In his foreword, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino (who chaired the committee that produced the text) notes that Pope John Paul II commissioned the work in order to support and orient the action of Christians, whose entire lives should be acts of evangelization, as they go about their lives and engage with others. The introduction proclaims Christ’s mission to bring salvation to all of humanity. It identifies the task of the Church as spreading this Gospel. Christ also teaches us what God has to say about justice and peace.
The starting point of this teaching is human dignity, which is transcendent because it is founded on man’s realization that God loves him. This human dignity also reaches beyond the individual, bringing each of us into relationship with other people. Relations among human persons can only be radically transformed through love. Christian love spurs the faithful to contribute to securing the good of all people. It is based on an integral understanding of humanity that is rooted in solidarity.
Disseminating the social teaching of the Church is a key part of evangelization. To that end, the compendium presents this social teaching in a complete and systematic way. It explains Christian anthropology, which comes from divine revelation concerning God’s love for the human person. While acknowledging that historical change and shifting social contexts will require ongoing reflection concerning various topics presented, the Church’s teaching is rooted in an understanding of the integral human person, which comprises body and soul, heart and conscience, intellect and will. Its goal is to continue the work of Christ according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Since the loftiest part of human experience relates to the profound questions concerning our existence (who are we? why are we here?), our religious life is consequently the highest expression of our experience. But humanity also faces profound challenges, the greatest of which are coming to terms with the truth about the human person, understanding differences and pluralism at all levels of society, and globalization – not only in economic terms, but as a factor driving human destinies.
Christians are thus engaged in these challenges as they seek out the truth and the meaning of personal and social life. The Church walks alongside the human race as it works through these issues. Its social teachings offer a humanism which derives from God’s design of love for humanity, and which is based on the dignity and liberty of each human person. A world of peace, justice, and solidarity is thus inseparable from the protection and promotion of the dignity of each human person.