This foundation is of special importance in the present-day situation of “dialogue with the world”, which the Church lives by putting the guidelines of Vatican Council II into practice. In fact both priests and laity involved in the social apostolate are often questioned by radical and totalitarian ideologies, both collectivist and individualist, by secularizing trends when not by a secularism which is extraneous to the Christian spirit.
Theological-pastoral and spiritual formation of all those who wish to dedicate themselves to social action includes sensitization to the different problems of society and the habit of evaluating situations, structures and economic, social, and political systems with the criteria of the doctrine of the Church.
Above all, however, this formation requires that lay people and candidates to the priesthood become aware that, through their work, they must give witness to Christ in the world. In particular, bishops and priests are called upon to preach the message of Christ in such a way that all human temporal activity will be permeated by the light of the Gospel. Undoubtedly the Church’s essential contribution in the social area is always the integral announcement of the Gospel, which also dedicates great attention to social problems.
During the period of formation, it is suggested that students be directed towards experiences of a pastoral and social nature which place them in direct contact with the problems studies… In such formation, it is very important for students to be fully aware of the specifically priestly role in social action which has been stressed particularly in recent times on various occasions by the Magisterium of the universal Church and of the particular Churches. Visits and dialogue are especially recommended by students, accompanied by professors, with business people, workers, labor unions, with social organizations and marginalized sectors.
As part of their formation in social pastoral care, students must be instructed about the task and method to be followed in making the laity have an increasingly vivid awareness of their mission and responsibility in the social area. In this perspective, the priest’s task is to help the laity become aware of their duty, for, them both spiritually and doctrinally, follow them in their social action, participate in their toils and sufferings, recognize the important function their organizations have both on the apostolic level and that of social commitment, and give them the witness of a deep social sensitivity.