Extract – Medellin 1968 The Call for Justice

October 29, 2018
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Latin American Bishops Medellín, Colombia September 6, 1968

1. Pertinent facts

1. There are many studies of the Latin American people.1 All of these studies describe the misery that besets large masses of human beings in all of our countries. That misery, as a collective fact, expresses itself as injustice which cries to the heavens.2

What has perhaps not been sufficiently said is that in general the efforts which have been made have not been able to assure that justice be honoured and realised in every sector of the respective national communities. Often families do not find concrete possibilities for the education of their children. The young demand their right to enter universities or centres of higher learning for both intellectual and technical training; women demand their right to a legitimate equality with men; peasants demand better conditions of life; or if they are workers, they demand better prices and security in buying and selling; the growing middle class feels frustrated by the lack of expectations. Professionals and technicians have begun an exodus to more developed countries; small businessmen and industrialists are pressed by more powerful interests and many large Latin American industrialists are gradually coming to be dependent on international business enterprises. We cannot ignore this phenomenon of almost universal frustration of legitimate aspirations which creates the climate of collective anguish in which we are already living.

II. Doctrinal Bases

3. The Latin American church has a message for all people on this continent who “hunger and thirst after justice.” The very God who creates us in his image and likeness, creates the “earth and all that is in it for the use of all people and all nations, in such a way that created goods can reach all in a more just manner,”3 and gives them power to transform and perfect the world in solidarity.4 It is the same God who, in the fullness of time, sends his Son in the flesh, so that he might come to liberate everyone from the slavery to which sin has subjected them5: hunger, misery, all oppression and ignorance, in a word, that injustice and hatred which have their origin in human selfishness.

Thus, for our authentic liberation, all of us need a profound conversion so that “the kingdom of justice, love and peace,” might come to us. The origin of all disdain for humankind, of all injustice, should be sought in the internal imbalance of human liberty, which will always need to be rectified in history. The uniqueness of the Christian message does not so much consist in the affirmation of the necessity for structural change, as it does in an insistence on the conversion of men and women which will in turn bring about this change. We will not have a new continent without new and reformed structures, but, above all, there will be no new continent without new people, who know how to be truly free and responsible according to the light of the Gospel.

4. Only by the light of Christ is the human mystery made clear. In the economy of salvation the divine work is an action of integral human development and liberation, which has love for its sole motive. Human beings are “created in Christ Jesus,”6 fashioned in him as a “new creature.”7 By faith and baptism they are transformed, filled with the gift of the Spirit, with a new dynamism, not of selfishness, but of love which compels them to seek out a new, more profound relationship with God, their fellow humans, and created things.

Love, “the fundamental law of human perfection, and therefore of the transformation of the world,”8 is not only the greatest commandment of the Lord; it is also the dynamism which ought to motivate Christians to realise justice in the world, having truth as a foundation and liberty as their sign.

5. This is how the church desires to serve the world, radiating over it a light and life which heals and elevates the dignity of the human person,9 which consolidates the unity of society10 and gives a more profound reason and meaning to all human activity.

Doubtless, for the Church, the fullness and perfection of the human vocation will be accomplished with the definitive inclusion of each person in the Passover or Triumph of Christ, but the hope of such a definitive realisation, rather then lull, ought to “vivify the concern to perfect this earth. For here grows the body of the new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age.”11We do not confuse temporal progress and the Kingdom of Christ; nevertheless, the former, “to the extent that it can contribute to the better ordering of human society, is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.”12

The Christian quest for justice is a demand arising from biblical teaching. All people are merely humble stewards of material goods. In the search for salvation we must avoid the dualism which separates temporal tasks from the work of sanctification. Although we are encompassed with imperfections, we are people of hope. We have faith that our love for Christ and our brothers and sisters will not only be the great force liberating us from injustice and oppression, but also the inspiration for social justice, understood as a whole of life and as an impulse toward the integral growth of our countries.

III. Projections for Social Pastoral Planning

6. Our pastoral mission is essentially a service of encouraging and educating the conscience of believers, to help them to perceive the responsibilities of their faith in their personal life and in their social life. This Second Episcopal Conference wishes to point out the most important demands, taking into account the value judgment which the latest documents of the Magisterium of the Church have already made concerning the economic and social situation of the world of today and which applies fully to the Latin American continent.


7. The Latin American church encourages the formation of national communities that reflect a global organisation, where all of the peoples but more especially the lower classes have, by means of territorial and functional structures, an active and receptive, creative and decisive participation in the construction of a new society. Those intermediary structures–between the person and the state–should be freely organised, without any unwarranted interference from authority or from dominant groups, in view of their development and concrete participation in the accomplishment of the total common good. They constitute the vital network of society. They are also the true expression of the citizens’ liberty and unity.


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