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Bartolomé de Las Casas is undoubtedly one of the most important figures of the sixteenth century western world, especially the ‘new’ world of the Americas. He preached and wrote on social justice issues more than three centuries before Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum norarum (1891) which set in motion the trajectory of papal teaching on the many facets of social justice. About the same time, another outstanding and highly respected Dominican professor, Francesco de Vitoria, was also teaching the values of the human dignity of all persons and their right to personal self-determination at the University of Salamanca in Spain. Although it is unlikely that these two figures ever met in person, the influence of the scholar on the missionary can be seen in the references Las Casas has to Vitoria’s work in his Historia. At different times, both men pleaded the cause of the indigenous people before the Royal Court of Spain, but they did so from different perspectives; Vitoria from academia and Las Casas from his personal experience.
Byrnes, Alice OP, DA and Kirmse, Anne-Marie OP, "The Legacy of Bartolomé de Las Casas: Then and Now" (2022). Faculty Works: Theology and Religious Studies. 12.