whole Church would be focused and dramatized. … It would not be operational, and would in no way supersede or control existing action programs,” according to the proposal.

Another area of concern would be the development of conscience sensitive to the demands of world social justice. “In keeping with the traditions and ethos of each people,” the proposal states, “Catholics should join with other religiously motivated and humanitarian citizens to rally support for tax-financed foreign aid, with emphasis on morality and sound human motives, as distinct from the pursuit of chauvinistic goals. Jointly they should address themselves to leaders of industry and labor, of the university and professions, and to intellectuals and molders of public opinion.”

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