Pope to bishops: preach about the 'have-nots'

And now a word from the pope -- no, not the current one. But if the rhetoric was loftier eighty-one years ago and the pronouns unfashionably regal, the message remains alarmingly relevant:

There is every reason to fear that the plague of Unemployment, which We have already mentioned, will worsen, to such an extent that poverty may pushthough God forbid it!many a misery-stricken household to exasperation.... As an effect of rivalry between peoples there is an insensate competition in armaments which, in its turn, becomes the cause of enormous expenditure, diverting large sums of money from the public welfare; and this makes the present crisis more acute.... We exhort you all, Venerable Brethren, to busy yourselves with the work of enlightening public opinion in this matter, by all the means at your disposal, including both pulpit and press, so that the hearts of men may be turned towards the dictates of right reason, and, still more, to the laws of Christ.

This call to preach about the need to reduce defense spending in favor of public-welfare funding was issued on this day in 1931 by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Nova impendet. (HT @pourmecoffee.)The pope begins with a flourish: "A new scourge threatens.... It strikes most heavily at those who are the most tender and are Our most dearly beloved; upon the children, the proletariat, the artisans and the 'have-nots.' We are speaking of the grave financial crisis which weighs down the peoples and is accelerating in every land the frightful increase of Unemployment." Plus a change. The solution, Pius says, is a "Crusade of charity," with the bishops at its center. And, of course, prayer:

And especially let us pray for those of our brethren who are in distress, and let us repeat with more earnestness than ever before the prayer which Jesus Himself has taught us: "Give us this day our daily bread."Let all of us remember, as a spur and as a consolation, that the Divine Redeemer will cherish what we do for His poor as if we have done it for Himself (Matt. xxv. 40), and that, according to another of His comforting words, to receive a little child for the love of Jesus is the same as receiving Jesus Himself (Matt. xviii, 5).

Incidentally, the encyclical ends with a reference to the upcoming feast of Christ the King ("It seems to Us that it will be timely to prepare for the Feast by solemn tridua in the parish churches, whereby to implore from the God of Mercies celestial counsels and the gifts of peace"). It has that in common with USCCB's recent document "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty":

In addition to this summers observance, we also urge that the Solemnity of Christ the Kinga feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious libertybe a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.

The poor we will always have with us, I guess.

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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