It is not just a novelty, the institution of the Vatican dicastery for the integral human development service, which will be presided by Cardinal Peter Turkson, who until now has been the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, integrated into the new body, along with the Pontifical Council for Migrants and itinerant People, for the Ministry of health and Cor Unum operators. It is a revolution, cultural and civil, but also a revolution in the ecclesiastical administration. For the first time, has been introduce the term “service”, as the goal of a papal institution, although implicitly this is the goal of every institution of the Holy See. And integral human development exceeds the boundaries of the public discourse, the philosophical discussion, intercultural dialogue, the specific debates, to become an ordinary matter, but at the same time a vital question for the human and religious communities.
The new dicastery, established by the Motu Proprio of 17 August, which includes the Commissions for Charity, Ecology, and for Health Workers, which oversees Caritas Internationalis, will come into force starting from 1 January 2017. The fourth paragraph of the first article of the Statute law reads also another novelty, which is revolutionary as well and concerns the management of the institution: “a Section of the Department deals specifically with refugees and migrants. This Section has been created for a specified time under the guidance of the Supreme Pontiff, who exercises it in the manner he considers appropriate.” Pope Francis holds sole, therefore, the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people, refugees, asylum seekers, those who are pilgrims not only because of their anthropological condition or an existential choice, but also because forced to leave their hearth and home, country origin, identity, and belonging, to search for a shelter and a future for their difficult, sometimes even tragic.
“The dicastery – we read in the statute – expresses also the concern of the Supreme Pontiff for the suffering humanity, including the needy, the sick and the marginalized. He follows with due attention the issues related to the needs of those who are forced to abandon their homeland, people who are deprived of their homeland, the marginalized, victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters, prisoners, the unemployed and the victims of contemporary forms of slavery and torture, and of other people whose dignity is at risk.” In this missionary perspective, “he promotes integral human development in the light of the Gospel and in the wake of the Church’s social doctrine”.
The concept of “integral human development” first appeared with under this name in Paul VI’s Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, published on 26 March 1967. It was repeated several times by Pope John Paul II, then by Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. The social situation in which Pope Montini matured this definition, as an anthropological vision in the light of the Gospel and as a response to the problems of humanity of his time, was not very different from the current one, or maybe even less serious than the widespread civil and economic injustice, for the intolerable discrimination in accessing rights, and differences in the distribution and use of wealth. Integral human development concerns every dimension of human life, both of the individual and as a community, “of every person and of all persons”. as “true development” of every person and of the humanity. Therefore, as Pope Ratizinger said, it is also supportive. It refers to ethics of responsibility, solidarity, and fraternity.
“The social question is a moral issue,” reads the title of the Introduction to Populorum Progressio. “The social question has become a radically anthropological question”, writes Benedict XVI. The social question is moral, anthropological, and evangelical, said Pope Francis today. And with the establishment of this new dicastery, he completes the invitation to be faithful to the Gospel, present starting with Article 1 of Pope Paul VI’s social Encyclical Letter, in an action of concrete solidarity, for a turning point in human history and in the history of the Church: “the development of the peoples, especially of those struggling to free themselves from the yoke of hunger, misery, endemic diseases, and ignorance; people looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilization, a more active improvement of their human qualities; people who move with decision toward the goal of their heyday, are closely watched by the church. In the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, a renewed awareness of the needs of the gospel message requires it to be in people’s service, in order to help them grasp all the dimensions of this serious problem and convince them of the urgency of a solidarity action in this turning point in human history.”