Pope John Paul II’s first encyclical letter was published couple of month after his pontificate in 1979. “Redemptor Hominis” is the name of the document which was read on the first Sunday of the lent in all churches. This letter showed Pope’s way of thinking and his pastoral approach. The letter indicated how far ahead John Paul II was with his way of thinking at that time. People reading this document could notice unusual and sophisticated approach in terms of theology, pastoral care, and anthropology, which were characteristic of the newly appointed Pope.
Every person could find something for himself or herself among the many themes in Pope’s letter. One could read messages about human rights, ecological responsibility, ecumenism, and many more. The encyclical letter was addressed not only to the religious orders and faithful, but to everyone in the world. We can see in the very first sentences of the letter that the Pope is recalling the fundamental truths of our faith: “the redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe” (RH 1).
He is also reminding us that God loved us fully, without any limitations: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (RH1). At the center of John Paul II’s message was man, understood as God’s holy creation. When the Pope uses “man,” he refers to humanity as a whole, he means every single human being, because everyone is touched by Jesus Christ and his redemption. This shows Page 1 how important humanity is to our Lord. We can also notice significant traces of anthropology when we are directed by Pope to Jesus Christ who is our savior.
In the opening paragraphs of inheritance, newly elected pope is connecting himself to his predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Blessed John XXIII, by saying “I wish like him to express my love for the unique inheritance left to the Church by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI and my personal readiness to develop that inheritance” (RH 2). He took their names as his own to indicate that he will continue the work which they started and oversaw during the Second Vatican Council. He shows his willingness to carry this task throughout the entire world with assistance of the Bishops and the Holy Spirit.
We can see that structure of the Church is constantly under influence of a renewing force, but its basics remain the same, like apostolic ion which is “continuously renewing it in the College of the Bishops, which is growing more and more over all the earth, remaining united with and under the guidance of the Successor of Saint Peter” (RD 5). These basic elements are the building blocks of the future Church. John Paul II was sending ecumenical message, the main goal of which was re-unification of all churches and all communities. He was actively promoting dialect with non-Christian communities in order to grow in communion with them.
The Holy Father was explaining this in a very simple way. He was saying that Jesus Christ is Lord of human race, and He wants us to be one family; “Jesus stated on several occasions but to which he gave expression in a special way in his prayer in the Upper Room the night before he died: ‘1 pray… Father… that they may all be one. ‘ The Second Vatican Council responded concisely to this requirement with its Decree on ecumenism” (RH 6). If every Church could reunite into one, we would be an example to the humankind family and everyone would become as one.
That’s why Church’s role in teaching Page 2 moral norms is a very important aspect to our society. John Paul stated that our society will lead at some point to moral and ethical decline. We will see the entry into our lives of things like abortion, euthanasia, etc. These new, progressive methods and trends will be a tool of destruction of the present humankind family. In the way he discusses the mystery of redemption, we see how Pope shows his philosophical approach to the matter of human being in the last centuries. We also read about Christ’s incarnation and His way of entering people’s hearts.
This is iving us anthropological and Christocentric point of view about every person, referred to as “man. ” One piece of evidence of God’s love and mercy for humankind is Christ’s incarnation and His life among us on this earth. Christ’s incarnation showed us light which renewed all of the creation and redeemed us “with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth” (RH 14). The Holy Father explains that “Jesus Christ becomes present with the power of the truth and the love that are expressed in him with ique unrepeatable fullness in spite of the shortness of his life on earth and the even greater shortness of his public activity” (RH 14).
Pope also explains that man needs love in order for him to understand what it means to be fully human. We can see this when Pope is saying that “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own” (RH 10). Because God loves us, He sent his only Son and let Him die. He also revels to us that love needs to be encountered, and experienced in order to not to be senseless. We see ethical discovery of our dignity in the image of God.
As mentioned above, the document also highlighted the importance of human dignity as one of the main roots for the Church and its activity; “the dignity that each human being has Page 3 reached and can continually reach in Christ, namely the dignity of both the grace of divine adoption and the inner truth of humanity, a truth which-if in the common awareness” (RH12). This great truth is one of Church’s basic messages to everyone in the world, showing that God truly loves us. A new life is given by redeeming mankind and erasing the past.
Church wants everyone to find Christ “in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world” (RH 14). Life which is connected by the mystery of incarnation and redemption. As the Pope wrote, “Christ, the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (RH 9). Christ provides us with freedom and new power. This is possible by God’s supremacy through Christ, who was crucified, but is alive by his Father’s power.
Christ gives us illumination, where we can see that He is light in darkness, or even better, He is changing darkness into light. God wanted for all people in the world to be free; this is why everyone should respect freedom since we all are human and that was God’s original plan for us. That is also why we have to oncentrate on what we have in common rather than on what divides us, all “men. ” We recognize intimately this truth, which was revealed to us by God and placed on us an obligation and common responsibility.
In the third part of the “Redemptor Hominis” we see information related to Church community, which is made of every single person; every person is an integral part of our social and political system with different ideological systems. The Church wants not to identify people by those systems, but rather, it wants to guard the human transcendence and our human nature. In Page 4 order to do it, the Church needs to talk about the political and social problems and entities, and it needs to promote concrete truth about “man,” since this “man” is the Church, and represents the way in which the Church itself must walk.