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Social teachings of the papacy

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Part of a series of articles on
Social Teachings
of the Popes
Emblem of the Papacy SE

Pope Leo XIII
Rerum Novarum

Pope Pius XI
Quadragesimo Anno

Pope Pius XII
Social teachings

Pope John XXIII
Mater et Magistra
Pacem in Terris

Vatican II
Dignitatis Humanae
Gaudium et Spes

Pope Paul VI
Populorum progressio

Pope John Paul II
Centesimus Annus
Laborem Exercens
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis

Pope Benedict XVI
Caritas in Veritate

Social Teachings of the Popes
Catholic social teaching

Social Teachings of the Popes involves the teachings of the Popes on social issues, starting with the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII

The Industrial Revolution brought many concerns about the deteriorating working and living conditions of urban workers. Influenced by the German Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler, in 1891 Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical Rerum Novarum, which set in context Catholic social teaching in terms that rejected socialism but advocated the regulation of working conditions. Rerum Novarum argued for the establishment of a living wage and the right of workers to form trade unions.[1]

Quadragesimo Anno was issued by Pope Pius XI, on 15 May 1931, 40 years after Rerum Novarum. Unlike Leo, who addressed the mainly condition of workers, Pius XI concentrated on the ethical implications of the social and economic order. He called for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity. [2] He noted major dangers for human freedom and dignity, arising from unrestrained capitalism and totalitarian communism.

The social teachings of Pope Pius XII repeat these teachings, and apply them in greater detail not only to workers and owners of capital, but also to other professions such as politicians, educators, house-wives, farmers, bookkeepers, international organizations, and all aspects of life including the military. Going beyond Pius XI, he also defined social teachings in the areas of medicine, psychology, sport, TV, science, law and education. There is virtually no social issue, which Pius XII did not address and relate to the Christian faith. [3] He was called "the Pope of Technology, for his willingness and ability to examine the social implications of technological advances. The dominant concern was the continued rights and dignity of the individual. With the beginning of the space age at the end of his pontificate, Pius XII explored the social implications of space exploration and satellites on the social fabric of humanity asking for a new sense of community and solidarity in light of existing papal teachings on subsidiarity. [4]


  1. Duffy, Saints and Sinners (1997), p. 240
  2. Duffy 260
  3. Franzen, 368
  4. Felictity O'Brien, Pius XII, London 2000, p.13

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