List of Encyclicals of Pope John XXIII
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List of Encyclicals of Pope John XXIII
Photograph of Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII in 1959

Pope John XXIII (1881-1963, r. 1958-1963) issued eight papal encyclicals during his five-year reign as pope of the Catholic Church. An encyclical is a letter issued by the pope that is usually addressed to Catholic bishops or laity in a particular area or of the whole world.[1][2] 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 on the content and is not necessarily infallible. The title of an encyclical is usually taken from its incipit (its first few words).[3] Two of his encyclicals, Mater et magistra and Pacem in terris, are especially important.[4][5]

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.[3] 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 Catholic missions.

Mater et magistra, the fifth encyclical, carried forward ideas from Leo XIII's Rerum novarum (1891), which had been issued 70 years prior, as well as from 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.[6] It is one of the longest encyclicals, at more than 25,000 words.[7] 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.[8] The penultimate encyclical, Paenitentiam agere, considered penance and the then-upcoming Second Vatican Council. John XXIII's final encyclical, Pacem in terris, was written two months before his death. It is long – at over 15,000 words – and was the first in history to have been addressed to "all men of good will", rather than only the clergy and laity of the church. It was hailed as "one of the most profound and significant documents of our age".[9]


No. Latin title English translation Subject Date Text
1 Ad Petri Cathedram To the Chair of Peter On truth, unity and peace in a spirit of charity
2 Sacerdotii nostri primordia From the Beginning of Our Priesthood On St. John Vianney
3 Grata recordatio With Joyful Recollection On the Rosary: prayer for the church, missions, international and social problems
4 Princeps pastorum The Prince of the Shepherds On the missions, native clergy and lay participation
5 Mater et magistra Mother and Teacher On Christianity and social progress
6 Aeterna Dei sapientia God's Eternal Wisdom On commemorating the fifteenth centennial of the death of Pope St. Leo I
7 Paenitentiam agere Penance for Sins On the need for the practice of interior and exterior penance
8 Pacem in terris Peace on Earth On establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity and liberty


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ecclesiastical Letters" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Bulls and Briefs" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. ^ a b "Ad Petri Cathedram". Time. 13 July 1959. Retrieved 2008.
  4. ^ "Vatican Revolutionary". Time. 7 June 1963. Retrieved 2008.
  5. ^ "Pope John XXIII". L'Osservatore Romano. 6 September 2000. Retrieved 2008.
  6. ^ Brown, Robert McAfee; Moody, Joseph N.; Lawler, J. George (1964). "Review of The Challenge of Mater et magistra". Review of Religious Research. Religious Research Association, Inc. 6 (1): 44-45. doi:10.2307/3510885. JSTOR 3510885. 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.
  7. ^ "Mater et Magistra". Time. 21 July 1961. Retrieved 2008.
  8. ^ "A Shepherd Calls". Time. 15 December 1961. Retrieved 2008.
  9. ^ "The Lasting Vision of Pope John". Time. 26 February 1965. Retrieved 2008.

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