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1991: Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) Encyclical issued by Pope John Paul II
1 May All day
In the 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year), Pope John Paul II affirmed the groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum from Pope Leo Xlll in 1891 where the fundamental rights and dignity of workers and work were clearly stated. It addressed any ongoing perceived conflict between the provision of capital and labour, acknowledging work as central to vocation, with a key social dimension that relates directly to the common good:
“Work thus belongs to the vocation of every person; indeed, man expresses and fulfils himself by working. At the same time, work has a “social” dimension through its intimate relationship not only to the family, but also to the common good, since “it may truly be said that it is only by the labour of working-men that States grow rich.”Centesimus Annus, #6
Employers were also challenged again to provide a living wage and humane conditions for their workers as foundational conditions of just employment:
“A workman’s wages should be sufficient to enable him to support himself, his wife and his children. “If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.” (CA, #8).
Both Rerum Novarum and Centesimo Annos continue to speak powerfully today in regard to human dignity, especially for workers and their families. Just work policies and practices are part of God’s work in and for our world.
To read more about Centesimus Annos: