Study of encyclicals reveals popes' favourite words
When he writes encyclicals, Pope John Paul II's favorite word is 'God'. Pope Paul VI's was 'church', while Pope John XXIII used 'life' the most. Pope Pius XII favoured all three of the above, along with 'Christ'.
CNS reports that Church statisticians have scanned the encyclicals of the last four popes, identifying the frequency of more than 1400 significant words ranging from 'abortion' to 'zeal'.
The results have just been published by the Vatican in a 300-page volume full of analytical tables, pie charts and lots of words. Although not headed for the best-seller charts, it reveals some interesting historical trends in how pontiffs pontificate.
All four popes share a similar 'top 10' lexicon that includes 'God,' 'church,' 'Christ' and 'life.' 'Spirit,' 'truth' and 'faith' are near the top, too.
Among the least-used 'significant' words on the long list are 'success,' 'friend,' 'profit' and 'reform.'
Pope John Paul, however, has often strayed outside the traditional papal vocabulary, using a great number of words in his encyclicals that his predecessors never or almost never chose to employ. Among them are 'abortion,' 'Jews,' 'slavery,' 'ethics,' 'embryo,' 'exploitation' and 'sexuality.'
He has other favourites that were used less frequently by previous popes, including 'mystery,' 'sin,' 'revelation,' 'holy,' 'dialogue' and 'women'. The charts show that Pope John Paul has been less inclined to use some words popular with his predecessors, like 'heart,' 'body' and 'charity.'
Pope Pius had a monopoly on particular words, too. According to the study, he was the only one of the four to use 'enemy,' 'dogma,' 'heresy' and 'music' in his encyclicals.