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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 ?
Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter, Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891), reprinted in CATHOLIC SOCIAL THOUGHT, supra note 5, at 14.
John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Dominum et vivificantem (Washington, D.
Paul VI, encyclical letter Populorum Progressio (March 26,
John Paul II, encyclical letter The Splendour of Truth (Veritatis splendor), 1993, n.
After Benedict's death in 1758--some 13 encyclicals later--the next five popes used the encyclical letter quite sparingly.
The encyclical letter Veritatis splendor(1) was signed by John Paul II on August 6, 1993 and released the following October 5.
Though Francis released an encyclical letter titled Lumen Fidei in June, that text was based largely on a draft prepared by Pope Benedict XVI.
Both authors are collaborators of the Cardinal Van Thuan International Observatory and are engaged in a discussion of a proper Catholic view of business, especially following Benedict XVI's encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate.
Evangelium Vitae, The Encyclical letter of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II regarding certain fundamental questions of the Church's moral teaching, (1993), no.
In 1963 Pope John XXIII addressed the treatment of minorities in his encyclical letter Pacem in terris (On Peace on Earth): "It is especially in keeping with the principles of justice that effective measures be taken by civil authorities to improve the lot of the citizens of an ethnic minority, particularly when that betterment concerns their language [and].
The encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint appears to us in the Faith and Order commission to be a form of ecclesial reception which truly receives and opens up positively the themes of the Second Vatical Council, particularly Unitatis Redintegratio.
The results of his sociological analysis indicate "that Hebrews is an encyclical letter addressed to a series of small churches of predominantly Jewish Christians, most probably in Western Asia Minor" (22).