Vatican official says not to expect papal encyclical on poverty

Vatican City — An official at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said despite widespread news reports and the statement of an Italian bishop, he does not expect Pope Francis to write an encyclical on the subject of poverty.

"If you asked [the pope] he would probably say to you, 'Why do we need an encyclical? What is the encyclical supposed to tell us that we don't already know?' " said Jesuit Fr. Michael Czerny.

In May, Bishop Luigi Martella of Molfetta, Italy, wrote that the pope had recently told him and other bishops of Italy's Puglia region that he was planning an encyclical on poverty, "understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in an evangelical sense." The bishop said the encyclical would be called Beati Pauperes ("Blessed Are the Poor").

But Czerny told Catholic News Service the church is still digesting retired Pope Benedict XVI's major contribution to the church's teaching on the subject.

"Less than five years ago, we had a superb social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, and I'm sure that Pope Francis agrees with every word of it. There is an amount of material in it that we could work on," Czerny said. "It would keep us busy for 20 years."

Help fund independent Catholic journalism.
Donate now.

"Obviously, there will be efforts made to understand forms of poverty or new phenomena," said Czerny, who serves as assistant to the council's president, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson. "These are all efforts to fill little gaps, holes that we have. I would expect Pope Francis to use much simpler opportunities for clarification than teaching, rather than a huge encyclical."

The Jesuit granted more weight to reports that Pope Francis is contemplating an encyclical about the environment.

"He's been talking about an ecological encyclical," Czerny said. "That's an area perhaps where there's been less church teaching than there has on poverty and development. So maybe something like that might come. But even there I would expect parts and pieces to come out as we go along, eventually maybe to have it pulled together."

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.