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An encyclical is an authoritative letter sent to a group, such as a papal encyclical occasionally sent by a pope to the bishops of the Catholic Church.

A papal encyclical ranks as follows in authority:[1]

  1. apostolic constitution
  2. encyclical letter (written for the entire church)
  3. encyclical epistle (written for only part of the church)
  4. apostolic exhortation
  5. apostolic letter
  6. letter


  1. http://www.secondexodus.com/html/catholicdefinitions/encyclicalletter.htm