“Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the “greatest” justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2010

Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance). These virtues are pivotal in the commitment to follow Christ, because they dispose us to do good in relation to ourselves and in our relationships with others. The virtues grow through education, through choosing to act in ways which foster or reflect the virtues, and by perseverance.  Working for justice is a core component of following Christ.

Injustice at the global level has national and local effects which are experienced by people who struggle to survive and reach their full potential against huge disadvantage. Injustice is often at the heart of conflict and wars, so work for justice is often also work for peace.

Social Encyclicals and the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

The teaching of the Church on social issues has been developed by different popes in a series of social encyclicals, beginning with Rerum Novarum written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and extending through to the present day. These encyclicals examine social problems of their time, and are the source of Catholic Social Teaching. This teaching of the Catholic Church on social matters is often summarised as The Principles of Catholic Social Teaching. The principles provide a framework for analysis and action in situations of injustice.

Social Justice organisations

There are two New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference  agencies working nationally in the field of justice, peace and development, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and Mahitahi Catholic Overseas Volunteers.

MISSIONZ is the New Zealand branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies which raises funds to support the Church in mission countries.

Pax Christi Aotearoa New Zealand is the local organization which is part of the international Catholic peace movement founded in 1945 in France.

In dioceses there are Diocesan Justice and Peace Commissions or offices which carry out advocacy on national and global issues of justice and peace. In some pastoral areas and parishes there are Justice and Peace or Social Action groups.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand was established by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference to work for justice and peace locally and globally, and to support development work in countries throughout the world. Caritas Aotearoa is a member of the worldwide Caritas Confederation which enables the justice, peace and development organisations of Bishops Conferences to work together across the globe.

Mahitahi Catholic Overseas Volunteers

Mahitahi Catholic Overseas Volunteers is an agency of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference which provides skilled volunteers to assist the Church in developing countries (primarily in Oceania) to carry out its mission and its work in areas such as education, health and development.