Birth of Pope Leo XII

Birth of Pope Leo XII

Pope Leo XIII
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Pope Leo XIII is born. He will become the first pope to make an effort to bring the Roman Catholic Church into harmony with the modern world. Among his more notable actions in this area are to support some democratic reforms and opening up the Vatican archives to outside scholars.

Pope Leo XIII also issues the encyclical Rerum Novarum ("Of New Things") supporting the rights of workers and of the poor despite his opposition to both socialism and communism. Rerum Novarum is regarded as the first major document expressing modern Church teachings.

Politically, Leo will follow his predecessor Pope Pius IX in seeking independence for the Vatican from the kingdom of Italy. Popes no longer have any real political and temporal power so other world leaders started seeing them as neutral observers who could mediate in international disputes.

Pope Leo XIII expanded the influence of the Catholic Church, created 248 new episcopal or archiepiscopal sees, and hoped for a time when all of Christianity would be united under papal leadership. This hope is not always expressed positively, as with Apostolicae Curae (1896) which will condemn Anglican orders and declare them "absolutely null and utterly void."

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