Friday, July 5, 2013

"Lumen Fidei": Pope Francis' first encyclical letter released

Earlier today, during a press conference at the Vatican, Cardinal Ouellet and Archbishop Müeller introduced Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith), the first encyclical letter by Pope Francis. This encyclical is not only Pope Francis' first, but is also noteworthy for a couple of other reasons, too.

First of all, Lumen Fidei completes the theme of the theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. (see 1 Corinthians 13:3) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during his time as pope, wrote encyclicals on the Christian virtues of Love (Deus Caritas Est) and Hope (Spe Salvi). The encyclical released today, with the Christian virtue of Faith as its subject, completes the treatment of the three theological virtues.

Secondly, the newly-released encyclical is notable because it is actually the work of two popes. It was begun by Pope Benedict XVI before he resigned the papal office, but finished and signed by Pope Francis, his successor. This makes the document unique as one of the few papal encyclicals to openly claim to have been written by two successors of St. Peter.

An "encyclical" is a letter which covers some aspect of Catholic faith. Its purpose is to inform, inspire and encourage the Church's clergy and the lay faithful. It is meant to be "circulated" (hence the term "encyclical"), read and passed along between all of the faithful. Through an encyclical, we have the privilege of becoming more informed about the pope's thoughts and teachings. This is of primary importance to our faith lives as Catholics because, since the pope is the successor to St. Peter and the primary pastor of the universal Church, his thoughts and teachings on the faith are deeply connected to the ancient and unchangeable deposit of "the faith once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 1:3)

As St. Josemaría Escrivá reminds us, "Faithfulness to the Pope includes a clear and definite duty: that of knowing his thought, which he tells us in encyclicals or other documents. We have to do our part to help all Catholics pay attention to the teachings of the Holy Father, and bring their everyday behavior into line with it" (The Forge, 633). So, I encourage you to take a few minutes to fulfill your Catholic duty and read Pope Francis' new encyclical. It's available online here.