Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Pope Paul VI’s Octogesima Adveniens takes its title, as do all major papal writings, from the first few words of the Latin version of the document. In this case, the words mean “the eightieth anniversary” and refer to the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891), the first papal social encyclical. Paul VI is following the tradition of Pius XI, whose 1931 social encyclical was entitled Quadragesimo Anno (forty years) and also paid homage to Rerum Novarum. Later, in 1991, John Paul II would again refer to Rerum Novarum with his Centesimus Annus.
Octogesima Adveniens reads like an encyclical, but it is properly classified as an apostolic letter, a typic of document that is usually addressed to a Vatican official or a group of bishops. Octogesima Adveniens is addressed to Cardinal Maurice Roy, president of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, which was established by Paul VI. It is likely that Octogesima Adveniens was intended to give prominence to that body. The work consists of fifty-two sections without any chapter divisions.
Paul VI begins by speaking of the universal appeal of the Church’s message about human beings and social life, and makes reference to the people whom he has met during his pontificate. This is significant as Paul VI was the first modern pope to travel extensively. The Church, Paul VI asserts, does not...
(The entire section is 855 words.)
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