The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will be releasing an encyclical this week. Here are seven things you need to know:
1. What is an encyclical?
An encyclical is an open letter from the Pope to the Church on a particular theme or topic.
The opening of this encyclical should look something like this: “Encyclical Letter Lumen Fidei of the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious, and All the Lay Faithful on the Light of Faith.”
2. Who wrote the encyclical?
This sounds like a pretty straightforward answer, but with this encyclical, the answer is a bit more complicated. This encyclical was started and mostly completed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he was still the Holy Father. The Vatican has said that Francis would take Benedict’s draft and make it his own. We do not know if the encyclical will carry just Francis’ name or both popes’ names.
3. What is the encyclical about?
The encyclical is entitled, “Lumen Fidei” or “Light of Faith.” Pope Benedict wrote three encyclicals total, including one on love and one on hope. This encyclical on faith completes the summary of the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and love – started by Pope Benedict.
Normally, an apostolic exhortation following the Synod on the New Evangelization would be expected at this time, but Pope Francis did not want the encyclical to overshadow this important document.
Pope Francis will write this exhortation in August on the New Evangelization and evangelization in general. [Update: I corrected a mistake that mentioned that this encyclical would replace the exhortation after misreading one of Pope Francis’ statements.
4. When will the encyclical be released?
The encyclical will be released this Friday, July 5th.
It will be presented at 11am Rome time (5am EST) by Cardinal Marc Ouellet prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
5. Is there any significance of a Pope’s first encyclical?
Normally, a Pope’s first encyclical will outline the major themes of his Papacy. But, because most of the encyclical was written by Pope Benedict, this is not expected to be the case for this encyclical.
With the encyclical being released under four months since his election, this encyclical is one of the fastest any pope has released an encyclical after the start of a papacy. [Update: I edited the previous statement after realizing that this was not the fastest encyclical ever written, see note in comments below]
6. How many encyclicals do popes normally write?
There is no set timeline for how many encyclicals are to be written by a pope or how frequently they are released.
Here’s how many the past five popes released:
Pope Benedict XVI – 3
Pope John Paul II – 14
Pope John Paul I – 0
Pope Paul VI – 7
Pope John XXIII – 8
In addition to encyclicals, popes will also release apostolic letters, apostolic exhortations, messages, homilies, etc. Encyclicals are the most authoritative and usually more substantial in nature.
7. Where can I get updates on the encyclical when it is released on Friday?
Pope Alarm will be releasing updates on the encyclical after it is made public. We will write a summary shortly following the release of the document and be releasing quotes from the document over the next month.
Do you have any additional questions by Pope Francis’ encyclical? Ask them below or via our social media channels.