Friday, July 05, 2013

Pope's encyclical: may the light of faith shine upon everyone

July 5, 2013 ( Pope Francis has published his first encyclical titled 'Lumen fidei', or 'The light of faith.' The document was started by Benedict XVI when he was still Pope and later passed on to Pope Francis. The result is a text combining theology and current affairs that bears the hallmark of both Popes.

Pope Francis invites everyone to let faith 'cast light' upon their existence. He also states that 'faith is not arrogant', it 'strengthens the bonds between people' and is 'in the concrete service of justice and peace.”

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith was one of the speakers in charge of presenting the encyclical.

Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith
“The encyclical wants to reaffirm the fact that faith in Jesus Christ is a fundamental value for mankind and that it is 'good for everyone, for the common good': 'it does not only cast light upon the Church, nor is it only useful to build an eternal city in the afterlife; faith also helps us build our own societies, so that we can walk towards a future filled with hope.”

The text contains various definitions of faith. The Pope reminds that faith is born of a special encounter and that it means 'trusting in a love that always welcomes and forgives, that supports and orients existence.”

Pope Francis uses examples taken for everyday life to explain his thought. For example, he says that the promise of true love between a man and a woman is binding for life and that in many aspects it recalls the features of faith itself.

Prefect, Congregation for Bishops
“A pillar was lacking in Benedict XVI's trilogy on theological virtues. Providence willed that this missing pillar should be both a gift from the Pope Emeritus to his successor and a symbol of unity. For in taking up and completing the work begun by his predecessor, Pope Francis bears witness with him to the unity of faith. The light of faith is passed from one pontiff to another like a baton in a relay.”

President, Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization
“It is useful to know that for the Year of Faith we repeatedly asked Benedict XVI to write an encyclical on faith that would somehow be a sequel to the trilogy he had started with Deus Caritas Est on love, and Spe Salvi on hope. The Pope wasn't sure about bearing this burden. However, our persistence eventually won and Pope Benedict XVI decided he was going to write it and publish it at the end of the Year of Faith. But history decided otherwise.”

The encyclical contains familiar topics in Benedict XVI's line of thought, such as that 'having faith also means to possess reason' and that faith itself  'is not a private matter nor a personal opinion', since 'faith without truth does not save.' The document also cites some of Pope Benedict's favorite authors, such as Nietszche, T.S. Elliot and Dostoievski.

The first encyclical by a Pope is usually a key to understand his Pontificate. In this case, it is important to note that the first encyclical by Pope Francis is a text full of optimism and hope.

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