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.
Catholic Social Teaching
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.
Pope John XXII, 1961
Pope John XXIII wrote this encyclical in 1961 to continue the tradition of Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931). The world had changed considerably in the previous 30 years both politically and economically. The Great Depression and World War II had ended, the cold war had begun, and technology allowed for increased productivity, but vast poverty remained across the globe.
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.
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.
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 John XXIII wrote the encyclical Pacem in Terris in April of 1963 to address a world deeply engaged in the Cold War. The Berlin Wall had just gone up and the Cuban Missile Crisis frightened millions as nuclear weapons began to proliferate.
At a time in world history marked by powerful new weapons, rivalry, and fear His Holiness sought to reassure not only the Catholic World, but also all people, that peace on earth is possible through the divinely established order.
“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.)