Catholic Culture: What is an encyclical?

Jul 21, 2022

An encyclical is one of many types of writings that come directly from the pope, instructions for all people of goodwill. In the hierarchy of Church documents, the encyclical is in the top three. The title of each encyclical is taken from the first few words of the document in Latin. They are intended to focus our attention on some doctrinal issue and help us collaborate and discuss the situation presented.

During the pontificate of Pope Francis, we have three encyclicals, Lumen fidei, Laudato si’, and Fratelli tutti. Laudato si’ focuses on how we are to be stewards of nature and our future here on earth. Because the level of writing can be academic, most non-theologians might be worried about reading them and wait for a second source interpretation. I encourage everyone to read the encyclical as their first source instead of waiting for interpretations.

One of my favorite encyclicals is God is Love; “Deus caritas est” by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I read this encyclical as I applied to seminary. It was not an easy read; at first, my mind would fall asleep trying to understand the content, but the more I tried to read, the better it got. I enjoyed Deus caritas est because it taught me love has great depth. To love and serve God in the most accessible and authentic sense, we must grow in the Love of God.

By Father Francisco Ojeda, parochial vicar of St. John Vianney Parish in Orlando, July 22, 2022