Leo XIII (1810-1903), who was pope from 1878 to 1903, is known for his social reforms and his recognition of the rights of the worker. During his reign the Roman Catholic Church achieved an international prestige it had not enjoyed since the Middle Ages.

Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci, who became Pope Leo XIII, was born on March 2, 1810, in Carpineto, Italy. He was educated by the Jesuits at Viterbo and in Rome. After becoming a priest on Dec. 31, 1837, he was named apostolic delegate to Benevento. After a period as delegate to Perugia, he was appointed apostolic nuncio to Brussels in January 1843 and became an archbishop. Already at Perugia he had shown himself to be a social reformer. At Louvain he mediated in the bitter controversy between the Jesuits and the university. Reappointed to Perugia in 1846, he was made cardinal in 1853 by Pius IX. He spent the next 25 years restoring churches, promoting education of the clergy, and advocating social reform.