07 Pastoral Concerns in The Workers’ Apostolate - Fr Felix D’Souza

posted Apr 25, 2018, 8:47 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 25, 2018, 8:48 AM ]
Brief History:

"The Church has lost the workers" was a phrase very much in use when the Industrial Revolution took the workers by storm. The workers, caught up in the struggle of job insecurity, unemployment and deplorable working conditions looked up to the Church for guidance. The Colonial economy during the 19th century further uprooted many workers from the rural setting. Low wages, employment of women and children for hazardous work, unchecked exploitation were some components of the workers' plight. In the face of such rampant degradation of workers, the Church, while sensitive to the hardship of the workers, was a passive, helpless spectator, except for the fact of organising certain welfare programmes. When Trade Unions emerged, the Church viewed this leadership with suspicion, because of the materialistic and atheistic ideologies of Trade Unions.

Papal Encyclicals:

A breakthrough in the Church's attitude towards the workers took place with the promulgation of Pope Leo XIII's social encyclical (papal letter) titled Rerum Novarum (1891). Subsequently, Msgr Cardijn (later Cardinal Cardijn) started the workers' movements in order to help workers understand their special role in building up God's kingdom. The spirituality of work, and it being a collaboration with God, having a redeeming factor, were some of the concepts that became part of the Church's vocabulary in developing the workers' apostolate. Thereafter came encyclicals of Popes, especially of Pope John Paul II (Laborem Exercens and Centesimus Annus) once again reiterating the importance of the Church's need to respond to the workers' scenario in the world.