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Catholic Church and Social Doctrine: What are the most important documents?

An Eternal Guide to the Principles of Justice and Solidarity, Mission and Mercy

The most important documents of the Catholic Church on social doctrine are those that constitute the body of teachings on ethical and moral principles that guide the Church’s approach to social, political and economic issues. These documents reflect the Church’s commitment to promote justice, solidarity and the common good in society. Some of the most relevant documents are:

Rerum Novarum (1891)

This encyclical, issued by Pope Leo XIII, is often considered the cornerstone of the Church’s social doctrine. It addresses issues related to workers’ rights, working conditions and the importance of a just distribution of resources.

Quadragesimo Anno (1931)

This encyclical by Pope Pius XI is set in the context of the 40th anniversary of the publication of Rerum Novarum and continues to address issues of social justice and the relationship between capital and labour. It emphasises the importance of workers’ and employers’ associations and promotes the concept of subsidiarity.

Mater et Magistra (1961)

Pope John XXIII issued this encyclical addressing issues of social justice and equality, updating Catholic social teaching to the challenges of the modern world, including the problems of developing countries.

Pacem in Terris (1963)

This encyclical by Pope John XXIII deals not only with social and economic issues, but also with peace, human rights and human dignity. It was an application of Catholic social doctrines to international relations.

Gaudium et Spes (1965)

This document of the Second Vatican Council addresses the relationship between the Church and the modern world. It deals with social, political and economic issues, as well as considering humanity as a whole, emphasising the Church’s responsibility to promote the common good.

Populorum Progressio (1967)

Pope Paul VI published this encyclical addressing the issues of development and poverty in the world. It emphasises the need for an equitable distribution of global resources and the importance of promoting the integral development of peoples.

Laborem Exercens (1981)

Pope John Paul II addresses the issue of human labour, emphasising the importance of work as a fundamental dimension of human life and addressing issues such as the dignity of workers, economic justice and solidarity.

Centesimus Annus (1991)

Pope John Paul II celebrates the centenary of Rerum Novarum and reaffirms the principles of Catholic social teaching in a context of global change, including discussions on the fall of communism and the market economy.

Caritas in Veritate (2009)

Pope Benedict XVI addresses issues of charity and truth in the context of the global economy. It addresses issues such as sustainable development, social justice, the environment and responsibility towards the poor.

Laudato Si’ (2015)

Pope Francis issues this encyclical, dedicated to the environment and integral ecology. It is not only limited to the ecological issue, but also addresses social, economic and justice issues, linking them to care for creation and the promotion of the common good.

These documents are an important guide to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and provide guidance on how to address social, economic and political challenges in the light of Catholic ethical principles.


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