Encyclica, Encyclical Letters
Encyclica, Encyclical Letters (from the Gr. ἐγκύκλιος, letters which have to go the rounds of a certain number of men — literae encyclicae, literae circulares), in the ancient Church, letters sent by bishops to all the churches of a particular circuit. At present the name is exclusively used for letters addressed by the Pope to all the bishops of the Roman Catholic world. In the encyclicals the Pope lays down his views of the general wants of the Church, or of some prevailing demands and sentiments; he warns against dangerous movements within the Church, as well as against dangers threatening the Church from abroad. He urges the bishops to be watchful, and points to the proper antidotes for existing evils. Among modern encyclicals, none attracted greater attention than that issued by Pope Pius IX, in December 1864, against modern civilization. — Wetzer und Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, 6:540. SEE LITERAE ENCYCLICAE.