An official at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said that, 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 Father 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 Father 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," Father
Czerny said. "It would keep us busy for 20 years."
"Obviously, there will be efforts made to understand forms of poverty or
new phenomena," said Father 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," Father 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."