1. When We contemplate Our position and consider the gravity of its burden, We are deeply disturbed both because of the magnitude of the task itself and the weakness of Our resources. We seem to have been called into the depths of the sea from the peace of a quiet life as if from a most safe harbor to rule the bark of blessed Peter, to be shaken by great floods and to be all but submerged by the force of the tempest. Truly this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. It was not because of human counsel but rather by His inscrutable judgment that such a care had been unexpectedly laid upon Us. Therefore, we are buoyed up by a certain hope that He who has chosen Us will, Himself remove Our fear, and infirmity and will hear Us in the depths of the storm. The memory of Peter trembling in the sea and of the Lord reproving his little faith will confirm Us in the same trust. Surely He wishes Us to put aside all doubt about obtaining His help and to act with the hope of His grace, rather than from fear of Our weakness. Therefore, We obey His will, and We hand Ourselves over to His faithfulness and power. For if He has decided to aid Our labors in the present circumstances for the safety of His Church, everyone will surely perceive Him alone as its author and source; hence they will realize that the honor and glory must be given to Him alone. Therefore, We proceed eagerly to undertake this great burden, and We will strive to trust in His powerful help. We will consider no care too great in carrying out our task.
2. When We ponder the nature of Our administration and look to all regions of the Christian world, We behold you in your exalted posts. We are refreshed by your presence; We recognize that you are Our helpers, the custodians of the Lord’s flock and laborers in the evangelical vineyard. Therefore at the beginning of Our apostolate, We wish to address you. If We seem in any way to exhort and reprove you, attribute it to Our fear for Ourselves or consider that it comes for Our confidence in your virtue and devotion to Us.
3. First of all, We beseech you never to cease imploring God to strengthen Us. Return Our love for you, and thus join the mutual aid of your prayers with Us so that we may sustain each other. By doing this, you will confirm your unity with Us. For, to be sure, the edifice of the whole church is one, whose foundation was placed by blessed Peter in this See. Many stones are joined for its construction, but all rest on one rock. One is the body of the church, whose head is Christ, and all cohere in it. We vicariously administer His power and preside over others by His will. You and We are the more prominent members of the same body. For, what can happen to individual members which does not affect all or pervade each? Accordingly, whatever concerns you concerns Us, and vice versa. Therefore, together we must all labor for the health and safety of the church, so that, without blemish or strain, it may flourish. With God’s help we can accomplish this if each of you is enkindled by as strong a zeal for his flock as possible and if your one concern be to remove from his flock all contagion of evil and pitfalls of error and to strengthen it diligently with all the aids of sound doctrine and holiness.
4. If ever those in charge of the Lord’s vineyard should be concerned about the salvation of souls, they must be so in this age especially. For many ideas aimed at weakening religion arise almost daily. When men are enticed by novelty and led on by an eagerness for alien knowledge, they come together more eagerly for this very purpose and more willingly embrace it. Wherefore, We lament that the destruction of souls is propagated more widely each day. Accordingly you must work all the harder and exercise diligence and authority to repel this audacity and insanity which stalks even divine and most holy matters. Be confident that you will accomplish this by simplicity of sound doctrine and by the word of God which penetrates more than any two-edged sword. You will easily be able to contain the attack of enemies and blunt their weapons when in all your sermons you preach and present Jesus Christ crucified. By His own laws and institutions He founded and reenforced this holy city which is His Church. To it he entrusted, as it were, the deposit of faith in Him to be preserved piously and without contamination. He wished it to be the bulwark of His teaching and truth against which the gates of hell would never prevail. We, therefore, the overseers and guardians of this holy city, must preserve the magnificent heritage of Our laws and faith which has been passed down intact to Us; We must transmit it pure and sound to our successors. If We direct all our actions to this norm found in sacred scripture and moreover cling to the footsteps of our ancestors, We will be best equipped to avoid whatever could weaken and destroy the faith of the Christian people and loosen in any way the unity of the Church.
5. Whatever pertains to religious worship, to moral training, to right living can be found in the two fold instrument of scriptures and tradition. From this source we learn the depth of mysteries and the duties of piety, honesty, justice, and humanity. We learn, thus, what we owe to God, to the Church, to our country, our fellow citizens, and all other men. From no other source than these laws of true religion do we recognize more clearly the established rights of citizens and society. Accordingly, no one has ever attacked the divine sanctions of Christ without likewise disturbing public tranquillity, without lessening obedience owed to rulers, and without rendering everything unsafe and uncertain. For there is a strong bond between divine and human rights; therefore those who realize that rulers are protected by the authority of the Christian law, obey them, venerate their authority, and protect and cherish their dignity.
6. Therefore, We exhort that after God and the Church, you concern yourselves with instilling in people obedience and deference to rulers. For they protect public safety and enforce the equity of law. They are ministers of God and not without reason do they carry the sword as vindicators in wrath on him who does wrong; moreover they are beloved sons and patrons of the Church, whose part it is to cherish it like a parent and protect its interest and rights. Let your followers learn from the cradle itself to maintain their loyalty to rulers, to obey authority, and to venerate the law not only because of fear, but also because of conscience. This will benefit both the tranquillity of civic life and also the profit of the church, for these cannot be separated. To this end, add to the daily prayers for your people certain special petitions for the rulers, that they may be kept safe and that they may rule in equity, peace, and justice, so that recognizing God himself ruling in the kingdom of men, they may protect and advance His cause. Thus, you will satisfy your episcopal task no less than the well-being of all.
7. As for the rest, we consider it superfluous to review with you the other aspects of your pastoral office in any detail. For why should We pursue details and exhort you in matters you clearly know and of which, moreover, you have the added advantage of day-to-day experience and a spiritual outlook fully consonant with your function? One thing only We will mention: try to follow the example of our Leader and the Chief of the apostles in all things, and to exemplify in yourselves that model of holiness, charity, and humility. For if Christ, assuming the weakness of our flesh, wished that men reclaimed by His humility and love become adoptive sons of God and His coheirs, then what can be better than for Us to preserve this union of men with Christ, and to ourselves as an example to all? For what other reason is there for him who preaches the gospel for Sion to climb a high mountain? If once you are inflamed with this desire, then this same ardor will spread among all your people. Indeed the force and authority of the pastor for moving the spirits of his flock is truly marvellous. For when they recognize that all his thoughts and actions are conformed to this model of true virtue, when they see in him nothing harsh, nothing arrogant, and nothing exalted, but rather charity, meekness, and humility, then truly they will feel themselves drawn most keenly to imitate these qualities. Moreover, when they see him paying no attention to private gain, instead serving the advantage of everyone else, coming to the aid of the needy with his resources, of the afflicted with his consolation, of the ignorant with his teaching, of all men with his service, advice and piety, even preferring their salvation to his life, they will listen to his voice as he teaches, exhorts, implores, and even blames and reproves in a most loving manner. For if pastors are hampered by private interests and prefer worldly things to heavenly, how can they rouse others to love of God and mutual kindness? If they seek after wealth, pleasure, honors, how can they rouse others to the contempt of human things? If they are puffed up with pride and arrogance, how can they rouse others to meekness and humility? Therefore, since you have taken upon yourselves the office of instructing souls in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, you must adhere to his holiness, innocence, and gentleness. Consider, too, that your proper business, is to instruct the people in this fashion, and that by carrying out this task correctly will come all your praise and good fortune, from neglecting it, your calamity and turpitude. Therefore, seek only those riches that come from gaining souls for Christ. Seek only that glory which comes from promoting divine worship, from adding to the beauty of the house of God, and from extirpating vice and promoting virtue.
8. Not even when you have been long and much tried in these labors should you think that there will ever be a limit to practicing virtue. To be sure, it is the condition of your office, the nature of the episcopal life, never to be free from cares or to attain leisure. But the expectation of the immortal and infinite reward awaiting you will lighten all troubles. Moreover, in addition to this hope of immortality, you will experience abundant joy even in sustaining the labors of the pastoral life, when you behold your people joined with the mutual bonds of charity, honesty, and piety and when you behold all the other outstanding fruits of your vigilance and toils gained for the Church. Would that We might see that splendid felicity of religion of ancient days returned to the Church in this time of Our apostolate as a result of the unanimous accord of all our wills and labors.
9. At the same time as We send this Encyclical to you, Venerable Brothers, We also send another to all the faithful announcing the customary Jubilee for imploring divine aid for a salutary governance of the holy Catholic Church at the beginning of Our pontificate. Direct your people to properly perform these prayers in faith, piety, and-humility and inspire them to care for their salvation as well as the general welfare of the Christian people.
10. As a pledge of Our love We impart the apostolic blessing to you, Venerable Brothers, and the faithful of your churches.
Given in Rome at Saint Mary Major, 12 December 1769, in the 1st year of Our pontificate.