We live in a highly interdependent world, and more often than in the past human relations have repercussions on everyday life. This has always been a permanent concern for Cardinal Bernardin. He emphasizes that in the modern world, where international relations are becoming increasingly global, a country must pay attention to the effects its decisions have, or could have, on communities in other parts of the globe, especially people of poor countries.
In his interpretation of the world's interdependence, the Archbishop of Chicago has been ahead of his time in understanding major social changes. His voice has overtaken U.S. borders, crossing the national boundaries and reached other continents. With reference to the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which calls the Church “to read the signs of the times,” the archbishops point out many aspects of the nations' activities that can negatively affect other countries. The nuclear danger, a deep concern highlighted in the collegial pastoral letter “The Challenge of Peace” (issued in 1983 by an ad hoc committee of the National Conference of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and chaired by the archbishops of Chicago), is one of the major elements that brings the issue of interdependence to the forefront.
Cardinal Bernardin points out three categories that better describe this context: the fact of interdependence as the steadily growing number of bonds that tie nations and people even more closely together, the meaning of interdependence as the direct and decisive way in which states and other key actors in the international system act beyond national borders, and the challenge lying in the fact that in this materially interdependent world there is not yet a way to shape moral interdependence. Furthermore, the relations between economic development and the poor is a major concern related to interdependence today. And what is the role of the Churches in this emergence of global interdependence? The Cardinal is very clear in his response – they should participate, along with many other institutions and actors, in shaping public opinion and in bringing to debate specific assets which derive from the nature of an ecclesial entity.