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An encyclical was originally a
circular Circular may refer to: * The shape of a circle * Circular (album), ''Circular'' (album), a 2006 album by Spanish singer Vega * Circular letter (disambiguation) ** Flyer (pamphlet), a form of advertisement * Circular reasoning, a type of logical fa ...
letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient
Roman Church
Roman Church
. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

bishop
. The word comes from the
Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the written Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, kn ...
(originally from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
, a Latinization of
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
(), meaning "circular", "in a circle", or "all-round", also part of the origin of the word
encyclopedia An encyclopedia (American English), encyclopædia (archaic spelling), or encyclopaedia (British English) is a reference work or compendium providing summaries of knowledge either from all branches or from a particular field or discipline. ...
). The term has been used by
Catholics The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...
,
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christianity, Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation. Adherents of Anglicanism are called ''Anglicans''; t ...

Anglican
s and the
Eastern Orthodox The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a communion Communion may refer to: Religion * The Eucharist (also cal ...
.


Catholic usage

Although the term "encyclical" originally simply meant a circulating letter, it acquired a more specific meaning within the context of the Catholic Church. In 1740, Pope
Benedict XIV Pope Benedict XIV ( la, Benedictus XIV; 31 March 1675 – 3 May 1758), born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian de ...
wrote a letter titled ''Ubi primum'', which is generally regarded as the first encyclical. The term is now used almost exclusively for a kind of letter sent out by the Pope. For the modern Roman Catholic Church, a papal encyclical is a specific category of papal document, a kind of
pastoral A pastoral lifestyle is that of shepherds herd A herd is a social group of certain animals of the same species, either wildness, wild or Domestication, domestic. The form of collective animal behavior associated with this is called ''he ...

pastoral
letter concerning Catholic doctrine, sent by the
Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

Pope
and usually addressed especially to patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops who are in
communion Communion may refer to: Religion * The Eucharist (also called the Holy Communion or Lord's Supper), the Christian rite involving the eating of bread and drinking of wine, reenacting the Last Supper **Communion (chant), the Gregorian chant that acc ...
with the
Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian ...
. The form of the address can vary widely, and may concern bishops in a particular area, or designate a wider audience. Papal encyclicals usually take the form of a papal brief due to their more personal nature as opposed to the formal
papal bull A papal bull is a type of public decree, letters patent, or charter issued by a pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the leaden Seal (emblem), seal (''bulla (seal), bulla'') that was traditionally appended to the end in order to auth ...
. They are usually written in
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...
and, like most papal documents, the title of the encyclical is usually taken from its first few words (its ''
incipit The incipit () of a text is the first few words of the text, employed as an identifying label. In a musical composition File:Chord chart.svg, 250px, Jazz and rock genre musicians may memorize the melodies for a new song, which means that the ...
'').


Papal use of encyclicals

In the encyclical ''Humani generis'',
Pope Pius XII Pope Pius XII ( it, Pio XII), born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli (; 2 March 18769 October 1958), was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, ...
held that papal encyclicals, even when they are of ordinary
magisterium The magisterium of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptise ...
, can nonetheless be sufficiently authoritative to end theological debate on a particular question: On
social issues A social issue is a problem that affects many people within a society. It is a group of common problems in present-day society and ones that many people strive to solve. It is often the consequence of factors extending beyond an individual's co ...
,
Pope Leo XIII Pope Leo XIII ( it, Leone XIII; born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci; 2 March 1810 – 20 July 1903) was the head of the Catholic Church from 20 February 1878 to his death in 1903. He was the oldest pope (living till the age of 93), w ...

Pope Leo XIII
promulgated the encyclical ''
Rerum novarum ''Rerum novarum'' (from its incipit The incipit () of a text is the first few words of the text, employed as an identifying label. In a musical composition, an incipit is an initial sequence of Musical note, notes, having the same purpose. T ...
'' (1891), which was followed by ''
Quadragesimo anno ''Quadragesimo anno'' (Latin for "In the 40th Year") is an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on 15 May 1931, 40 years after Pope Leo XIII, Leo XIII's encyclical ''Rerum novarum,'' further developing Catholic social teaching. Unlike Leo XIII, wh ...
'' (1931) of
Pius XI Pope Pius XI ( it, Pio XI), born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (; 31 May 1857 – 10 February 1939), was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian de ...

Pius XI
and ''
Centesimus annus ''Centesimus annus'' (Latin for "the hundredth year") is an encyclical which was written by Pope John Paul II Pope John Paul II ( la, Ioannes Paulus II; it, Giovanni Paolo II; pl, Jan Paweł II; born Karol Józef Wojtyła ; 18 May 192 ...
'' (1991) of
John Paul II Pope John Paul II ( la, Ioannes Paulus II; it, Giovanni Paolo II; pl, Jan Paweł II; born Karol Józef Wojtyła ; 18 May 19202 April 2005) was the head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Ca ...
. Pope Pius XII issued ten encyclicals, mostly after 1945, three of them protesting the
Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a socialist state A socialist state, socialist republic, or socialist country, sometimes referred to as a workers' state or workers' republic, is a sovere ...
invasion of
Hungary Hungary ( hu, Magyarország ) is a in . Spanning of the , it is bordered by to the north, to the northeast, to the east and southeast, to the south, and to the southwest and to the west. Hungary has a population of 10 million, mostl ...

Hungary
in order to crack down on the Hungarian Revolution in 1956: '' Datis nuperrime'', ''
Sertum laetitiae ''Sertum laetitiae'' (November 1, 1939) was an encyclical from Pope Pius XII to the Catholic Church of the United States of America in memory of the 150th anniversary of the installation of the first American bishop. The encyclical recalls Pope Piu ...
'' and '' Luctuosissimi eventus''.
Pope Paul VI Pope Paul VI ( la, Paulus VI; it, Paolo VI; born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, ; 26 September 18976 August 1978) was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the ...
published an encyclical ''
Humanae vitae ''Humanae vitae'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the R ...
'' on the topic of
birth control Birth control, also known as contraception, anticonception, and fertility control, is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring develops inside a woma ...
.


Anglican usage

Amongst
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christianity, Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation. Adherents of Anglicanism are called ''Anglicans''; t ...
s the term ''encyclical'' was revived in the late 19th century. It is applied to circular letters issued by the English
primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutherian mammal constituting the Taxonomy (biology), taxonomic order (biology), order Primates (). Primates arose 85–55 million years ago first from small Terrestrial animal, ...
s.


Important Eastern Orthodox encyclicals

* Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848) * Patriarchal encyclical of 1895 * Patriarchal encyclical of 1920 * Patriarchal encyclical of 2012


References


Sources

* ''The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church'' (3rd. ed.), p. 545.


External links


List of papal documents at the Theology Library
a
GCatholicwww.papalencyclicals.net
texts of most of the encyclicals from recent centuries {{Authority control Christian literary genres