For nearly two thousand years, popes have communicated to the world primarily through their letters. In the premodern world, the papal chancery turned out tens of thousands of letters a year. On occasion, a letter dealt with broad concerns and was intended to circulate through the churches of a given region. Such letters became known as encyclicals. In the modern period, papal encyclicals have become the primary medium through which the papacy exercises its teaching office. Through them, the popes address theological topics of especially timely concern, applying Christian doctrine to the immediate circumstances of the day.
Pope John Paul II wrote 14 encyclical letters. In them, the pontiff developed his characteristic personalism—a focus on the dignity of each human person as an end in and of themselves. Through this lens, John Paul II analyzed the problems faced by the contemporary world and provided penetrating insight into their solutions—solutions that focused not on political or economic policy, but on conversion. The topics of his encyclicals varied from the relationship between faith and reason, to guidelines for a just economic order, to contemporary ecumenism.
Pope Benedict XVI has written three encyclicals. He has treated the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and love, in the light of current theological and social problems. His focus has been on love as the most basic reality, and thus as the starting point for his theological analysis. He has also produced a major contribution to social doctrine with his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). In this significant body of work, the pontiff has attempted to interpret the teaching of Vatican II in light of recent developments, endeavoring to articulate its authentic doctrine.
As a body of work, Encyclicals of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI (34 vols.) offers some of the most important theology produced in recent decades. With the Verbum edition, all Scripture passages in the encyclicals are tagged and appear on mouse-over. What's more, references to important works, such as the decrees of Vatican II, Trent, or the writings of the Church Fathers, are tagged. This makes these texts more powerful and easier to access than ever before for scholarly work or personal study. With the advanced search features of Logos Bible Software, you can perform powerful searches by topic or Scripture reference—finding, for example, every mention of “mercy” or “Eucharist.”