Leo XIII, Pope (1810–1903)

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Leo XIII, Pope (1810–1903)

Pope Leo XIII (b. 2 March 1810; d. 20 July 1903), considered the first modern pope (1878–1903). Although he retained many of the attitudes of his predecessor, Pius IX, toward the modern world, especially his reservations regarding liberalism and the application of scientific method to religion, Pope Leo opened the doors for Catholics notably in the realm of social thought. After a short diplomatic career he served as bishop of Perugia, Italy, for thirty-two years. Elected pope in 1878, he attempted to give a more positive response to many of the great intellectual and social questions of the day: industrialism, capitalism, democracy, and nationalism. He is most famous for his encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), the first major papal statement on the rights of workers and social justice. In that and other writings, Leo XIII criticized socialism and economic liberalism, but he also called for a just and democratic social order. His ideas inspired the creation of the Christian Democratic parties of Europe and Latin America. At his invitation, the bishops of the Catholic Church in Latin America held a plenary council in Rome in 1899.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Modern Period .


Edward T. Gargan, ed., Leo XIII and the Modern World (1961).

Lillian Parker Wallace, Leo XIII and the Rise of Socialism (1966).

Additional Bibliography

Viaene, Vincent. Diplomatie vaticane, opinion catholique et politique internationale au temps de Leo XIII, 1878–1903. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2005.

                                  Jeffrey Klaiber S.J.