The encyclical Centesimus Annus was written in 1991 by Pope John Paul II on the one hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. It came on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In it John Paul II seeks to conduct a “re-reading” of Pope Leo’s landmark encyclical to re-discover the richness of the fundamental principles in which Rerum Novarum dealt with the condition of workers and the economy as a whole.
Catholic Social Teaching
Pope John Paul II released the encyclical Evangelium Vitae on March 25, 1995. It deals with the most basic of all principles – the value and sacredness of human life. Our duty to protect life is central to the Christian message. The encyclical is broken into four main chapters which discuss contemporary threats to life, the Gospel's message regarding life, God's law, and hope for a new culture of life.
“Every person has a fundamental right to life,” say the U.S. Bishops, “the right that makes all other rights possible. Each person also has a right to the conditions for living a decent life—faith and family life, food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing. We also have a duty to secure and respect these rights not only for ourselves, but for others, and to fulfill our responsibilities to our families, to each other, and to the larger society.” (Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, 2003.)
The encyclical Fides Et Ratio was written by Pope John Paul II to his fellow bishops in 1998 to address the relationship between faith and reason. It was written to support and defend traditional Christian philosophy. His Holiness believed that faith and reason together allow people to know and love God.
We are our brothers and sisters keepers, whether they are next door or around the world. In today’s world of instantaneous communication, 24-hour news cycles and world economic dependency, this simple axiom is truer than ever.
Almost 115 years after the publication of Rerum Novarum the Church sought to compile and summarize its modern social teachings. In 2004 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church to summarize and restate the Church’s social teachings to serve as a reference for all Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote the encyclical Deus Caritas Est in 2005 about God’s love for humanity. In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even hatred, Benedict seeks to speak of the limitless love that God lavishes on humanity.
The encyclical is divided into two parts. The first section discusses God’s love and the reality of human love. In the second part, Benedict focuses on the commandment to love one’s neighbor especially the laities role in creating a just society.
Christians have a special place in their hearts for the poor and vulnerable because Jesus had a special place in his heart for them. The Gospels are filled with stories of how he helped those in need. Some of the most famous - the Beatitudes, the Last Judgment and the Good Samaritan - summarize the importance of Christian service to the marginalized of society.
Many scholars trace the beginning of modern Catholic social teaching to the 1891 publication of Rerum Novarum (Of New Things). Reacting to the abuse of workers during the Industrial Revolution, Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical focused on the application of the Gospel message to an industrial society.
Pope Leo XIII wrote the encyclical Rerum Novarum as the industrial revolution and political change swept across Europe. The relationship between employers and employees was changing dramatically. Individuals had become wealthy, but most remained poor even though they worked hard. Pope Leo XIII's encyclical spoke of the condition of the working classes during a time when many advocated revolution.