Encyclicals

Pope Francis

Laudato Si’
(May 24, 2015)

On Care for Our Common Home

Laudato Si addresses humanity's responsibility towards the natural world in the context of contemporary environmental challenges. Beginning by referencing a canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis addresses the environmental impact of consumerism and irresponsible production. The first chapter highlights recent science on aspects of the ecological crisis as evidence of what is happening to the planet. In the second chapter, Francis addresses the need for awareness of a universal communion with all of nature. Chapters three and four discuss modern society’s excessive anthropocentrism and the relationship between human activity and the environment. Francis then proposes an integral ecology which respects humanity's unique place in the natural order. Chapters five and six outline courses of action to escape the current spiral of self-destruction and invite humanity into conversation about society’s ecological impact. It is the second encyclical published by Pope Francis and the first written entirely by him, as Lumen Fidei built on work by Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis

Lumen Fidei
(June 29, 2013)

The light of Faith

Lumen Fidei is an encyclical written in part by Pope Benedict XVI and completed by Pope Francis that addresses the nature of faith in the contemporary world. In the first chapter Francis describes faith as a supernatural gift by which all other truth is illuminated, using the life of Abraham and the history of Israel to illustrate "what faith is."

He then examines how Christ's death produces the fullness of faith and reorients the life of the believer and the believing community. The second chapter covers the relationship between faith, truth, and love, touching on the role of reason and theology in the quest for true faith. Chapter three discusses the role of the Church in transmitting and nurturing faith, particularly through the sacraments and prayer; chapter four considers the impact of faith on the common good, the family, and social relationships. The encyclical concludes by highlighting the faithful example of the Virgin Mary.

Pope Benedict XVI

Caritas in veritate
(June 29, 2009)

Charity in Truth

Caritas in Veritate is an encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI that addresses the relationship between charity and truth as the foundation of the Church's social doctrine. Benedict XVI praises the work of Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio and commits to reinterpreting the principles of integral human development for contemporary times. After reviewing the writings of Paul VI, he uses the then-current financial crisis to evaluate the global economic system and present-day conceptions of development. True progress is the result of interdisciplinary cooperation that draws on multiple kinds of knowledge; without this, globalization becomes a debilitating and negative force. The encyclical then addresses the interplay between fraternity, economic development, and civil society, suggesting a shift towards an "economy of gratuitousness." Disregard for the moral nature of economics also has negative consequences for the environment. Benedict further considers areas of possible global cooperation and the influence of technology on human development.

Pope Benedict XVI

Spe salvi
(November 30, 2007)

Saved in Hope

Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) discusses the relationship between faith, hope, and redemption. It begins with a meditation on a passage from Saint Paul to the Romans, "Spe Salvi facti sumus," (Rom 8:24) meaning "in hope we were saved." Pope Benedict XVI then considers the complementary individual and social components of salvation. After an evaluation of the post-Enlightenment world's hope in finding redemption through political and social revolutions based on science and reason, he roots the basis of true Christian hope in the love of God. The encyclical's final sections survey different ways in which Christians can learn hope, including through prayer and even suffering. It concludes by holding up Mary, the Mother of God, as an exemplar of hope in the face of adversity.

Pope Benedict XVI

Deus caritas est
(December 25, 2005)

On Christian Love, God is Love

An encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI meditating on the nature of love, Deus Caritas Est defends a concept of love that integrates its possessive and faith-centered elements, declaring that one without the other constitutes an impoverishment of the love embodied in Jesus Christ. Charity is a manifestation of love and a fundamental part of the Catholic Church. The encyclical emphasizes that the Church should not become directly involved in political struggles over the establishment of a just order, but rather must participate in the debate on the nature of justice and shape the consciousness of those involved in political life. In addition, the charitable activities of the Church, while distinct from proselytism, must always be linked to faith and a love of God. Pointing to Mother Theresa's example, the encyclical emphasizes the singular importance of prayer, and, while encouraging Catholics to cooperate with others in charitable works, warns against the secularization of their activities.

Pope St. John Paul II

Centesimus Annus
(May 1, 1991)

On the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum – On Capitol and Labor; On Catholic social teaching. 

Rerum Novarum is a foundational text in the history of Catholic social thought, establishing the position of the Church on issues pertaining to the proper relationship between capital and labor. The vision expounded by the encyclical emphasizes the duties and obligations that bind owners of capital and workers to each other. Throughout the encyclical, Pope Leo XIII articulates the inherent dignity of both labor and laborer, themes which will be taken up by successive popes in later encyclicals, notably Pacem in Terris and Centesimus Annus. Repudiating both radical socialism and unrestrained capitalism, Rerum Novarum provides a vigorous defense of both private property and the right of workers to form unions, among other things. The document is considered the first of the Church's modern social canon, as it represented a newfound understanding of the need for the Church to offer its critical reflection on the social issues of the day.

Pope St. John Paul II

Dives in Misericordia
(November 30, 1980)

The Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy) discusses the theological foundation of mercy and its place in responding to the challenges of modern life. Pope John Paul II first reviews the message of mercy preached by Jesus Christ before turning to the role of mercy in the Old Testament. He then examines the parable of the prodigal son as an analogy of divine mercy. The next section of the encyclical concentrates more deeply on God's mercy revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This sets the stage for consideration of the Church's response to contemporary evils, including its conception of justice and witness to the reciprocal nature of mercy. Finally, John Paul posits mercy as fundamental to interpersonal relationships and the necessary focus of the prayers of the Church.

Pope St. John Paul II

Dominum et Vivificantem
(May 18, 1986)

The Lord and Giver of Life

The Encyclical Letter "Dominum et Vivificantem" on the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and the world was written by John Paul II in 1986, during the eighth year of his pontificate. It forms a trilogy on the Trinity, with the Encyclicals dedicated to the Father, "Dives in misericordia" (1980), and to the Son, "Redemptor hominis" (1979).

The document is divided into an introduction, three parts - "The Spirit of the Father and of the Son, Given to the Church", "The Spirit Who Convinces the World Concerning Sin", "The Spirit Who Gives Life" - and a conclusion.

Pope St. John Paul II

Ecclesia De Eucharistia
(April 17, 2003)

On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church

Ecclesia de Eucharistia is an encyclical by Pope John Paul II published on April 17, 2003. Its title, as is customary, is taken from the opening words of the Latin version of the text, which is rendered in the English translation as "The Church draws her life from the Eucharist", with the first words of the Latin translating as "The Church from the Eucharist". He discusses the centrality of the Eucharist to the definition and mission of the Church and says he hopes his message will "effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery." He explored themes familiar from his earlier writings, including the profound connection between the Eucharist and the priesthood. It drew as well on his personal experiences saying Mass.

Throughout his pontificate, John Paul wrote an annual letter to priests on Holy Thursday. On his 25th Holy Thursday as pope, he issued this encyclical instead, addressed to all Catholics: "to the bishops, priests and deacons, men and women in the consecrated life and all the lay faithful". It was the last of his fourteen encyclicals.

Pope St. John Paul II

Evangelium Vitae
(March 25, 1995)

The Gospel of Life

Issued in 1995, Evangelium Vitae articulates the Church's position on certain social issues related to the sanctity of human life. The encyclical reaffirms the Church's opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and artificial contraception, but it likewise addresses matters of economics as they relate to human life, connecting abortion's pervasiveness with a perception of the poor as burdensome. Respect for human dignity and dedication to human flourishing must be at the heart of any business endeavor, and great care must be taken to ensure that the weakest members of society are protected. For this reason, abortion is seen as a very grave evil, and all persons are exhorted to work for its elimination. Elected officials, in a special way, must oppose absolutely any attempt to legalize or condone abortion, but the encyclical accedes that politicians may support legislation aimed at reducing the number of abortions if no more favorable legislation exists.

Pope St. John Paul II

Fides et Ratio
(September 14, 1998)

Faith and Reason

Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), an encyclical by Pope John Paul II, addresses the essential complementary relationship between faith and reason. Arguing that faith without reason is mere superstition and that reason without faith devolves to relativism and meaninglessness, the pope claims that the truth that both faith and reason seek can be reached only when they work together to understand the world and higher things. John Paul also suggests that modern moral decline and other social ills are the results of the divorce of reason from faith. Using the example of philosophy and theology, the encyclical concludes with a series of means by which faith and reason can reunite in order to help address the shortcomings of each.

Pope St. John Paul II

Laborem Exercens
(September 14, 1981)

On Human Work

Issued by Pope John Paul II on the ninetieth anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum NovarumLaborem Exercens expands and reshapes the corpus of twentieth century Catholic social teaching, calling for a renewed understanding of labor's role in human life. Tied intimately to human dignity and vocation, it is through labor that humans participate as co-creators with God and fulfill their intrinsic dignity as persons. John Paul emphasizes that labor must focus on the laborer, rather than only at the task performed, as the latter leads towards an instrumentalization of persons. John Paul forcefully argues that persons have a right to work, not merely a duty, and that all further rights (to unionize, to be paid a living wage, to participate in economic decision-making) are based upon this fundamental right to labor. The encyclical remains relevant for its insistence that human dignity and social justice take priority over capital.

Pope St. John Paul II

Redemptor Hominis
(March 4, 1979)

The Redeemer of Man

Pope John Paul II's first encyclical, released in 1979, Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of Man) ties the mission of his own papacy and that of the larger Church to the mystery of Christ. John Paul speaks to the modern fears of the world and argues that though the modern world has brought much progress to humankind, it has also opened the door to human threats to the dignity and nature of all people. The pope also divulges his own private response to his election to the office, as well as gives the reasons for choosing the name John Paul. Many of these themes reappear throughout his papacy, and therefore this encyclical serves as a useful foundation for understanding his thoughts and future actions.

Pope St. John Paul II

Redemptoris Mater
(March 25, 1987)

Mother of the Redeemer

Redemptoris Mater is a papal encyclical written by Pope John Paul II in 1987 explicating the Roman Catholic Church's teachings on Mariology, the understanding of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Catholic theology. The first section of the encyclical covers Mary's place in the salvific mission of her son, Jesus Christ. The encyclical then confirms Mary's title as Mother of the Church, as she was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council in 1964. Finally, John Paul II explicates Mary's role and title as "Mediatrix," meaning that Mary is the mediator between humanity and Jesus Christ.

Pope St. John Paul II

Redemptoris Missio
(December 7, 1990)

On the Permanent Validity of the Church's Missionary Mandate

Redemptoris Missio is an encyclical of Pope John Paul II on the urgency and necessity for missionary activities and endeavors in the world. Upholding the universal importance of missionary activity for all Christians but recognizing its negative connotation in the multicultural and religiously tolerant modern world, the pope attempts to revive the missionary vitality of the Christian community while defending its intention. John Paul elaborates that Christian missionary activity does not detract from human freedom, the diversity of culture, or the good within other religions. However, these worthy goods do not lessen the importance of or mandate for the Christian spreading of the Gospel or work towards the salvation of souls. Approaching a controversial matter in a new age, this encyclical is highly important for understanding the Catholic Church's interaction with other religions and the larger world.

Pope St. John Paul II

Slavorum Apostoli
(June 2, 1985)

In commemoration of the Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Slavorum Apostoli (Latin: The Apostles of the Slavs) is an encyclical written by Pope John Paul II in 1985. In it he talks about two saintly brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, and how they preached the gospel to the Slavs.

Pope St. John Paul II

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis
(December 30, 1987)

On Social Concerns

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, released on the twentieth anniversary of Paul VI's Populorum Progressio, continues in the tradition of Catholic social teaching begun by Leo XIII and focuses on the notion of development, especially the influential, large-scale actions of nations and corporations. The accumulation of wealth in North America and Europe has led to an increasing disparity vis-à-vis poorer, developing nations in Africa and Latin America. The encyclical decries the fact that nations continue to build weapons while citizens lack food and education. Moreover, economic progress does not constitute development without concern for the social and spiritual dimensions of the human person. John Paul reiterates that both communism and unrestrained capitalism are extremes to be condemned, and he cautions against the 'new' cultural imperialism, which, though not violent, seeks to impose the values of the West on other societies.

Pope St. John Paul II

Ut Unum Sint
(May 25, 1995)

That they may be one - On Commitment to Ecumenism

Ut Unum Sint, an ecumenical encyclical written by Pope John Paul II, reiterates the Second Vatican Council's calls for dialogue with other Christian churches and invites a reconsideration of the role of the papacy in the reunification of the Christian denominations. Notable for its highly personal language, the encyclical recounts John Paul's many pilgrimages to Protestant and Orthodox churches. He argues that the unity of the Christian faith is essential to Christ's mission of salvation, and he focuses upon the many things that the traditions share in common. The text has become a standard for Christian ecumenical dialogue.

Pope St. John Paul II

Veritatis Splendor
(August 6, 1993)

The Splendor of Truth - Regarding Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church's Moral Teaching

Veritatis Splendor is an encyclical of Pope John Paul II on the moral authority and truth of the Catholic Church. The pope condemns the modern adoption of moral relativism and the claim that the truth is unknowable as fundamentally toxic and dangerous for society, and argues that the Catholic Church possesses the authority to fully pronounce the truth on moral issues. John Paul also commends the protection of human freedom in recent times but expresses concern that the divorce of this human freedom from a divine and natural law leads to the devolution of humanity, in turn dividing human action and the body from the meaning of humanity. Though theological and philosophical in nature, the encyclical has been influential in terms of the Church's understanding of reason and truth, human freedom and human rights, and moral issues, including abortion and euthanasia.

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