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The term encyclical is used in the modern Roman Catholic Church to designate a formal pastoral letter written by, or under the authority of, the pope as the bishop of Rome and spiritual and administrative leader of the church, which includes the Latin Rite and Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion. In its etymology, encyclical is drawn from linguistic roots in Latin and Greek, meaning “encircling.” In the early church, an encyclical was a pastoral communication in letter form sent out by any bishop and spread to the churches functioning within a particular geographical region. The Eastern Orthodox and Anglican churches have retained this traditional usage. Beginning with Pope John XXIII (1958–1963), encyclicals were written not only for Catholics but for the consideration of the ...

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