Pope John Paul II's Leadership of the Church as a Social Services Provider

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Ram Cnaan

Director, Program for the Study of Social Work and Religion

University of Pennsylvania

" John Paul II's papacy will be remembered as one of social advocacy, but he was more concerned with world peace, justice and labor conditions than social services," Dr. Cnaan says.  "In his 1991 Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year), he said, 'Love for others, and especially for the poor, is made concrete by promoting justice.'"

And while much is being made of the pope's role in helping topple communism, he also pointed out the limits of free markets in helping the poor of the world, Dr. Cnaan says.

"In an attempt to reconcile the free-market approach and individual dignity, the pope said, 'The free market appears to be the most efficient tool for utilizing resources and responding to needs.  But this is true only if you are able to buy and sell.  Justice and truth demand that basic human needs should be met and that none should be left to perish,'" Dr. Cnaan says.