How to Reference Encyclical Letters in a Bibliography

Updated April 17, 2017

So, you are writing a paper in which you will be using quotes from the papal encyclicals. You know you need to provide a reference in your bibliography or Works Cited sheet, but may be perplexed as to how to properly reference these materials. Referencing papal encyclicals is definitely different from providing references for the books, articles and websites you are probably accustomed to working with. Still, like most entries in either a bibliography or a Works Cited sheet, there are fairly simple templates one follows to create a proper reference.

Make sure you know which citation style your professor wants you to use. You could be asked to use APA, Chicago or MLA style and the formats for each are different.

Locate the passage from which you wish to cite. Gather the name of the pope, the title of the encyclical and the publication date. For in-text citations be able to state the paragraph or section from which you have cited.

Arrange your citation information in the prescribed order dictated by the citation style you have been asked to use.

For example a proper APA style citation would be arranged as: John Paul II. Encyclical Letter. Evangelium vitae. 25 Mar. 1995. 7 Dec. 2007. The in-text citation would look like this: (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, par. 2).

An example of a correct Chicago style citation of an encyclical would look like this: 55. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, Encyclical letter on the value and inviolability of human life, Vatican web site, March 25, 1995,, sec. 97. Note that Chicago styles uses footnotes. The proper Chicago style bibliography listing would like this: John Paul II. Evangelium Vitae. Encyclical letter on the value and inviolability of human life. Vatican web site. March 25, 1995.

Finally, an example of a proper MLA style citation: John Paul II. Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae: On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life. Washington: United States Catholic Conference, 1995. This is how your in-text citation should look: (Evangelium Vitae par. 4)


Citation styles are simply templates into which you arrange your source materials. Just pay attention to detail and put your information in the order prescribed by the citation style in which you are working and you will be fine. Attention to detail is key here.

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About the Author

Elsa MacFie began writing in 1990 and her short story, "Making of an Atheist," was published in "Impressions" that same year. She co-founded "Meat for Tea: The Valley Review," a small arts and literary journal that began in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in English.