Presentation of the Catholic social encyclicals volume in Ukrainian: “a guide for reconstruction and rebuilding of Ukraine”

Presentation of the Catholic social encyclicals volume in Ukrainian: “a guide for reconstruction and rebuilding of Ukraine”

A collection of social encyclicals and some other documents of the Roman Pontiffs translated into Ukrainian was presented in Rome. The event included a discussion on the importance of the social doctrine of the Church in the Evangelization.

“The Social Doctrine of the Church as an Instrument of Evangelization” – a thematic discussion on this topic was held on October 20, 2022 at the Pontifical Ukrainian College of St. Josaphat. The collection “Social Documents of the Church: Encyclicals, Radio Messages, Apostolic Epistles (1891-2015)” was presented during the event. The compiler of the publication is the Institute of Religion and Society of the Ukrainian Catholic University. The meeting was organized by the director of this institute Taras Dzyubanskyy.

The event began with a joint prayer in the chapel of the college, after which the rector, Rev. Fr. Luis Caciano, expressed his conviction that social doctrine is a “powerful tool” that can help the Church to evangelize, first of all, to form the conscience and structures of social life, because when it is implemented, it gives rise to hope and brotherhood and teaches a person to be a bearer of peace.

“The best kept “secret” in the world”

Opening the presentation, which took place in the conference hall of the College, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See and to the Sovereign Order of Malta, Andrii Yurash, stressed that the social doctrine is not only a well-developed theory, but it also offers specific guidelines for being  implemented. “These are not just some abstract things. These are not just formal documents that can be read, re-read and discussed. These are documents that need to be comprehended, taken to heart and applied to the reality, a very complex and tragic Ukrainian reality,” he said, noting the consistency and continuity of social documents that reveal both the heritage and the trace of challenges of the era in which they were written.

The collection was presented by Dr. Taras Dzyubanskyy. He spoke about the context of the first social encyclical “Rerum Novarum” by Pope Leo XIII and the development of this topic in the documents of his successors. Speaking about the social doctrine of the Church, Dzyubanskyy shared his experience of communicating with business people and officials, for whom the existence of such a doctrine, which has 130 years of history, is a surprise. This is why it can be called “the best kept “secret” in the world”, about whose existence not even many Catholics know. According to Dzyubanskyy, these documents, which reflect the reaction of the Church to the challenges of their time, can also become a guide for a just post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.

The source of the Church’s credibility

The next stage of the event was a discussion, which began with three presentations. Sister Helen Alford, OP, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. Alford spoke about the importance and impact of the Church’s social doctrine in the academic world. According to Alford, the Church’s social teachings can have an impact on solving the problems that the world is called to  find answers for today. Such a contribution, she said, helps the “Church to be more credible.” She said this is evidenced, for example, in Ukraine where the Church, on the one hand, stood alongside the people on the Maidan, and on the other hand, has a “high percentage of public trust,” which is not seen in other European countries. Alford said the main task in the academic world is he rethinking and overcoming of the “individualism generated by the Enlightenment and returning to the public discourse the dimension of relationships as a characteristic feature of the human person.”

The source of creativity of love

Michael Severance, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome office, spoke about the activities of this organization, whose ideas come to fruition in the late 1980s, to promote the development of a market economy in the post-communist context. It is a promotion based on Judeo-Christian principles, since following decades of atheistic domination, these values had become culturally unknown among new generations. Acton’s main principle of activity is aimed at “building a free and virtuous society”. This helps realize the “nobility “of each person, realizing that we are all “children of the King of the Universe.. Referring to the experience of his father, who was a military doctor during the Vietnam War, and to the words of Pope Francis, the Severance stressed that when we truly approach the suffering, we become “creative in our love” for the other.

A means of overcoming prejudice

Olena Komisarenko, a doctoral student at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, shared her experience as a laywoman who promotes the social doctrine of the Church. She spoke about how social doctrine helps answer the question of how to live out the Gospel. According to Komisarenko, it is a fundamental means of evangelizing adults and overcoming prejudice. She spoke about this on the basis of her participation in the Francis Economy movement, to which Pope Francis invited young economists, entrepreneurs, activists and agents of change, and encouraged the creation of a new person-centered model of economy.


The final part of the presentation was a discussion during which the speakers answered the questions from participants. In particular, there were questions on such topical issues as the fight against corruption and peace-building. The leading role of the Church in preaching these values was emphasized, because the eradication of corruption requires a change in social norms. During the discussion on peace, which, according to St. John Paul II, must first of all “reign in the hearts,” attention was drawn to the fact that it is not an academic matter, but a requirement “to build relationships and approach human suffering.” It also requires time, patience and prudence. Courage to defend the weak and vulnerable is also part of building the right kind of peace. In the Lord’s Prayer, the only thing we have to do is forgive. So this is also an important element, starting with “forgiving ourselves” (our failures) It was also emphasized that the best theories will be fruitless without grace, which establishes the will to do good and enlightens minds.

Taras Dzyubanskyy: “I believe that such a collection can become a guide.”

In an interview for Vatican Radio – Vatican News, Taras Dzyubanskyy spoke about the implementation of the project of translation of social encyclicals and shared his thoughts on the importance of the Church’s social doctrine in the current Ukrainian circumstances.

Vatican Radio: What prompted you to publish this collection and what were the difficulties in the process of its compilation?

Taras Dzyubanskyy: The publication of this collection was inspired by the participation of Mr. Myroslav Marynovych in a conference in Rome, during which a similar publication in Italian was presented. If I am not mistaken, it was in 2015. In 2017, the first grant was received for the implementation of this project and from 2017 to 2019, translations were carried out and the publication itself was published in 2020. One of the difficulties of this project was the translation itself, because it was not easy to find equivalent concepts in the modern Ukrainian language for some terms, such as for example “subsidiarity”, or another term that is not always easy to translate literally is the term “caritas”, which means not just “love”, but “merciful love”.

VR: Could you please explain the topic of the discussion that took place after the presentation? How can a person know Christ and His Gospel through social doctrine?

Dzyubanskyy : After the presentation of the collection we had an interesting discussion on the topic “The social doctrine of the church as a tool for evangelization”. All members of Christ’s Church – laity, priests, monks – are called to preach the word of God, to evangelize today’s society. Of course, the social doctrine of the church is not a dogmatic doctrine, but it originates from theological and dogmatic concepts, that is, the word of God is one of the sources for the social doctrine of the church. Therefore, in fact, those people who contribute to the implementation of the social teaching of the Church, who take concrete initiatives that stem from and are based on the social teaching of the Church, in this way preach Christ and spread His Gospel in this world.

VR: How do the 30-year efforts of the UGCC aimed at implementing the principles of the social doctrine of the Church help it now to respond to the challenges posed by a full-scale war?

Dzyubanskyy:  With the full-scale war unleashed by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, Ukraine has faced many more social challenges, ranging from understanding the dignity of the human person to the economy itself. Therefore, now we can see the importance of the efforts that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has been making for more than 30 years to implement the main principles of the social doctrine of the Church. And we, as the faithful of the UGCC, can turn to individual encyclicals on the topics of the social doctrine of the Church in order to find guidance and answers to difficult questions, as we are in a difficult situation today, in a state of full-scale aggression and war. I believe that this collection can become such a guide, and, of course, my dream is that after the war, after our victory, the collection of the social doctrine of the Church will become a bestseller.

VR: What is the relevance and originality of this collection?

Dzyubanskyy: The relevance of the collection “Social Documents of the Church” lies in the fact that the social doctrine of the Church is flexible in a sense that it evolves and adopts to the times, and, therefore, we can trace its continuity, as well as its development in the light of the historical events in which a person is in a particular era. In connection with the war, with the pandemic (the collection was published before these two global disasters), its relevance becomes even greater. 

And the originality of the collection lies in the fact that, perhaps for the first time in Ukraine, translations of twelve documents of the Roman Bishops devoted to social issues were collected, and thus, such topics that most affect the specific life of a person and society are discussed and brought to the public. This collection includes documents of eight Roman Popes: Leo XIII, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. This publication is useful not only for those who study theology or religious studies, but we hope it will also interest the laity of various Churches, as well as all people of good will, including those who do not belong to the Catholic and Christian Churches

Source: Vatican Radio

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