A number of books have been published with Pope Francis as the author, such as The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium in 2013 and Praise Be To You – Laudato Si'; On Care for Our Common Home in 2015. Are these books actually written by the man himself, or are they ghostwritten by others?
Pope Francis' first encyclical Lumen Fidei was co-written by Pope Benedict XVI
That’s one of the reasons why it is particularly striking that, in the Year of Faith, we have an encyclical on faith written, as Pope Francis said, by “four hands” — his and Benedict XVI’s — and fittingly signed on the feast of St. Peter. The didactic duet and distinguished date suggest that Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith) is less the act of a particular pope and more the faithful exercise of the Petrine office in apostolic succession.
His second encyclical Laudatio Si is indubitably his brain-child
I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically
Its frame is the Canticle of the Sun and full of personal references
Evangelii Gaudium might be an exception, it is very long and very well researched and probably similar to a bill passed through Congress where the bills author gets all the credit, but it takes a team to come up with it.
Most of the other works with Pope Francis' name on them are compilations of interviews or addresses though, like St. John Paul II with Crossing the Threshold of Hope
For example On the Family is one of Pope Francis books and the synopsis says:
Throughout his addresses, the Holy Father especially emphasizes the primary role of God and faith in family life, and the crucial importance of regular family prayer to draw on God's grace for strength, love, joy and unity within the home.
and The Strength of Vocation
Pope Francis' new book "The strength of vocation. Consecrated life today.", coming out on December 3rd, is fruit of a four-hour long conversation between the Holy Father and Spanish Missionary Fernando Prado, tackling themes such as vocation, consecrated life and the struggles the Church is facing today.
So he's got considerably less work to do in producing a book that is just off-the-cuff remarks.
Does Pope Francis write the major literary works ascribed to him or are they ghostwritten?
The short answer is: Pope Francis is the author of these works.
Before going on, it should be stated that the Evangelii Guadium (Joy of the Gospel) is an Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World. Pope Francis has also written two encyclicals Lumen Fidei and Laudatio Si.
Given the definition of what apostolic exhortations and encyclicals truly are, it would be doubtful that they were ghostwritten.
Definition of an encyclical:
A papal document treating of matters related to the general welfare of the Church, sent by the Pope to the bishops. Used especially in modern times to express the mind of the Pope to the people. Although of themselves not infallible documents, encyclicals may (and generally do) contain pronouncements on faith and morals that are de facto infallible because they express the ordinary teaching of the Church. In any case, the faithful are to give the papal encyclicals their interior assent and external respect as statements of the Vicar of Christ. (Etym. Latin encyclicus; Greek enkyklios, circular, general.)
An encyclical epistle is like an encyclical letter but addressed to part of the Church, that is, to the bishops and faithful of a particular area. Its contents may be doctrinal, moral, or disciplinary matters of universal significance, but may also commemorate some historical event or treat of conditions in a certain country or locality. - Encyclical
Definition of an apostolic exhortation:
An apostolic exhortation is a type of communication from the pope, the head of the Catholic Church. It usually encourages a community of people to undertake a particular activity but does not define Church doctrine. It is considered lower in formal authority than a papal encyclical, but higher than other ecclesiastical letters, apostolic letters and other papal writings.
Apostolic exhortations are commonly issued in response to an assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in which case they are known as post-synodal apostolic exhortations. - Apostolic Exhortation
Thus given the nature of these works, they are in fact written by the pope himself, since they express the mind of the Holy Father in regards to the Universal Church.
That said, it is known that popes take insight from others when writing major works. For example, before the dogmatic definition on the Assumption of Mary in Deiparae Virginis Mariae, Pope Pius XII sought the opinion of Catholic Bishops.
In his encyclical Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis acknowledges the helpfulness of Pope Benedict XVI in creating a first draft of this major literary work. It should be noted also that contrary to common belief, the encyclical is not co-signed. After all, Pope Francis is the Sovereign Pontiff, not Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
- These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own. The Successor of Peter, yesterday, today and tomorrow, is always called to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the priceless treasure of that faith which God has given as a light for humanity’s path. - Lumen Fidei
This all said, not all homilies pronounced by a pope are written by the Holy Father himself. For example, Pope John Paul II visited the Archdiocese of Vancouver, September 17-19, 1984. His homily of his at Abbotsford International Airport was written by a local priest of the archdiocese: Mgr Richard Mugford.
I can still recall Mgr Mugford telling me that this “so called privilege” cost him countless sleepless nights.