Chapter one, "Characteristics of Rerum Novarum, " pays tribute to Leo, who faced the social problems generated by a new form of property capital and a new form of labor simply for wages. Work is part of the human vocation, but when labor becomes a commodity to sell, new injustices can and did arise. In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo defended the essential dignity and rights of workers, together with the principle of solidarity under its classical name "friendship". Criticizing both socialism and liberalism, he stated that "the defenseless and the poor have a claim to special consideration.
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It came on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. John Paul II reemphasizes the main focus of Rerum Novarum - the dignity of the worker, and therefore the dignity of work.
He also mentions the right to private property referring to land ownership and the right to establish professional associations. The world has changed greatly since the publication of Rerum Novarum one hundred years earlier, especially after the end of the Cold War. Marxist ideology promoted class struggle to achieve their aims and ignored reasonable compromise.
While there has been some progress in the area of development, overall there is still much to be done. The United Nations has not established alternatives to war as effective means for the resolution of international conflicts.
The year represents the end of a decade which saw many dictatorial and oppressive regimes end in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and especially in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Many of these governments violated the human right to private initiative, to ownership of property, and to freedom in the economic sector.
All Christians and people of good will have a responsibility to sustain efforts to build a better future. Full development no only refers to economic progress, but also as a process that has a human element.
The social message of the Gospel is motivation for action to work towards full development.
Health and the Apostolic Blessing! The Centenary of the promulgation of the Encyclical which begins with the words "Rerum novarum", 1 by my predecessor of venerable memory Pope Leo XIII, is an occasion of great importance for the present history of the Church and for my own Pontificate. It is an Encyclical that has the distinction of having been commemorated by solemn Papal documents from its fortieth anniversary to its ninetieth. It may be said that its path through history has been marked by other documents which paid tribute to it and applied it to the circumstances of the day.
The Promises of Centesimus Annus
In some quarters Centesimus was hailed as a new direction in papal social teaching, and even as a repudiation of past doctrine. However, as we will see, this was not at all the case. But because this charge has been widely made, I will denote much of this article and the next to showing the continuity of Centesimus with the prior social doctrine of the Church. He was thus familiar with the heavy, and inefficient, hand of centralized state planning and of a lack of freedom in economic initiatives. In certain passages of the encyclical, such as chapter three or the beginning of chapter five, one can see his preoccupation with the absence of freedom that characterized such regimes. Thus his good words, even praise, for open economies. But such praise is always qualified.
Jn 14, 6. Una sociedad tradicional se iba extinguiendo, mientras comenzaba a formarse otra cargada con la esperanza de nuevas libertades, pero al mismo tiempo con los peligros de nuevas formas de injusticia y de esclavitud. Mt 16, El Papa es consciente de que la propiedad privada no es un valor absoluto, por lo cual no deja de proclamar los principios que necesariamente lo complementan, como el del destino universal de los bienes de la tierra El salario debe ser, pues, suficiente para el sustento del obrero y de su familia. Y esto a pesar de las Declaraciones y Convenciones internacionales al respecto 26 y no obstante las leyes internas de los Estados. En consecuencia, el Estado debe asegurar al obrero el ejercicio de esta libertad