Pope Benedict XVI added a major contribution this week to the Catholic Church’s rich tradition of social teaching. His new encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), calls for charity (love) rooted in the truth of the dignity of the human person.

The document’s longer title indicates its course. “On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth” consists of several major strands of thought under the main theme of economic development in service of the person and rooted in spanine love.

This newspaper offers a look at the major points of the document, which itself is written in a remarkably accessible style, given the subject matter. You’ll find a link to the entire document on our web site, www.cst-phl.com.

The encyclical calls for people to reach out in charity to their brothers and sisters in a just way. One archdiocesan agency in particular has been doing that since 2001. The Office for Community Development, under the aegis of Catholic Human Services, works with the community to identify its most pressing needs, then forms partnerships with banks that see the value of supporting neighborhoods and utilizing government tax credits for community improvement.

The results are impressive: Homes for working families have been rehabilitated in the St. Hugh Parish area. The Kensington area was stabilized through the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center and formerly homeless people were brought into transitional housing through the adjacent Visitation Homes. And elderly residents now enjoy independent living in their own South Philadelphia neighborhood through the reuse of a closed Catholic high school, resulting in St. John Neumann Place.

It’s a win-win all around, and the record of success shows the kind of innovative and ethical economic practices, solidarity among peoples and commitment to defending the dignity of each human person that “Charity in Truth” teaches.

And the work continues. This week the Archdiocese announced its latest partnership for a new transitional housing center to address homelessness in Philadelphia. The building will be certified environmentally friendly, which is another theme of the encyclical that the CS&T will address in weeks to come.

Pope Benedict concludes his milestone in Catholic tradition by placing the work of human development in its proper context. “Development requires attention to the spiritual life … spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace.”