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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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a letter sent by the pope to all Roman Catholic bishops throughout the world
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
PIUS XI, Pope, Encyclical Letter Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, 1935.
Pope Benedict XVI made a significant contribution to the dialogue between CST and managerial disciplines with his encyclical letter CV.
(36) Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter Au Milieu Des Sollicitudes paras.
The word "dialogue" appears in the encyclical letter many times, especially in Chapter V where Pope Francis proposes the approaches and actions needed to take for "outlining the major paths of dialogue which can help us escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us" (Section 163).
(6.) Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Centesimus Annus [paragraph] 3 (May 1, 1991) [hereinafter Centesimus Annus], reprinted in CATHOLIC SOCIAL THOUGHT, supra note 5, at 439, 440, available at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/ documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_01051991_centesimus-annus_en.html.
(84) This view was repeated by Pope Paul VI in his pronouncements (85) and by Pope John XXIII in the encyclical letter Mater et Magistra.
They paid particular attention to Pope John XXIII's encyclical letter, Pacem in Teris (1963), and to drafts of the Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modem World (1965), two documents CPFers felt called Catholics to work for peace.
He gained much from his friend Hilaire Belloc, who had written of such a social doctrine at least a decade before him; but Belloc himself was, according to Pearce, "merely expounding, and expanding upon, the social doctrine laid down by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical letter Rerum Novarum" (1891), which called for a policy that would "induce as many people as possible to become owners" (qtd., Pearce 324) and promote social equality by closing the gulf between the "haves" and "have-nots." This association with Catholic thought is crucial.
John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio (1990), para.
Pius XIII, elected in March, did not take up the draft document, although some of its argument is to be found in his encyclical letter Summi pontificatus (1939), and both LaFarge and Gundlach used material from the draft in subsequent writings.
Pope Francis, in the Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home: Praise Be to You, My Lord, Laudato Si', draws attention to the triple dimension of connectivity and relationships which are fundamental to human existence: the relationship to God, to our neighbour, and to the earth.
In his encyclical letter Ad Caeli Reginam (To the Queen of Heaven), Pope Pius XII, who instituted the feast on Oct.