Rerum Novarum

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Rerum Novarum

 

(literally, “of new things”), an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891. Rerum novarum, which was directed against socialism and the working-class movement, reflected the adaptation of the Catholic Church and the papacy to capitalism and to the defense of the principles of bourgeois society, after centuries of defending and supporting feudal absolutist regimes. The encyclical took note of new phenomena in economics and social relations, including the development of industrialism, the concentration of capital in the hands of a few, the increasing poverty among the broad masses of the people, and the deepening of social conflicts. Although Rerum novarum expressed sympathy for the working people, it preached that private property and the class division of society would always exist. Moreover, the encyclical resolutely opposed socialism, and called for the repudiation of the class struggle and for class collaboration.

Attributing all the world’s misfortunes to original sin, Rerum novarum declared that suffering is the lot of mankind. To counteract class organizations of workers, the encyclical proposed the creation of workers’ organizations headed by the clergy and based on the principles of collaboration between labor and capital.

The basic principles enunciated in Rerum novarum regarding new world phenomena laid the foundation for other social encyclicals, including Quadragesimo anno (1931), which marked the 40th anniversary of Rerum novarum, and Mater et magistra (1961), which marked the 70th anniversary, as well as the apostolic letter “Octogesimo adveniens” (1971), which marked the 80th anniversary.

References in periodicals archive ?
The openness of the church toward social problems, especially evident in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum (1896), in which lay "social pioneers" played a major role.
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Readers who have followed the development of Catholic social teaching from the encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, which addresses the social disruption caused by the industrial revolution, through Centesimus Annus, addressing the world economic situation following the collapse of the Soviet empire, will know already that the Church has cultivated a discerning and insightful understanding of the new economic realities that have emerged in the modern world and has developed a respectful though cautious appreciation for the productive value of a market-based economy in bringing more and more people worldwide to an improved material quality of life.
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