Pope Paul VI pleads eloquently for the downtrodden masses in his fifth encyclical. The 20,000-word message entitled Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) calls upon “all men of good will” to give “a loving response of charity” to the cry of the hungry for help. It was dated Easter Sunday and issued two days later.

The pontiff shakes an accusing finger at prosperous lands and wealthy citizens. “The superfluous wealth of rich countries should be placed at the service of poor nations,” he says. He urges special compassion for those who are “struggling to free themselves from the yoke of hunger, misery, disease, and ignorance, who seek a larger share in the fruits of civilization and a more active realization of their human personality.”

The encyclical’s most provocative paragraph, however, is the one in which the Pope concedes that population growth is a problem. His reference to population control is ambiguous, though some headline writers inferred an easing of the Vatican’s strictures against contraceptives. This is what the Pope said:

“The size of the population increases more rapidly than available resources, and things are found to have reached apparently an impasse. From that moment the temptation is great to check the demographic increase by means of radical measures. It is certain that public authorities can intervene, within the limit of their competence, by favoring the availability of appropriate information and by adopting suitable measures, provided that these be in conformity with the moral law and that they respect the rightful freedom of married couples.”

The encyclical deals with numerous economic issues. Among other things, it:

♦ Insists that the right of private property is not “absolute and unconditional” ...

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