Addressing The Modern World

Pius's successor, Leo XIII (1878-1903), made strong efforts to convince liberal secular leaders that they and the church could live in harmony. He tried to deal with the modern world on many levels. In education he proclaimed Thomas Aquinas as a solid example of Catholic thinking that could deal well with the challenges presented by modern philosophers like Locke and Rousseau. On another level Leo XIII kept close contact with everyday problems of ordinary Catholics and addressed them through letters. These encyclical letters, or letters addressed to the universal church, often dealt with social issues that touched the daily lives of Catholic working people. Through his stimulation Roman Catholicism became even more socially active.


At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the church responded to the needs of the large number of poor immigrants who needed assistance in getting food, housing, and work in their new homeland of the United States. As a result, the church that seemed to be losing influence in a number of secular societies in Europe began gaining in numbers and dedication in lands outside of Europe. With the wave of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, southern Germany, Poland, Portugal, and Spain, for example, Roman Catholicism began to have strong influence once again, this time in North America.


The Catholic Church took its most dramatic step in its effort to relate to modern secular culture and other religions at the Second Vatican Council. This coun-

The bread and wine consecrated by the priest during a Catholic Eucharist are believed to become the body and blood of Christ.

cil, which lasted from 1962 to 1965, was initiated by Pope John XXIII (1958-63) and was completed by Pope Paul VI (1963-78). Its important document, the Constitution on the Church, gave ordinary people a greater active role in church life and granted bishops a greater share in the authority of the church. Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), who grew up under Communist rule in Poland, continued to promote a more active involvement of the Catholic Church in society. He made frequent visits to his flocks throughout the world, particularly addressing young Catholics, whom he viewed as the flourishing future of the church.

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