ENCYCLICALS: Letters expressing the mind of the pope, generally regarding matters of faith and morals.

Redemptor Hominis (March 4, 1979)
Redemption: Cites God's promise of forgiveness as the key truth of the faith.

Dives in Misericordia (Nov. 30, 1980)
God's mercy: Expresses God's closeness to mankind, especially during suffering and threat to life and/or dignity.

Laborem Exercens (Sept. 14, 1981)
Human work: Characterizes mankind relative to work, which is necessary for "earning the daily bread" as well as social, scientific and moral life.

Slavorum Apostoli (June 2, 1985)
Apostles of the Slavs: Recalls Saints Cyril and Methodius, on the occasion of the 11th centenary of their evangelization work.

Dominum et Vivificantem (May 18, 1986)
The Holy Spirit: Encourages the church to ponder the Trinitarian mystery of God.

Redemptoris Mater (March 25, 1987)
Mary: Discusses Mary's role in salvation, and emphasizes the historical significance of the "twofold bond" uniting both Mary and Jesus with the church.

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (Dec. 30, 1987)
Social teaching: Reaffirms the church's social doctrine and its constant renewal as it is subject to changing conditions of people and society.

Redemptoris Missio (Dec. 7, 1990)
Evangelization: Seeks to renew the church by missionary activity and to strengthen the faith of individuals by sharing it with others.

Contesimus Annus (May 1, 1991)
Sociopolitical questions: Creates a framework with which to analyze the state of the church and the world by looking back (to historic papal writings), looking around the present and considering the promise and uncertainty of the future.

Veritatis Splendor (Aug. 6, 1993)
The Splendor of Truth: In the face of criticism, reaffirms moral teachings of the church and condemns dissent.

Evangelium Vitae (March 25, 1995)
The Gospel of Life: Emphasizes the value and inviolability of human life and reasserts church opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

Ut Unum Sint (May 25, 1995)
Christian unity: Calls for a new discussion among the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies on the role of the pope, the mission of bishops and the commitment and unity of their followers.

Fides et Ratio (Sept. 14, 1998)
Faith and reason: Discusses the intellectual relativism of our age, on the relationship of faith and reason, of philosophy and theology.

Ecclesia de Eucharistia (April 17, 2003)
The Eucharist: Stated rules for Holy Communion, including opposition to routine concelebration of Mass with non-Catholics.

APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Official governing acts of Pope John Paul II.

Sapientia Christiana (April 15, 1979)
Emphasizes the importance of Catholic universities in imparting the growth of the church.

Sacrae Disciplinae Leges (Jan. 25, 1983)
Makes official the New Code of Canon Law and revises method for church to name saints, eliminating the term "Devil's Advocate" from the process.

Pastor Bonus (June 28, 1988)
Stated new rules governing the Roman Curia.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Aug. 15, 1990)
Instructs Catholic universities to seek truth without reservation, and requires theology professors to obtain a mandatum, or teaching license, from the local bishop.

Fidei Depositum (Oct. 11, 1992)
Makes official the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Universi Dominici Gregis (Feb. 22, 1996)
Creates new rules governing the election of the pope's successor, allowing for a majority of cardinals to change the voting rules after a certain point so that a majority can elect the pope rather than the customary two-thirds vote.

APOSTOLIC LETTERS: Of lesser authority than an encyclical, they may pertain to a doctrinal matter or a papal act.

Salvifici Doloris (Feb. 11, 1984)
On human suffering: Expresses understanding and respect for human suffering and builds upon the needs of the human heart and the imperative of faith.

Augustinum Hipponensem (August 28, 1986)
Anniversary of the conversion of St. Augustine: Celebrates Augustine of Hippo and his impact on the church.

Mulieris Dinitatem (Aug. 15, 1988)
The dignity of women: Speaks of the critical role of women in church history and recognizes their growing presence in the church and in society.

Vicesimus Quintus Annus (Dec. 4, 1988)
25th Anniversary of Vatican II: Recalls the historic constitution and its reformation of the Roman Catholic Liturgy as needed for the "ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful."

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994)
Against the ordination of women: Restates that the church shall not ordain women into the priesthood as it would not be in keeping with the imitation of Jesus. Says "the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary ... received neither the mission proper to the apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them."

Oreintale Lumen (May 2, 1995)
The Light of the East: In an overture toward Orthodox and other Eastern churches, John Paul urges both sides to "go beyond the degree of communion we have reached."

Laetamur Magnopere (Aug. 15, 1997)
Latin catechism: Announces the publication of the Latin version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Divini Amoris Scientia (Oct. 19, 1997)
Proclaims St. Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the church.

Dies Domini (May 31, 1998)
Importance of Sunday: Describes Sundays as key to the identity of a Christian and of the church, and stresses the importance of attending Sunday Mass.

Novo Millennio Ineunte (Jan. 6, 2001)
The Millennium Begins: Sets course for Catholicism, saying the church should promote fundamental human rights, continue interreligious dialogue, and act to prevent ecological crisis.

Rosarium Virginis Mariae (Oct. 16, 2002)
Announced a yearlong emphasis on the rosary, suggesting ways to pray the rosary that lead to contemplation of the mysteries of Christ. Adds five new events from Christ's life -- "the Mysteries of Light" -- to the rosary.

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