Summary of Social Encyclicals

  • Laudato Si' (Praise Be to You)

    24 May 2015 | 

    With the theme of ‘care for our common home’, Pope Francis addresses this message to everyone in the world. He describes us as one human family and acknowledges all those who have advocated for addressing these issues and as such have contributed to this body of thought

  • Caritas In Veritate (Charity in Truth)

    2009 | Pope Benedict XVI

    This encyclical builds on the themes of Populorum Progressio, expanding on the “many overlapping layers” of development. Inequality, respect for life, the right to religious freedom, the use of technology and environmental protection are among the many “layers” addressed in the encyclical.

  • Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)

    2005 | Pope Benedict XVI

    Part I of this encyclical is a reflection on the forms of "love" - eros, philia, agape, emphasising God's love for human beings and the intrinsic connection between God’s love and human love. Part II deals with the practical requirement to love one's neighbour, and the application of this in the Church’s charitable activity.

  • Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)

    1995 | Pope John Paul II

    This encyclical presents the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and inviolability of human life, from conception to natural death, dealing specifically with abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. It also covers the proper use of sex and stresses the importance of the family. It also emphasises the need to care for the sick and the poor.

  • Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year)

    1991 | Pope John Paul II

    Written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, this encyclical addresses in a modern context the issues in Rerum Novarum. It emphasises the injustice which prevails in the sharing of the goods of the earth between rich and poor nations, and within nations. Environmental protection is mentioned, and the encyclical affirms the right to private property, rejecting communism and socialism.

  • Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern)

    1987 | Pope John Paul II

    This encyclical commemorated the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, expanding on and nuancing the concept of authentic human development and its implementation. It surveys contemporary problems and attitudes and “structures of sin” as impediments to development.

  • Laborem Exercens (On Human Work)

    1981 | Pope John Paul II

    This encyclical commemorates the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, revisiting the rights and dignity of workers. It examines the opposition between those who contribute capital to the production process and those who contribute labour. Pope John Paul II develops a spirituality of work, considering work to be “a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question.”.

  • Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples)

    1967 | Pope Paul VI

    This encyclical proposes a Christian approach to development, emphasising that economies should serve all people not just the few, based on the principle of the universal destination of goods. It addresses the right of workers to a just wage and security of employment, fair and reasonable working conditions and the right to unionise.

  • Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth)

    1963 | Pope John XXIII

    This encyclical is the first to be addressed to "all men of good will," instead of just the world's Catholics. It focuses on what is needed for peace in the world, at a time when the Cold War was at its height. The encyclical emphasises relationships, including the rights and duties of individuals, relationships between individuals and the state, relationships between states, and the need for global oversight of developments.

  • Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher)

    1961 | Pope John XXIII

    The Church’s mission is the salvation of souls and the transformation of the society. This encyclical addresses the socio-economic conditions and the responsibility of individual Catholics and the Church to work to overcome excessive inequalities. Wealthier nations should assist poorer nations. Advances in science and technology need to be critiqued because they have the power to improve the human condition, but may also pose dangers to life and to human rights.

  • Quadragesimo Anno (After Forty Years)

    1931 | Pope Pius XI

    Forty years after Rerum Novarum this encyclical further develops the Church’s teaching on labour and industrialisation, and includes strong critiques of unrestrained capitalism, communism and classism.

  • Rerum Novarum (Of New Things)

    1891 | Pope Leo XIII

    This encyclical is acknowledged as the first to address social issues. It is in response to the conditions faced by workers following the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Issues it addresses include unbridled capitalism, socialism, the relationship between worker and employer, a living wage, the relationship between classes and the preferential option for the poor.