To commemorate the 15th Anniversary of John Paul II’s groundbreaking social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, the Acton Institute sponsored a range of events and programs to encourage a deeper understanding of the moral and economic foundations of a free and virtuous society, to further research and discussion of Catholic Social Teaching, and to promote an ethical analysis of the global market economy from different disciplines.
Centesimus Annus was issued at the crucial juncture after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism. It challenged the modern world to construct a free and virtuous society that respects the dignity and value of each person and opened up new horizons in the area of Catholic Social teaching. The encyclical rejected economic materialist visions of man and highlighted the fundamental error of socialism: a misunderstanding of the nature and destiny of the human person.
John Paul II recognized the spiritual vacuum left by socialism. In response he sought to promote cultural and spiritual renewal through the new evangelization, and reaffirmed the Christian humanism as a framework for viewing politics, culture, and freedom in the new global economy. While warning against consumerism and a materialist view of man, the encyclical underlined the positive contribution of the market economy as a means of alleviating poverty and promoting human freedom.