Pope Condemns Atheism and Materialism in 5th Encyclical

Times Staff Writer

Pope John Paul II issued the fifth encyclical of his seven-year pontificate Friday, sharply condemning atheism and materialism in all their forms, especially Marxism.

In the 141-page document, the pontiff refers to what he called “the signs and symptoms of death” in modern civilization. He cited abortion, euthanasia, international terrorism, famine, poverty and nuclear self-destruction as “darker signs of death.”

Encyclicals are letters to church leaders issued at random intervals by Roman Catholic pontiffs. This one was written by John Paul II in his native Polish, then translated into Latin and other languages.

It is entitled Dominum et Vivificantem (The Lord, the Giver of Life) and is devoted almost entirely to theological discussion of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Christian Trinity.

But near the end, the Pope shifted to plainer talk in a strongly worded condemnation of contemporary trends and beliefs that he traced to the “influence of the ‘Father of Lies,’ ” namely Satan.


Symptoms of Death

He said that “the signs and symptoms of death have become particularly present and frequent” on what he called “the horizon of contemporary civilization.”

“One has only to think of the arms race and of its inherent danger of nuclear self-destruction,” he said. “Moreover, everyone has become more and more aware of the grave situation of vast areas of our planet, marked by death-dealing poverty and famine.”

He called these problems “not only economic, but also and above all ethical,” and he added:

“But on the horizon of our era there are gathering ever darker ‘signs of death’: a custom has become widely established--in some places it threatens to become almost an institution--of taking the lives of human beings even before they are born, or before they reach the natural point of death.”

After this condemnation of abortion and euthanasia, the Pope proceeded to condemn terrorism, “organized even on an international scale,” and deplored the fact that “despite many noble efforts for peace, new wars have broken out and are taking place, wars which destroy the lives or the health of hundreds of thousands of people.”