Lumen Fidei: the first Encyclical of Pope Francis, the last of Benedict XVI

19-07-2013  
Filed under From Rome, News

On July 5, 2013, Pope Francis published his first Encyclical, Lumen fidei (The Light of Faith), signed June 29.  In the introduction, the Supreme Pontiff mentions his predecessor’s work and explains that “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.”  The present pope also indicates that his predecessor had already almost finished a first draft of an Encyclical Letter 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.”

Over the course of its four chapters, the Encyclical explains the foundations of the faith in history starting with Abraham, the connection between truth and faith, the importance of the transmission of the faith through the sacraments, and the relation between faith and the common good.   As the pope indicates, these are “considerations on faith” and not a teaching issued with authority.  Thus the document takes the form of a dissertation on the relations between faith and history, faith and the Bible, faith and love, faith and hope, faith and life, faith and humanity, faith and truth, faith and reason, etc.

In it there are many themes dear to Benedict XVI:  the crisis of truth, relativism, modernity, idols, and also references to Saint Augustine.  The text contains quotations from Nietzsche, Dante and Dostoyevsky, but also from the German theologian Romano Guardini, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and the British poet and playwright T. S. Eliot.  We find also, however, one of Pope Francis’ favorite sayings:  “Let us refuse to be robbed of hope.”

All journalists have underscored the continuity in theological thinking between Benedict XVI and his successor.  “Lumen fidei: the Encyclical written by four hands, two heads, but one heart!  And this heart is a loving heart!” declares Fr. Stéphane Lemessin in La Croix.  According to him, the Encyclical on faith is also a document about love.  “This term appears 146 times in the text!”

Jeaen-Marie Guénois, in Le Figaro, remarks that the Encyclical “is a composition … typical of Benedict XVI.  Everything in the text reveals this:  the style, the points of emphasis, the theological and literary references.”  In his view, the Encyclical “can be considered as the fourth and last of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, but it is still the first of Pope Francis, who intends to make clear thereby the complementarity and continuity between the popes.”

Stéphanie Le Bars, in Le Monde, also insists on this continuity.  The Encyclical is “the occasion for Pope Francis, who is said to be ‘in rupture’ with his predecessor, at least with regard to style, to situate himself right down the same theological line as Benedict XVI.”

For the Vaticanist Ignazio Ingrao, on the website www.fait-religieux.com, the Encyclical reveals above all “the style and the strategy that Jorge Mario Bergoglio intends to adopt to reform the Church.  This means that Pope Francis does not want a reform that rejects the past [of his predecessor, Editor’s note], but rather one that accepts and transforms it according to his plans.”  And he adds:  “The way Pope Francis acts towards persons is part of the same style….  He has the cardinals and prelates come one by one and asks them whether they are ready to help him in his reform projects.  If the response is yes, they remain at their post.  Otherwise, if they seem reluctant to support the pope’s objectives, they will be sidelined or dismissed.”

(Sources : vatican.va/Apic/Croix/Figaro/Monde/Fait Religieux/FSSPX DICI no. 279 dated July 19, 2013)

You can also read:
Analysis of Lumen Fidei, the first Encyclical of Pope Francis

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