Call me an encyclical nerd (as if my previous post did not establish that beyond the shadow of a doubt), but I think one fascinating and perhaps revealing aspect of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is its footnotes. As I read it, I repeatedly found myself intrigued by the passages from other works that Francis chooses to cite. When I was done, I decided to go back and tally his sources.
Before providing all the numbers, let me offer a summary of what stood out as most interesting to me.
- Pope John Paul II is a huge presence in this document. 51 citations in a document of 217 footnotes means references to JP2 make up about 24% of them all. He is cited far more than any other source, including the final list of propositions from the Synod on the New Evangelization, which the document follows-up on.
- Another major presence are the world’s national or regional episcopal conferences, various documents of which are cited with surprising frequency. Probably no other papal document is anywhere near as attentive to these sources as EG. This is a clear sign of Francis’s respect for the work of these bodies and a concrete expression of his interest in promoting “a sound ‘decentralization’” of the Church (n. 16) and his criticism of its “excessive centralization” (n. 32). We might also consider the Pope’s frequent citations of the post-synodal papal documents based upon the several Vatican-sponsored regional synods held in recent decades, mostly under the leadership of JP2, as illustrations of the same decentralizing thrust.
- There are several citations from sources other than ecclesial documents, from “secular” authors like Plato and Georges Bernanos to modern theologians like Romano Guardini and an Argentinian Jesuit named Ismael Quiles. That is, even in this document that repeatedly encourages our engagement with the world, the pope engages the world beyond the official church.
- On a related note, it is interesting that Francis cites Henri de Lubac, the French Jesuit theologian so influential in the work of Vatican II. De Lubac has previously been cited in two major documents from Pope Paul VI (Populorum Progressio in 1967 and Evangelii Nuntiandi in 1975) and twice in Pope Benedict’s 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi. That may make the theologian (created a cardinal by JP2) the most frequently cited unofficial/non-magisterial source in papal documents of modern times, perhaps of any time.
- That he cites so many saints (9 in all, not counting the two soon-to-be-canonized popes) is interesting, but that St. Thomas Aquinas is cited far and away more than any other saint is quite striking. Pope Francis is not someone readily pegged as having a scholastic mindset, but this is a clear sign that he does.
Anyway, now the specifics. The numbers offered below indicate the number of times each source is cited. Note that this list does not include the document’s citations from Scripture, since these are made in the body of the text, and not in footnotes.
As is generally the case with post-synodal documents, this one cites the concluding list of propositions resulting from the Synod for the New Evangelization frequently: 30 times.
By the nature of the genre, papal documents most often cite documents from previous popes, and that’s certainly the case here. Popes cited, from most to least often, are
- Pope John Paul II, 51 times (most cited: 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, on the Church’s missionary activity)
- Pope Paul VI, 25 times (most cited: 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, on evangelization)
- Pope Benedict XVI, 23 times (most cited: 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est, on Christian love)
- Pope John XXIII, 3 times (2 citations of his opening address to the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962; one of the 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra, on Christianity and social progress)
Regarding other official ecclesial documents:
- Vatican II documents, 19 times (the document most often cited: Lumen Gentium, 7 times)
- Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 7 times
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 3 times
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Libertatis Nuntius, 3 times
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Inter Insignores, 1 time
- The Code of Canon Law, 1 time
A couple of other ecclesial sources:
- International Theological Commission, 3 times
- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 1 time
One interesting and notable element is the frequency with which Pope Francis quotes national/regional episcopal conferences. These include:
- Latin American bishops conference (CELAM), 14 times (12 of these citations are from the 2007 Aparecida document, 2 from the 1979 Puebla document)
- United States bishops conference, 2 times (one citation of its 2006 document Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care; one to its 2007 document Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship)
- French bishops conference, 2 times
- The bishops of Brazil, 1 time
- The bishops conference of the Philippines, 1 time
- The bishops of The Congo, 1 time
- Indian bishops conference, 1 time
- Synod of Bishops of Europe, 1 time
- Not a bishops conference, but related: Italian Catholic Action, 1 time
Along the same lines, as I mentioned above, are 13 citations of post-synodal papal documents based upon Vatican-sponsored regional synods held in recent decades. These include citations of
- Ecclesia in Asia, 6 times
- Ecclesia in Oceania, 3 times
- Ecclesia in Africa, 2 times
- Ecclesia in America, 1 time
- Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 1 time
Pope Francis likes to cite saints. In addition to how often he does, also striking is how many times Thomas Aquinas gets a nod.
- St. Thomas Aquinas, 14 times
- St. Augustine, 2 times
- St. John of the Cross, 1 time
- St. Ireneaus, 1 time
- St. Ambrose, 1 time
- St. Cyril of Alexandria, 1 time
- St. John Chrysostom, 1 time
- St. Therese of Liseaux, 1 time
- St. Isaac of Stella, 1 time
Finally, also striking is the number of citations to sources other than ecclesial documents or saints. These include one citation each from:
- Georges Bernanos (French writer, died 1948): EG cites his 1936 novel, The Diary of a Country Priest
- John Henry Newman (British theologian, died 1890): his collected letters
- Thomas a Kempis (German priest/writer, died 1471): The Imitation of Christ
- Henri de Lubac (French theologian, died 1991): his 1953 book The Splendor of the Church (that’s the title of the English translation; original French title was Meditation sur l’Eglise)
- Romano Guardini (German theologian, died 1968): his book 1950 book The End of the Modern World
- Ismael Quiles, SJ (Spanish-Argentinian theologian, died 1993): his 1981 book Filosofia de la educación personalista
- Plato (Greek philosopher, died 348 BC): Gorgias, dated 380 BC
- V.M Fernandez: I’m unsure of the identity of this person, and internet research has not helped; Francis cites an address offered at the First National Congress on the Social Doctrine of the Church (location not noted) in 2011
- Luis Laso de la Vega (Mexican author, 16th century): his Nican Mopohua, an account of the appearances of Mary at Guadalupe