53. Faced with the poverty of the working class, Pope Leo XIII wrote: "We approach this subject with confidence and in the exercise of the rights which manifestly pertain to us ... By keeping silence we would seem to neglect the duty incumbent on us".107 During the last hundred years the Church has repeatedly expressed her thinking, while closely following the continuing development of the social question. She has certainly not done this in order to recover former privileges or to impose her own vision. Her sole purpose has been care and responsibility for man, who has been entrusted to her by Christ himself: for this man, whom, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake, and for which God has his plan, that is, a share in eternal salvation. We are not dealing here with man in the "abstract", but with the real, "concrete", "historical" man. We are dealing with each individual, since each one is included in the mystery of Redemption, and through this mystery Christ has united himself with each one for ever.108 [Note: quote from RH 13] It follows that the Church cannot abandon man, and that "this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission ... the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption".109
This, and this alone, is the principle which inspires the Church's social doctrine. The Church has gradually developed that doctrine in a systematic way, above all in the century that has followed the date we are commemorating, precisely because the horizon of the Church's whole wealth of doctrine is man in his concrete reality as sinful and righteous.[i]This Encyclical is a Letter on the Rerum novarum by Pope Leo XIII on its hundredth anniversary. Centisimus annus was Pope John Paul’s way of “re-reading” Pope Leo’s encyclical by inviting a “look back at the text itself in order to discover anew the richness of the fundamental principles which it formulated for dealing with the question of the condition of workers.”[ii] Rerum novarum was a very important document in its day and continues to be, in the Church, a good reference point for many worker’s rights and social justice issues that crop up in modern society and how the Church should face these problems in the light of the Gospel.
Here again, Bl. John Paul II refers to the Incarnation, quoting his own Redemptor Hominis. The Incarnation dignified man because of Christ's Redemption. We, people of the Body of Christ, need to look on every man as part of Christ’s mystery of Redemption, so that we treat all workers fairly and within the dictates of Christ’s Gospel. Bl. John Paul, again, does not want his readers to see “man” as an abstract mass, but, seen through the lens of the Incarnation, as individuals, each reflecting to us the image of God. Here, again, Bl. John Paul II is not stating that all men will be saved, but that through the Incarnation each and every man has a special connection with Christ. We should see all man that way. It should spark the missionary mandate in the Church; it dictates the principles of the Church’s social doctrine.