Pope Francis: First Encyclical

Pope Francis’s first encyclical is now published…

The light of Faith: this is how the Church’s tradition speaks of the great gift brought by Jesus. In John’s Gospel, Christ says of himself: “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (Jn 12:46). Saint Paul uses the same image: “God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts” (2 Cor 4:6). The pagan world, which hungered for light, had seen the growth of the cult of the sun god, Sol Invictus, invoked each day at sunrise. Yet though the sun was born anew each morning, it was clearly incapable of casting its light on all of human existence. The sun does not illumine all reality; its rays cannot penetrate to the shadow of death, the place where men’s eyes are closed to its light. “No one — Saint Justin Martyr writes — has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun”.[1] Conscious of the immense horizon which their faith opened before them, Christians invoked Jesus as the true sun “whose rays bestow life”.[2] To Martha, weeping for the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus said: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40). Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets. Read entire encyclical here

Your thoughts welcome…

9 responses

  1. I think this extract from the new encyclical is an answer to those who think inter-faith activities can ignore the truth that Christ is the universal Saviour.

    15. “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad” (Jn 8:56). According to these words of Jesus, Abraham’s faith pointed to him; in some sense it foresaw his mystery. So Saint Augustine understood it when he stated that the patriarchs were saved by faith, not faith in Christ who had come but in Christ who was yet to come, a faith pressing towards the future of Jesus

  2. I dipped into the new encyclical over the day and there’s nothing objectionable, I don’t think, but one thing I noticed when I looked at the references given, a very large number of them are from Vatican II or documents written by recent popes. I could only see one mention of the First Vatican Council. I thought that was interesting, like they don’t think anything much before the sixties is important. Then I noticed something I’ve never seen before in a formal papal document (not that I’ve studied them, so maybe I have missed it) but the Pope quotes a poem:

    “When faith is weakened, the foundations of humanity also risk being weakened, as the poet T.S. Eliot warned: “Do you need to be told that even those modest attainments / As you can boast in the way of polite society / Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?”

    Maybe I’m being picky, or old-fashioned, but it doesn’t seem the right place to quote a poem. In general though there are some nice thoughts about faith, quite appropriate for the Year of Faith.

  3. This so resembles the style of Pope Benedict’s Spe salvi and Caritas in veritate that it seems to me that Pope Francis is overstating his own contribution, and that this Encyclical is pure abstruse, over-intellectualised Pope Benedict. The great Encyclicals of Gregory XVI, Pius IX, LeoXIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI and Pius XII were documents with ‘punch’, delivering, each of them, a strong message that is readable and readily understandable even after the passage of time and of the generations to which they were addressed. By contrast, Benedict’s Encyclicals, and this one, purporting to be Francis’s, are rather extended ‘reflections’, which, in the writings of recent popes, have replaced exhortation and teaching.

    I haven’t read through it yet, having been put off early when I got up to No.6: The Second Vatican Council enabled the light of faith to illumine our human experience from within. Forty years on, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this myth, or lie is repeated over and over again.

    I’d be interested to know what bloggers make of No.35 ‘Faith and the search for God’.

    • What I make of para 35? Well, the first thing that struck me is what Thurifer highlights – the idea that faith in Christ “makes a specifically Christian contribution to dialogue with the followers of different religions”

      That’s all? Christ offers merely “a contribution” to what other (false) religions teach? Well, coming from not one, but two popes, that takes some beating.

      My other pet annoyance in this modern age is the constant reference to “journey”. In paragraph 35 we read: “An image of this seeking can be seen in the Magi, who were led to Bethlehem by the star (cf. Mt 2:1-12). For them God’s light appeared as a journey to be undertaken, a star which led them on a path of discovery…”

      Now, I’ve not read the entire encyclical right through yet, but I’d like to see somewhere an acknowledgement that the destination of this faith journey is the Church and that thereafter we are NOT on a journey but, having arrived at our destination, we are making use of all the helps available to us to strengthen our faith and practise virtue. I mean, who, on arriving at a top hotel, continues to blether on about their journey? They, instead, surely, simply enjoy their surroundings and take advantage of all the free perks?

  4. 35. The light of faith in Jesus also illumines the path of all those who seek God, and makes a specifically Christian contribution to dialogue with the followers of the different religions.

    Wow so now faith is what brings us to “dialogue” or talk with pagans and heretics. Really the only thing we should be saying when it comes to religion when talking to pagans and heretics is that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation for your eternal soul!

    This dialogue ultimately destroys the Church’s missionary spirit.

    • Spot on, Thurifer. I completely agree. If “dialogue” were to have conversion as its goal, as in days of yore, fine. Right now it means convergence – they’ll drop some of their “baggage” and we’ll drop ours. (Archbishop/Cardinal Winning)

      Pray for the repose of his soul.

  5. Editor and Thurifer

    Yes, I found the whole of this section quite incredible, although I’ve still not read the whole encyclical, so might be missing something elsewhere that would restate Church teaching.

    I am always looking for something, in papal teaching, that would backtrack somewhat on Nostra aetate, but here it seems that Popes Benedict and Francis are taking the Church ever deeper into the mire. The paragraph in Nostra aetate that begins: <The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these (false) religions, at least ends with Yet she proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.

    Paragraph 35 of this Encyclical, on the contrary, far from suggesting that the Church (and her children) have the duty to proclaim Christ, suggests instead that all we need to do is have to have a personal faith, no more, and then somehow that personal faith will ‘illumine the path’ of all who seek God, for all the world like a giant torch. So, it seems, these seekers who include pagans, who look to (and worship) the earth and sun, those who are ‘open to love’ (and what does that mean to most people in this day and age?) and ‘anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others’, will ‘draw near to God’ without any help from the Church, thank you very much.

    All this waffle sounds very close to heresy to me, and makes me wonder what Popes Benedict and Francis think Christ’s public ministry was in aid of.

  6. All I can say is that this Encyclical is so far removed from the clear and concise Catholic teaching of the Popes before Vatican II. So much waffling in order to dance around those truths that the adherents of false religions find offensive. It seems the martyrs didn’t have to die for the Faith after all, they could have dialogued their way out of a sticky situation!

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