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.
Catholic Social Teaching
Pope Paul VI wrote the Apostolic letter “Octogesima Adveniens” in 1971 as a letter to Cardinal Maurice Roy, the President of the Council of Laity and of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace on the eightieth anniversary of the encyclical Rerum Novarum. His Holiness sought to highlight many social issues facing people at the time and to inspire renewed action for lay members to participate in social and political reform according to the Gospel.
The encyclical Laborem Exercens was written by Pope John Paul II in 1981 to celebrate 90 years since the publication of Rerum Novarum.
In those ninety years issues surrounding employment and labor have not ceased to remain of importance to the Church. Work has changed considerably since the industrial revolution and technological and innovative advances are accelerating that change. In this encyclical His Holiness focuses on the dignity of human work in the contemporary world.
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.
In Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio by updating the Church’s teaching on the “development of peoples” and changes that took place in the preceding two decades.
Populorum Progressio was inspired by the Church’s desire to help the millions of people who lived in a state of poverty and underdevelopment. The document concluded by noting that “development is the new name for peace,” (Paragraph 10) another mission of the Church.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.