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Mosaic of Pope John XXIII in the Basilica of Saint Paul.

Pope John XXIII issued eight Papal Encyclicals during his five-year reign as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, from his election on October 28, 1958 until his death on June 3, 1963. Two of his encylicals, Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris, are especially important.[1][2] A Papal Encyclical is a letter sent by the Pope which is addressed to Roman Catholic bishops in a particular area or the whole world.[3][4] Encyclicals may condemn errors, point out threats to faith and morals, exhort faithful practices, or provide remedies for present and future dangers to the church. The authority of the encyclical varies depending on the circumstances and is not necessarily ex cathedra.[5] The title of a Papal Encyclical is usually taken from its first few words.[6]

Pope John XXIII's first encyclical, Ad Petri Cathedram, was issued eight months into his pontificate and was neither an important social document nor doctrinal exposition. Instead it looked at truth, unity and peace with distinctive familiarity and concern.[6] The second, Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, while Grata Recordatio considered the use of the Rosary. Princeps Pastorum, his fourth encyclical, used 1 Peter 5:4 as its biblical text and celebrated Roman Catholic missions.

Mater et Magistra, the fifth encyclical, carried forward ideas from Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891), which had been issued 70 years before, and Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno (1931). It considers social ethics with its most important point being the application of natural law to the international community.[7] It is one of the longest encyclicals, at more than 25,000 words.[8] The sixth encyclical, Aeterna Dei Sapientia, commemorated the death of Pope Leo I and called for unity within Christendom from external movements such as Communism and secularism.[9] The penultimate encyclical, Paenitentiam Agere, considered penance and the then-upcoming Second Vatican Council. Pope John XXIII's final encyclical, Pacem in Terris, was written two months before his death. It is long—over 15,000 words—and is the first in history to have been addressed to "all men of good will," rather than only the bishops and laity of the Roman Catholic Church. It was hailed as "one of the most profound and significant documents of our age."[10]


No. Latin English translation Subject Date Text
Ad Petri Cathedram "To the chair of Peter" On truth, unity and peace in a spirit of charity. 29 June 1959 (English)
Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia "From the beginning of our priesthood" On St. John Vianney. 1 August 1959 (English)
Grata Recordatio "With joyful recollection" On the Rosary: Prayer for the church, missions, international and social problems. 26 September 1959 (English)
Princeps Pastorum "The prince of the shepherds" On the missions, native clergy, and lay participation. 28 November 1959 (English)
Mater et Magistra "Mother and Teacher" On Christianity and social progress. 15 May 1961 (English)
Aeterna Dei Sapientia "God's eternal wisdom" On commemorating the fifteenth centennial of the death of Pope St. Leo I. 11 November 1961 (English)
Paenitentiam Agere "Penance for sins" On the need for the practice of interior and exterior penance. 1 July 1962 (English)
Pacem in Terris "Peace on Earth" On establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity, and liberty. 11 April 1963 (English)


  1. "Vatican Revolutionary", TIME, 7 June 1963,,9171,874758-1,00.html, retrieved 2008-05-21 
  2. "Pope John XXIII Biography". L'Osservatore Romano. 6 September 2000. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  3.  "Ecclesiastical Letters". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  4.  "Bulls and Briefs". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  5.  "Encyclical". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Ad Petri Cathedram", TIME, 13 July 1959,,9171,869179,00.html, retrieved 2008-05-21 
  7. Brown, Robert McAfee (1964). "Review of The Challenge of Mater et Magistra" (subscription required). Review of Religious Research 6 (1): 44–45. doi:10.2307/3510885. Retrieved 2008-05-01. "The significant new thrust in the encyclical is its application of natural law theory to the international community, and its recognition that in our new and complex society there will be more occasions than in the past in which activities formerly conducted by private individuals will have to be administered by the state.". 
  8. "Mater et Magistra", TIME, 21 July 1961,,9171,897825,00.html, retrieved 2008-05-21 
  9. "A Shepherd Calls", TIME, 15 December 1961,,9171,827100,00.html, retrieved 2008-05-21 
  10. "The Lasting Vision of Pope John", TIME, 26 February 1965,,9171,833488,00.html, retrieved 2008-05-21 

External links

hu:XXIII. János pápa enciklikái ru:Список энциклик римского папы Иоанна XXIII sk:Zoznam encyklík Jána XXIII.