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1. Term and background. Encyclical is a term, derived from the Greek (έγϰύκλιοι έπιστολαί), for an ecclesiastical circular letter addressed to some or all Christian Churches, for example 1 Pet to the Churches of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, or the letter on the martyrdom of Polycarp “to all the communities of the Catholic Church”. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries such letters were called catholic letters because of their general destination. This is what Eusebius calls the letters of Dionysius of Corinth (Hist. Eccl., IV, 23). Letters written by Alexander of Alex…

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Joaquin Salaverry, “Encyclicals”, in: Sacramentum Mundi Online, General Editor Karl Rahner, SJ. Consulted online on 25 February 2024 <>
First published online: 2016

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