The Holy Father will be traveling to Pope Leo XIII's hometown to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth. It is not the first time a Pope has traveled to the small mountain town to remember Leo XIII and, particularly, his social teaching.
Pope Benedict is set to arrive early Sunday morning by helicopter in Carpineto Romano, just 50 miles from the Vatican. The pastoral visit consists mainly of the celebration of Mass at an altar placed in the center of town and a brief meeting with a delegation of local religious and lay Catholics.
During his extremely long pontificate, carried out from 1878-1903, the village's most celebrated son made great efforts to address the changing society of the times. His teachings in this regard are expressed in the 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum," meaning "new things." It is considered one of the fundamental texts establishing the social doctrine of the Church.
In it, he speaks on the Church's situation in relation to political, economic and social fields. Particularly notable in the document is his call for social justice for the common man and state intervention to uphold his rights, thus addressing the "deep chasm" dividing the two social classes.
It has been called the Magna Carta of the Church's social thought.
So revered is that document, in fact, that Popes Paul VI and John Paul II both made pastoral visits to Carpineto Romano to observe the 75th and 100th anniversaries of its publication. In 1991, John Paul II wrote the encyclical "Centesimus Annus," which he offered as a "rereading" of Leo's text and also "to satisfy the debt of gratitude which the whole Church owes to this great Pope and his 'immortal document'."
During his homily in Carpineto Romano in September of that same year, John Paul II called Leo XIII's encyclical "a rigorous and illuminated announcement of the duty of justice, in the context of a love that is inspired by the holiness of God and to his mercy towards men, especially towards the humble and poor."
Pope Benedict's visit to Carpineto on Sept. 5 will just be a short one. He plans to return to Castel Gandolfo for the Angelus at noon.