Pope Pius XII

Speech to delegates of the National Confederation of Farm Owner-Operators in Rome, 1946, described land that has become; “...the object...of cold is made to produce only for speculation...while the farmer burdening himself with debts, slowly approaches ruin; while the national economy becomes exhausted from paying high prices...This perversion of private rural property is seriously harmful...” At the First International Catholic Congress on Problems of Rural Life, at Castle Gandolfo and Rome, 1951, delegates and participants from 20 countries heard Pope Pius XII include the following statements in his Declaration of Conclusions: “ limited in extension. It follows that the juridical phenomenon of land ownership requires special regulation so that it may accomplish fully its public and private, economic and social function!” “...In many countries a large part of the land is not operated directly by landowners...” “...Immense domains remain uncultivated, side by side with a population without land which wallows in misery...” ...”Large scale land ownership ceases to accomplish its social function whenever it leads to a rigid monopoly in favour of a few people, or to insufficient utilisation of soil productivity, or also to pauperism due to exploitation of labour, or due to demographic pressure which in turn leads to a strong demand for land.” The Second International Catholic Congress on Problems of Rural Life was held in Columbia under the patronage of the Apostolic Nuncio and subsequent Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Extraordinary Affairs at the Archbishop of Bogota and Primate of Columbia. Delegates and participants from 23 countries came up with the following declarations in their Statement of Conclusions: “There are in the world today millions of men who, because of a lack of economic opportunities...are unable to use their God-given talents to contribute to the common welfare...There exist in other lands immense tracts of land, rich in natural resources, uninhabited or sparsely populated...Inview of unequal geographic distribution of men, capital and natural resources, society should be organised to facilitate the bringing together of these three elements which make for economic prosperity.” “It is essential that Catholics, following the exhortations of His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, exhibit zeal in bringing about a realisation of practical works which have for their end a remedy to these grave problems” “The Latin American Congress on Problems of Rural Life affirms its view that landed property has a social function. The land is, in effect, destined by its Creator to satisfy the needs of all men. Hence, it is necessary that all have ready access to the ownership of rural property...One of the major defects of the agrarian structure of Latin America is the prevalence of large landed estates which withdraw land from the small proprietor, often hindering adequate resource utilisation, and not infrequently employing the rural worker merely as an instrument of production.” “The natural resources of the world must be fully developed and conserved for the benefit of all men, so that sickness, poverty, ignorance and misery may be eliminated or at least minimised.” “A sympathetic and co-operative attitude should be taken toward the efforts of governments and international bodies which promote proper use of the land.” “It is very important to teach and to preach the moral obligation of using natural resources properly.” “Accordingly, it is of utmost importance that priests receive adequate training in these matters by means of theoretical and practical courses conducted in seminaries in cooperation with national and international technical bodies.” “There should be created diocesan and national agencies ...entrusted with the responsibility of bringing Catholic rural leaders into contact with governmental and international agencies, and to further the proper development and use of natural resources and the training of technical personnel... (who) have adequate remuneration for their services, and remain outside the area of party politics.” Most recently, the 1959 Pastoral by the Bishops published under the title “Fundamental Human Rights” contains the following section on the “Right of Private Ownership of Property.” “The right to acquire property in private ownership is something that is useful and even necessary for an orderly human life, and in this regarded as a human right of private ownership, at least of some goods, man would be reduced to the condition of the jungle, where the beast of prey has to defend its bone while it is gnawing at it. Pope Leo XIII taught this doctrine of the natural right to private property in his immortal Encyclical Rerum Novarum;- “The practice of all ages has considered the principle of private ownership as pre-eminently in conformity with human nature, and as conducing in the most unmistakable manner to the peace and tranquillity of human existence,” Pope Pius XII taught the same doctrine, but he placed the emphasis on the dignity of the human person, which demands the use of this world’s goods as a natural foundation of its physical and spiritual life. But private ownership is not an “absolute” right. In case of utter need, for example, if a man were starting, he would be justified in ignoring the private ownership of food which he here and now needs for human life. Human life is more precious than material foods.”

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