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Option for the poor

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The option for the poor or the preferential option for the poor is one of the basic principles of the Catholic Social Teaching tradition. The phrase option for the poor was used by Fr Pedro Arrupe, S.J. in 1968 in a letter to the Jesuits of Latin America.

As a developed theological principle it was first articulated by Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P. in his landmark theological book, A Theology of Liberation, the principle is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments and claims that a preferential concern for the physical and spiritual welfare of the poor is an essential element of the Gospel.

This principle was articulated by the Catholic Bishops of Latin America at both Medellin and Puebla, as well as by several popes, particularly Pope John Paul II.

The Church's option for the poor is usually combined with other Christian principles such as render unto Caesar, chastity and the right to life. This has sometimes led to controversy, since the Church also rejects liberalism, communism, socialism, abortion, sterilization and contraception, positions which are defended by many secular advocates for the poor.

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