Obama told FOX News that he looks forward to reading the encyclical, a "circular letter" titled "Charity in Truth," published by the Vatican.
The encyclical -- set to be published on the eve of the G8 summit -- has been seen as a message from the pope to leaders of advanced nations who will convene in L'Aquila, Italy,on Wednesday.
"Specifically, I think that social justice derives from individuals having the freedom to pursue their own ideas of happiness and pursue prosperity using their blood, sweat, and tears," Obama told FOX News on Tuesday. "I also think that opportunities are provided to individuals through civic institutions like religious organizations. And I also (think) the government plays an important role."
The president said Catholicism impacted his life in the beginning of his political career when he was doing organizing work in Chicago.
"I've spoken in the past of my admiration for Cardinal Bernardin, who was somebody who was steeped in that tradition," he said. "I think the Holy Father has consistently spoken out on these issues. I'm sure he will again."
Joseph Bernardin served as Archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in 1996.
Pope Benedict has been working on the encyclical since 2007, but has delayed issuing it. It has since been updated to reflect current issues like the economic crisis, according to the Vatican.
This is the third encyclical for the pope. He wrote "God is Love" in 2006 and "Saved by Hope" in 2007.
FOX News' Eve Zibel contributed to this report.