of Pope John XXIII promulgated on 26 September 1959
To the Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates,
Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic
Venerable Brethren, Greetings and Apostolic
Among the pleasant recollections of Our
younger-days are the Encyclicals which Pope Leo XIII used to write to the whole Catholic
world as the month of October drew near, in order to urge the faithful to devout
recitation of Mary's rosary during that month in particular.1
2. These Encyclicals had varied contents, but
they were all very wise, vibrant with fresh inspiration, and directly relevant to the
practice of the Christian life. In strong and persuasive terms they exhorted Catholics to
pray to God in a spirit of faith through the intercession of Mary, His Virgin Mother, by
reciting the holy rosary. For the rosary is a very commendable form of prayer and
meditation. In saying it we weave a mystic garland of Ave Maria's, Pater Noster's, and
Gloria Patri's. And as we recite these vocal prayers, we meditate upon the principal
mysteries of our religion; the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Redemption of the human
race are proposed, one event after another, for our consideration.
3. These pleasant memories of Our younger days
have not faded or vanished as the years of Our life have passed. On the contrary, We want
to declare in complete frankness and simplicity that the years have made Mary's rosary all
the dearer to Us. We never fail to recite it each day in its entirety and We intend to
recite it with particular devotion during the coming month.
4. During Our first year as pope--a year which is
almost over--We have several times had occasion to urge the clergy and laity to public and
private prayer. But today We make this same request with even greater emphasis and
earnestness, for reasons which this Encyclical will set out very briefly.
5. This coming October will mark the end of the
first year since the saintly departure of Our predecessor, Pius XII, from this mortal life
in which he had distinguished himself by so many glorious achievements.
6. Twenty days after his death, We, though all
unworthy, were raised to the Sovereign Pontificate in accord with God's mysterious
7. One pope bequeathed, as it were, to another
pope, as a sacred legacy, the care of the whole Christian flock; with the same pastoral
concern each of them declared his paternal love for all mankind.
8. These two events--the one full of sorrow, the
other full of joy--attest clearly to the world that while all things human gradually
decline and decay, the Roman Pontificate withstands the rush of centuries, even though the
visible Heads of the Church must, one after another, leave this mortal exile as they
complete the span of days which God in His providence has set for them.
9. But all Christians should turn their thoughts
to the late Pope Pius XII and to his lowly successor, in whom Blessed Peter continues his
eternal mission as supreme pastor, and they should address this prayer to God: "To
preserve in holy religion the Pope, and all clerics in holy orders, we beg Thee hear
10. And now it is a pleasure also to recall that
this same Predecessor of Ours urged all the faithful to pious recitation of the rosary
during October in the Encyclical Ingruentium malorum.3 We would like to repeat
one admonition4 from that Encyclical: "Turn in spirit with ever greater
confidence to the Virgin Mother of God, the constant refuge of Christians in adversity,
since she 'has been made a source of salvation for the human race.'"5
11. On October 11, 1959, We shall have the great
pleasure of presenting mission crucifixes to a large group of Catholic missionaries who
are about to leave their beloved homes and undertake the heavy responsibility of bringing
the light of Christianity to distant people.6 On the same day, in the
afternoon, We are scheduled to visit the North American College on the Janiculum and there
joyously celebrate with its superiors, faculty, and seminarians the completion of that
college's first century.7
12. Although these two celebrations fall only by
coincidence on the same day, they have the same meaning and importance: in all that she
does the Catholic Church is motivated by heaven's inspiration and drawn on by the
principles and precepts of eternal truth; all of her children contribute with a selfless
and dynamic will to mutual respect, the fraternal union of mankind, and solid peace.
13. These young men present such a wonderful
spectacle that We must be optimistic for the future. They have overcome many obstacles and
inconveniences and given themselves to God that other men might gain Christ,8
whether in foreign lands as yet untouched by the light of truth or in those immense,
noisy, and busy cities in which the pace of daily activity, rapid as a whirlwind,
sometimes makes souls wither and become content with earthly goods. From the lips of their
elders, who have labored long in the same cause, comes the ardent prayer of the Prince of
the Apostles: "Grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness."9
14. We trust that the apostolic labors of these
young men will be commended to the Virgin Mary in your devout prayers through the month of
15. There is another matter also which compels Us
to ask that the Sacred College of Cardinals, you, Venerable Brethren, all priests and
nuns, the sick and disabled, our innocent children, and all Christians address earnest and
suppliant prayers to Jesus Christ and His most loving Mother. It is this: that those who,
in great measure, hold the future of nations in their hands consider attentively the
dangerous pass to which our age has come. Be these nations large or small, their
legitimate rights and their inheritance of spiritual riches are sacred and must be
16. Therefore We pray God that their rulers may
carefully weigh and consider the causes of dissension and endeavor in good faith to remove
them. They must, above all, realize that war (God keep it from us!) can have only one
result, vast ruins everywhere, and thus cannot be the object of anyone's reliance. They
must adapt to the needs of men of today the laws which regulate the state and society and
which bind together nations and classes of society. They must be mindful of the eternal
laws which come from God and are the bases and pivots of all government. Finally, they
must be ever aware that the individual souls of men are created by God and destined to
possess and enjoy Him.
17. It must also be remarked that there are
current today certain schools of thought and philosophy and certain attitudes toward the
practical conduct of life which cannot possibly be reconciled with the teachings of
Christianity. This impossibility We shall never cease from asserting in firm and
unambiguous, though also calm terms. But God wishes the welfare of men and of nations!10
18. And so We hope that men will set aside those
sterile postulates and assumptions, hard as rock and just as inflexible, which rise from a
way of thinking and acting that is infected with laicism and materialism, and that they
will find a complete cure in that sound doctrine which experience makes more certain with
every day that passes. We mean that doctrine which attests that God is the author of life
and its laws, that He is guarantor of the rights and dignity of the human person. God then
is "our refuge and our Redemption."11
19. Our thoughts turn to all the lands of this
earth. We see all mankind striving for a better future; We see the awakening of a
mysterious force, and this permits Us to hope that men will be drawn by a right conscience
and a sense of duty to advance the real interests of human society. That this goal may be
realized in the fullest sense--that is, with the triumph of the kingdom of truth, justice,
peace, and charity--We exhort all Our children in Christ to be "of one heart and one
soul"12 and to pour out ardent prayers in October to our Queen in heaven
and our loving Mother, reflecting upon the words of the Apostle: "In all things we
suffer tribulation, but we are not distressed; we are sore pressed, but we are not
destitute; we endure persecution, but we are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we do not
perish; always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life also of
Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame."13
20. Before We conclude this Encyclical We also
wish to ask you, Venerable Brethren, to recite Mary's rosary through the month of October
with particular devotion, and to entreat the Virgin Mother of God in suppliant prayer, for
another intention which is dear to Our heart: that the Roman Synod may bring many
blessings and benefits upon this city; that the forthcoming Ecumenical Council, in which
you will participate by your presence and your advice, will add wondrous growth to the
universal Church; and that the renewed vigor of all the Christian virtues which We hope
this Council will produce will also serve as an invitation and incentive to reunion for
Our Brethren and children who are separated from this Apostolic See.
21. In this fond hope, We lovingly impart the
Apostolic Blessing to each and every one of you, Venerable Brethren, to the flocks
entrusted to your care, and to those individuals especially who will respond to Our
entreaties in a devout and zealous spirit.
22. Given at Rome, in St. Peter's, on the 26th
day of September, in the year 1959, the first of Our Pontificate.
1. Cf. the following encyclical epistles in Acta
Leonis XIII, in the volumes indicated: Supremi Apostolatus, Dl, 280 ff.; Superiore anno,
IV, 123 ff., Quamquam pluries, IX, 175 ff.; Octobri mense, XI, 299 ff.; Magnae Dei Matris,
XII, 221 ff.; Laetitiae sanctae, XIII, 283 ff.; Iucunda semper, XIV, 30s ff., Adiutricem
populi, XV, 300 ff., Fidentem piumque, XVI, 278 ff.; Augustissimae Virginis, XVII, 285 ff;
Diuturni temporis, XVIII, 153 ff.
2. Litany of the Saints.
3. On September 15, 1951: AAS 43 (1951) 577 ff.
4. Ibid., 578-579.
5. St. Irenaeus, Adv. haer. III, 22 Migne, PG
6. A precis of the talk given on this occasion
appears in TPS,v.6(1959).
7. A translation of the talk given on this
occasion appears in TPS, v. 6 (1959), 37-42.
8. Cf. Phil. 3:8.
9. Cf. Acts 4:29.
10. Cf. Wisd. 1, 14. There is a play on words in
this sentence and the following paragraph which is difficult to render in English. The
Holy Father uses language which can apply to physical health or to