Definitions

encyclical

encyclical

[en-sik-li-kuhl, -sahy-kli-]
encyclical, 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 bull, 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 modernism; 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).

An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Christian church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop. The word comes from Latin encyclia (from the Greek "en kyklo, ἐν κύκλῳ") meaning "general" or "encircling", which is also the origin of the word "encyclopedia".

The Roman Catholic Church generally only uses this term for Papal encyclicals, but the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion retain the older usage.

Roman Catholic usage

For the modern Roman Catholic Church a Papal encyclical, in the strictest sense, is a letter, usually treating some aspect of Catholic doctrine, sent by the Pope and addressed either to the Catholic bishops of a particular area or, more normally, to the bishops of the world; however, the form of the address can vary widely, and often designates 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. Papal encyclicals are so famous that the term encyclical is used almost exclusively for those sent out by the Pope. The title of the encyclical is usually taken from its first few words.

Within Catholicism in recent times, an encyclical is generally used for significant issues, and is second in importance only to the highest ranking document now issued by popes, an Apostolic Constitution. However, the designation 'encyclical' does not always denote such a degree of significance. The archives at the Vatican website currently classify certain encyclicals as "Apostolic Exhortations". This informal term generally indicates documents with a broader audience than the bishops alone.

Pope Pius XII held that Papal Encyclicals, even when they are not ex cathedra, can nonetheless be sufficiently authoritative to end theological debate on a particular question:

It is not to be thought that what is set down in Encyclical letters does not demand assent in itself, because in this the popes do not exercise the supreme power of their magisterium. For these matters are taught by the ordinary magisterium, regarding which the following is pertinent: “He who heareth you, heareth Me.” (Luke 10:16); and usually what is set forth and inculcated in Encyclical Letters, already pertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their acts, after due consideration, express an opinion on a hitherto controversial matter, it is clear to all that this matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot any longer be considered a question of free discussion among theologians.
Humani Generis
Papal use of encyclicals

Encyclicals indicate high Papal priority for a issue at a given time. Pontiffs define when, and under which circumstances encyclicals should be issued. They may choose to issue an apostolic constitution, bull, encyclical, apostolic letter or give a papal speech. Popes have differed on the use of encyclicals: on the issue of birth control and contraception, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Casti Connubii, while Pope Pius XII gave a speech to midwives and the medical profession, clarifying his position on the issue. Pope Paul VI published an encyclical Humanae Vitae on the same topic. On matters of war and peace, Pope Pius XII issued ten encyclicals, mostly after 1945, three of them protesting the Soviet invasion of Hungary in order to crackdown on the Hungarian Revolution in 1956: Datis Nuperrime, Sertum Laetitiae, Luctuosissimi Eventus. Pope Paul VI spoke about the war in Vietnam and Pope John Paul II, issued a protest against the war in Iraq using the medium of speeches. On social issues, Pope Leo XIII promulgated Rerum Novarum (1891), which was followed by the Quadragesimo Anno (1931) of Pius XI, and the Centesimus Annus (1991) of John Paul II. Pius XII spoke on the same topic to a consistory of cardinals, in his Christmas messages and to numerous academic and professional associations.

Anglican usage

Amongst Anglicans the term encyclical was revived in the late 19th century. It is applied to circular letters issued by the English primates.

Important papal encyclicals

*Pope Eugene IV (1431-1447)

*Pope Saint Pius V 7 January 1566 to 1 May 1572

*Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758)

*Pope Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878)

*Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903)

* Pope Saint Pius X (1903-1914)

*Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922)

*Pope Pius XI (1922-1939)

*Pope Pius XII (1939-1958)

*Pope Blessed John XXIII (1958-1963)

*Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)

*Pope John Paul II (1978-2005)

*Pope Benedict XVI (2005 to present)

Important Eastern Orthodox encyclicals

Important Anglican encyclicals

External links

External links

Source

  • Acta Apostolicae Sedis, (AAS), Roma Vaticano, 1920-2007
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd. ed.), p. 545.

Quotes

Search another word or see encyclicalon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature