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originally, a pastoral letter sent out by a bishop, now a solemn papal letter, meant to inform the whole church on some particular matter of importance. Benedict XIV circulated the first known encyclical in 1740. Unlike those in the papal bullbull
[Lat. bulla=leaden seal], papal letter. As the diplomatic organization of the papal chancery progressed in the Middle Ages, the papal bull came to be more solemn than the papal brief or encyclical.
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, doctrinal statements in an encyclical are not necessarily regarded as infallible; the faithful, however, are bound to give assent. Encyclicals became more numerous after the 18th cent. Leo XIII issued a whole series of encyclicals reorienting Roman Catholic life in the modern world; among these are Aeterni Patris, 1879, on Thomistic philosophy, and Rerum novarum, 1891, concerning the social order. Other noteworthy encyclicals include Pascendi, 1907, by Pius X, on modernismmodernism,
in religion, a general movement in the late 19th and 20th cent. that tried to reconcile historical Christianity with the findings of modern science and philosophy.
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; Quadragesimo anno [in the 40th year, i.e., since Rerum novarum], 1931, by Pius XI, dealing further with social questions; and two by Pius XI not written in Latin—Non abbiamo bisogno, 1931, against Italian Fascism, and Mit brennender Sorge, 1937, against the National Socialist regime in Germany. Among the numerous encyclicals of Pius XII are Mystici corporis Christi, 1943, on the nature of the church, and Sacra virgintas, 1954, on evangelical chastity. The encyclical Mater et Magistra, 1961, by John XXIII, makes current the church's teachings on social matters. Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, 1968, which reaffirms the church's traditional prohibition of contraception, caused considerable controversy. John Paul II's many encyclicals include Laborem Exercens, 1981, on the value of human labor; Evangelium Vitae, 1995, which restated the church's teachings on abortion, birth control, and euthanasia and condemned capital punishment; and Fides et Ratio, 1998, which condemns both atheism and faith unsupported by reason and affirms a place for reason and philosophy in religion. All papal edicts are normally known by their first word or words.


See A. J. Fremantle, The Papal Encyclicals in Their Historical Context (1963).



a letter sent by the pope to all Catholics or to the Catholics of one country concerning questions of dogma and sociopolitical matters. According to the canons of the Catholic Church, an encyclical is not subject to discussion, and its instructions must be implemented. Encyclicals are usually written in Latin and take their title from the first words of the text; for example, Mater et magistra (1961) was an encyclical of John XXIII. A modern encyclical with widespread impact was Rerum novarum (1891), in which the Catholic Church’s social program was formulated.

In the early Christian church, an encyclical was a letter sent by a bishop on questions of faith. In the Anglican Church the term “encyclical” is applied to the epistles of the Lambeth Conferences (the highest body of the Anglican Communion).


a letter sent by the pope to all Roman Catholic bishops throughout the world
References in periodicals archive ?
I cannot wish for anything better," said Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, which oversaw the first draft of the encyclical.
I don't know if news about the encyclical will make it to the Inquirer deadline.
Donfried, "The Use of Scripture in Veritatis Splendor," in Ecumenical Ventures in Ethics: Protestants Engage Pope John's Moral Encyclicals, eds.
It is unfortunate that what appears to be the record of an open and frank discussion of the encyclical is more the result of the adept editing of submitted papers.
The documents of Catholic social doctrine include certain encyclicals from the past 120 years as well as documents from the Holy See and from Episcopal Conferences and even individual bishops.
Today's encyclical states this clearly: A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism.
But what John Paul II is doing in this encyclical is a rearguard defense of faith and revelation through a strategy of bolstering reason.
And in his remarkable 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint John Paul offered an unprecedented invitation to other Christian leaders to enter into dialogue with him regarding how the papacy, within the limits of received doctrine, might be refashioned to become a ministry of unity for all Christian churches.
It was to find its way into the first two social encyclicals as the Catholic substitute for capitalism and socialism.
The encyclical on the environment, which Pope Francis is expected to release in June or July, is stimulating a great deal of discussion and hope in academia and the environmental movement.
While some have expressed frustration at an apparent lack of economic understanding in the encyclicals, leading to tensions with certain economic laws and laissez-faire principles, it is evident that the social encyclicals as a whole manifest a development in economic understanding, emphasis, and context.
Pope Paul VI, saddened by the reactions to Humane vitae, would not issue any additional encyclicals in the remaining ten year of his pontificate.