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The Rerum Novarum was a papal encyclical written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. It was originally written to Catholic bishops. On 15 May 1891, starting with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, a series of Catholic encyclicals pertaining to social justice was published. These writings came to represent what is known today as 'Catholic Social Teaching.'
The Rerum Novarum was written by Pope Leo to draw attention to the plight of the working poor. Some important tenets of the text include:
1) The right of the working poor to fair treatment and honest wages which will support a man and his family.
2) The right to private property. The Pope stressed his reservations against violent revolution, cautioning the poor against envy or dissatisfaction. However, the Pope also reaffirmed that private property should not be the province of only a few and that the privilege of owning property should be encouraged in as large a segment of the population as possible.
3) The Pope reiterated the right of the working poor not to accept unjust treatment and to stand up for their rights when necessary.
4) The right of the working poor to be protected from unduly burdensome tasks by employers is emphasized. Employers are also cautioned against appropriating the savings and/or properties of workers for themselves.
5) The Pope emphasized the responsibilities of the wealthy to aid the working poor when necessary.
6) The right of the working poor to form unions should not be infringed upon. Pope Leo XIII asserted that integrity in direction and organization is crucial to the success of any union in ensuring that the working poor have sufficient work and resources.
7) The role of government is to provide for the public well-being as well as to preserve the rights to private property. Pope Leo asserts that the working conditions of the poor should be continually improved upon through the diligence of government working in concert with the Church.
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