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As encyclical (plural: encyclicals of batteries also encyclical , lat. Epistula encyclical , of encyclios "forming a circle" and epistula "letter", this from ancient Greek ἐγκύκλιος enkyklios "what in circles going" and ἐπιστολή epistolḗ "Letter") refers to a instructive or admonishing circulars from the Roman-German emperors or the popes to their subjects and loyal followers. Imperial encyclicals were usually coronation reports. Papal encyclicals are still an important form of proclamation of the ecclesiastical teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church . They are usually named after the first words of the Latin text.

Papal encyclicals

The papal encyclical is characterized as a circular to the bishops of the world and is addressed to the whole Church. Some encyclicals, beginning with the peace encyclical Pope John XXIII. from 1963 Pacem in Terris , are addressed not only to the believers, but "to all people of good will".

Encyclicals have been in use in the Latin Church since Pope Benedict XIV , who established the modern form of this type of letter as a teaching letter in 1740 with the encyclical Ubi primum . Also known is his encyclical Vix pervenit (1745), in which he takes a massive stand against interest and usury . Pope Leo XII. Condemned religious indifferentism in 1824 in his encyclical also beginning with Ubi primum ; In his short pontificate, Pius VIII fought against alleged secret societies, especially the Freemasons , with Traditi humilitati nostrae , whom he saw as a danger to the papal state. The intransigent direction was set by Gregory XVI. continued, who with Mirari vos in 1832 condemned indifferentism and rationalism and in 1834 rejected liberalism (against Lamennais ). Even if initially in a defensive stance, under Gregory XVI. but the struggle of the Catholic Church for the appropriate distance from state politics, initially formulated restoratively as a defense against any political naturalism .

Since Gregory XVI. (1831–1846) the popes regularly published encyclicals. The papal teaching activity took off with Pius IX , which continues to this day . since Vatican I of 1870. Leo XIII. (1878–1903) wrote a total of 80, Pius XI. exactly 30, Pius XII. 41 encyclicals.

Since Paul VI. Papal instructional letters are written more often than before in a less solemn form. The Exhortatio Apostolica, for example, is formally not a circular, but an open letter from the Pope to all or to a certain group of believers. Such a warning letter can, for example, be drawn up following a synod of bishops in the form of a post-synodal apostolic letter . The even shorter form of the papal letter, the breve , is not used for teaching statements.

Encyclicals can be devoted to fundamental themes of the proclamation of the faith or also address specific pastoral questions. They typically have a disciplinary teaching authority without recourse to papal infallibility . It follows that they reflect the doctrines of the Popes, which are to be understood in the historical context of the respective religious and social situation.

Papal encyclicals are cited with the so-called incipit , the first two or three initial words of the first sentence (less often only the first word, e.g. in the encyclical Libertas Pope Leos XIII. From 1888, or with more than three words such as Graves de communi re Leos XIII. from 1901).

An example is the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (Latin: Ardenti cura ) ( published in German in the original ), which Pope Pius XI. in view of the situation in the German Reich on March 14, 1937 and which was directed against the National Socialist ideology. On March 19 of the same year an encyclical was published condemning communism ( Divini redemptoris ), and a little later an encyclical on the situation in Mexico ( Nos es muy conocida ). Three encyclicals within two weeks remained the record in the entire history of the papacy.

The encyclicals are usually published in Latin in the Official Gazette of the Holy See . Often an official translation in another language is also included. The two encyclicals of Pius XI. With burning concern and nos es muy conocida , for once , they were published directly in the target language German or Spanish and are cited as such.

Special encyclicals

Inaugural Encyclics

With the first encyclical of the blessed Pope Pius IX. ( Qui pluribus of 1846), which, like a speech from the throne or government declaration, contained programmatic statements about the goals and plans of the beginning pontificate, a new type of encyclical was established. Since then, the first encyclical called a pope after taking office first encyclical . At the beginning of his papal office in 1979 , Pope John Paul II published the encyclical Redemptor Hominis (“Redeemer of Man”), in which he set out his theological program of returning to Christ as the center of faith, and Pope Benedict XVI. was the title of his inaugural encyclical Deus caritas est (“God is love”) , published in January 2006 .

The first encyclical by Pope Francis , which was published on June 29, 2013 under the title Lumen fidei (“Light of Faith”), is an unusual special case . It was based on a design by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. Francis therefore called it a "teaching letter for the four hands"

Marian encyclical

As Marian encyclical encyclicals are referred to, the focus of Marian devotion are dedicated. The renewal of the veneration of Mary was particularly by Pope Pius IX. who proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854 with the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus . The devotion to Mary reached its climax with the on November 1, 1950 by Pope Pius XII. proclaimed dogma about the assumption of Mary into heaven . A number of encyclicals on Marian themes come from the popes of the 20th century, who proved to be zealous devotees of Mary, most recently Redemptoris Mater (1987) by John Paul II.

Missionary Encyclicals

In church parlance, the term mission is not only the "world mission" in the sense of proselytizing non-believers in distant countries (evangelization), but the evangelization (preaching and spreading the gospel) as a whole, which is also the example in the form of popular mission -driven Verkündigungs- and Includes evangelization work among baptized Christians ( new evangelization ). Starting with the first known mission encyclical Sancta Dei civitas (1880) by Pope Leo XIII. In the last century the Popes published various instructional letters on mission and evangelization; they all deal with the missionary mandate of the church and the Christian understanding of missionary work. With the Council Decree Ad gentes (1965), the Second Vatican Council also passed its own ordinance on the missionary activity of the Church. The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (1974) of Pope Paul VI. is considered the Magna Charta of the missionary activity of the church and is therefore often counted under the term missionary encyclics.

Rosary cyclicals

The practice of praying the rosary in October developed towards the end of the 18th century. Known for his devotion to Mary, Pope Leo XIII. promoted the veneration of the Blessed Mother by encouraging the faithful to constantly use the rosary and by writing seven encyclicals on the subject of the rosary, including Supremi apostolatus officio (1883), Superiore anno (1884), Magnae Dei matris (1892), Laetitiae sanctae ( 1893) and Iucunda semper expectatione (1894). This by Leo XIII. and his successors published instructional letters, including more recently Ingravescentibus malis (1937) by Pope Pius XI., Marialis rosarii (1961) by Pope John XXIII. and Christi matri rosarii (1966) by Pope Paul VI., are often summarized under the term "Rosary Encyclicals". The Apostolic Exhortation Rosarium Virginis Mariae from Pope John Paul II was last published in 2002 .

Social encyclicals

The social upheavals of the second half of the 19th century ( social question ) prompted the Roman Catholic Church and its Popes to take a stand on the pressing social problems and questions of their time, with a particular focus on the Christian image of man and to underline the social responsibility of the individual in the context of the social changes brought about by industrialization . The textbooks of the Popes on these subjects ( social encyclicals ) played an important role in the development of Catholic social teaching . The encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) by Pope Leo XIII should be mentioned here in particular . and their subsequent encyclicals Quadragesimo anno (1931) by Pope Pius XI., Mater et magistra (1961) by Pope Johannes XXIII. and Laborem exercens (1981) and Centesimus annus (1991) by Pope John Paul II. In addition to the social encyclicals, Pacem in terris (1963), which underlines the importance of human rights , and Populorum progressio (1967), Sollicitudo rei socialis ( 1987), Caritas in Veritate (2009) and Fratelli tutti (2020).

Not all of these encyclics had a pronounced socio-political character, which is why a division into “large” and “small” social encyclics has been established. In addition, there are also important apostolic letters that have a meaning comparable to social encyclicals in terms of content and historical effects ( e.g. Octogesima adveniens (1971) by Pope Paul VI) and which are therefore mostly included under this term.

Education encyclical

Pope Pius XI In Divini illius magistri (1929), he presented important requirements and requirements for the Christian upbringing of young people. He demanded, among other things, that the state must protect the right of families to a Christian upbringing and, if necessary, ensure the right of children to an appropriate upbringing if the Parents should fail morally or physically. However, compulsory schooling should not be enforced against the will of the parents . He described sex education and co-education as dangerous and called for Catholic religious instruction and Catholic schools .

Environmental cyclical

With Laudato si ("Praise be to you") of May 24, 2015, Pope Francis published an encyclical on June 18, 2015, which was drawn up entirely under his pen. For the first time, the topic of the environment is central to an encyclical. In what is known by the ecclesiastical and secular public as the "environmental cyclical" or "ecological cyclical", Francis developed a holistic approach to ecology . This circular is said to have the potential to be a tremendous impetus for the ecological movement in the church.

See also


  • Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church . Herder Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau, 2006. ISBN 3-451-29078-2 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Encyclical  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. KNA: "Instructional Letter for the Four Hands". In: kathisch.de. July 5, 2013, accessed March 18, 2014 .
  2. ^ German text by Divini illius magistri
  3. So Misereor , katholisch.de , kath.ch , Cicero magazine , Herder Verlag u. V. a .; all links accessed on October 11, 2016.
  4. ^ Educational work of the Evangelical Methodist Church , link accessed on October 11, 2016.
  5. Vatican Radio : Austria: Cardinal Schönborn pays tribute to Laudato Si ' ( Memento from June 18, 2015 in the Internet Archive )