Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.


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.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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.
..... Click the link for more information.
; 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 ?
Spohn is particularly concerned whether the historical context is considered in the encyclical.
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 encyclical treats integral human development in all its forms and dimensions as it can and should progress under the challenging ideological conditions of our contemporary globalized world.
In the encyclical, the Pope said financiers needed to "rediscover" the "genuinely ethical" foundation of their behaviour.
But what John Paul II is doing in this encyclical is a rearguard defense of faith and revelation through a strategy of bolstering reason.
In the spirit of haughty exclusivism that has become a feature of this pontificate, the encyclical decreed that the Catholic faithful, "while respecting the religious convictions of these separated brethren [i.
The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI, by Georges Passelecq and Bernard Suchecky.
The encyclical triggered a massive revolt among Catholics--lay and clerical--and was viewed widely as an attempt to turn back the clock, to restore medieval authoritarianism.
This response is offered as an expression of the gratitude of the Board of Faith and Order for the encyclical Ut Unum Sint and an indication of ways in which the encyclical is in harmony with the work of the Faith and Order commission.
In a landmark 1891 encyclical, Pope Leo XIII said that the right of workers to associate freely was fundamental, and he called on all employers to pay an adequate wage.
Returning to the development of the Catholic encyclical tradition relative to economic justice, we should focus for a moment on the second of the social encyclicals, Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno.
This thought is prompted by Pope John Paul II's latest encyclical, Centesimus Annus, an important document on the church's social policy that reveals, incidentally, that the Vatican has a more realistic concept of the world after the upheaval in Eastern Europe than the panegyrists of George Bush's "new world order.