Centesimus Annus (On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum)

Author: Pope John Paul II

May 1, 1991

Centesimus Annus, issued by Pope John Paul II on the hundredth anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, reinterprets Catholic social teaching in light of immense geopolitical changes surrounding the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The encyclical cautions previously socialist Eastern European nations to remember that a free market must be meticulously regulated to prevent the worker exploitation, glorification of profit, and marginalization of the lower classes. Persons must be treated as ends rather than instruments of production. Private property is depicted as a fundamental—but not absolute—right supporting the common good. Corporations and nations alike are called to make responsible business decisions, and environmental concerns are of particular importance amid rapid industrialization in the developing world. John Paul concludes that the Church does not espouse any particular economic model, but it encourages all states to incorporate principles of subsidiarity, solidarity, and social justice in establishing and regulating economic relationships.

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