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Seven Catholic social teaching principles

Catholic social teaching (CST) is rooted in Scripture, formed by the wisdom of Church leaders, and influenced by grassroots movements. It is our moral compass, guiding us on how to live out our faith in the world.

Read more about some of the CST principles which inspire our work.

Our faith calls us to love God and to love our neighbours in every situation, especially our sisters and brothers living in poverty. Following in the footsteps of Christ, we hope to make present in our unjust and broken world, the justice, love and peace of God.  

What are the principles of Catholic social teaching?

Modern Catholic social teaching is said to have originated in 1891 with the encyclical letter, Rerum Novarum. Since then, a wealth of teaching continue to give new life to the Scriptures and shape the Church’s response to our modern world. From these Catholic social teaching documents and encyclicals we derive core principles.

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Here are just seven principles which we are inspired by.

Latin America - Ana Julia y Tomas

Ana Julia and her daughter in El Salvador. Catholic Social Teaching inspires us to see every person as a child of God.


We believe every human person is made in the image and likeness of God. This is a gift that we all share as fellow human beings; we are all infinitely loved by our Creator.

God is present in every human person, regardless of religion, culture, nationality, orientation or economic standing. Each one of us is unique and beautiful. We are called to treat every person and every creature with loving respect. 

Mulenga lives with undiagnosed mental and physical illnesses in Zambia. He speaks about how his dignity is honoured, thanks to the support of CAFOD and the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

“The Sisters gave me some fertiliser and some plants. I had never moved from this place before they gave me the wheelchair. Now, I am able to go to the church with the wheelchair to practice my faith.” 

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Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.

Jeremiah 1:5


Solidarity arises when we remember that we belong to each other. We reflect on this in a special way at Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognise Christ in the poorest.”

Solidarity spurs us to stand side by side with our sisters and brothers, especially those living in poverty. Robert Corry, father-of-two, ran the London marathon last year and raised an amazing £2,000 for CAFOD. He explains how his faith inspires him to act in solidarity:

“It can be difficult to get out of bed early in the morning to fit in the next training session, but then I think about the people CAFOD supports, and I ask myself how I would cope if my house was destroyed or if I lost my family in the war.

“We should help however and whoever we can, and thinking about our global neighbours is what keeps me going to the end.”

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In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did it to me.

Matthew 25:40

The common good

The common good means that the fruits of the earth belong to everyone. No one should be excluded from the gifts of creation. Pope Paul VI spoke about this 50 years ago in his encyclical Populorum Progressio.

Sonia Sanchez is an environmental defender in El Salvador. She has been involved in a project, supported by our partners and the EU, to protect people who face personal threats for their efforts to stand up for human rights. 

Sonia says, “Humankind has always put money at the centre of everything. But when we think about our relationship with the natural resources, we see that life should be at the centre of everything. When we reflect on this we realise that we are part of life, we are not the owners and masters of it.”

Reflect on the common good and the environment