As I am writing this thought, Great Britain is experiencing a surge of Anglican priests and bishops leaving the Church of England for the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox/Vatican discussions are becoming more and more respected and exciting, the Protestant church leaders are discovering more and more just how similar we all believe.
But as these meetings and discussions are continuing, so are the writing and teachings of the Chair of Peter. Papal writings are instruments of instruction to the masses. The encyclicals, apostolic letters, speeches, audiences, all bring forth new understandings to issues of current events.
Each pope through the ages wrote letters, encyclicals, etc, some to certain audiences, others to the general world, but nonetheless, these documents should be given widespread attention they deserve. Most believers in the pew have no clue what an encyclical is or the difference between a letter and a statement, much less the teachings they bring forth. Here is a breakdown of the most popular documents that are used by the Pope:
Encyclical Letter — This, by definition, is a letter addressed primarily to the bishops of the Universal Church and through them as teachers of the Faith to the whole People of God. It may address questions of faith and morals, an event or the memorial of an event or previous encyclical, or even the situation of a particular group or country.
Encyclical Epistle — This type of document is more rarely issued than an encyclical letter, but it is very similar. The primary difference is that instead of being addressed to all the bishops, it is usually addressed to the bishops of a particular region or country.
Apostolic Exhortation — This type of papal writing is, as it conveys, an exhortation. This means that it addresses a particular audience and is an encouragement to some particular good.
Apostolic Letter — An apostolic letter can be addressed to anyone, often the whole People of God about a multitude of issues. It may concern the erection of a basilica.
Apostolic Constitution — This is exactly what you see...constitution having to do with governing or legislating.
So you see, these are VERY important documents that should be shared with those sitting in the pews. I'll do my part to bring them to my readers with links and updates. I hope they bring to those who read them as much enlightenment and joy as they do me.....Oh I am such a Catholic geek!